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This article is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

The Dreamer in Broad Daylight Stuart Hood

Appropriately it was in the rooms of a Viennese publisher and bookseller, himself a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, that Freud delivered his paper on "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming". The date was December 1907. There was, we are told, an audience of ninety. What we do not know is how many of them were writers, though no doubt all of them were or had been day-dreamers. Earlier that same year Freud had published his first major attempt to apply his analytical theories to literature: "Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's Gradiva". Jensen was a somewhat minor German playwright and author; his novella Gradiva Freud described as a work which had had "no particular merit in itself"; but he found it interesting because of some of the features of the plot: the importance in it of dreams and delusions of fantasies, the role of a young woman in interpreting the hero's mental state and restoring him to normality and the possibility of love. Some might argue, Freud conceded, that he had produced a complete caricature of an interpretation by introducing into an innocent work of art - through the application of his theories concerning the unconscious, fantasies and the function of dreams - purposes of which its creator had no notion, and by so doing had merely demonstrated how easy it is to find what one is looking for and what is occupying one's own mind. But, he argued, he had discovered nothing in the work in the way of ...


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