I agree about some of the specific theories being out of whole cloth--
certainly the vaginal orgasm (though many women attest to its existence)
as a specific female way to experience sex (as if he knew). But on the
unconscious, it was not his invention and he was not alone or anything
like it in his claim for it. It was a general assumption in many other
theories in the late 19th, early 20th C psychology. But his version
became the dominant one in about the 20s. I disagree on the rejection of
it. The unconscious explains far too much to simply be dismissed, but
one need not understand it in Freud's terms.
Date sent: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 15:06:54 -0600
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Freud (was Eliot and Lawrence)
To: [log in to unmask]
It is interesting that while Freud is rapidly disappearing in medical /
psychiatric thinking, he continues to be worshipped by so many in the
humanities and social studies.
His concept of "The Unconscious" was, in the first instance, an effort to
explain memory, grounded in the assumption that memories were "stored"
the brain, and then retrieved as one retrieves a card from an index file.
The qustion, then, is where are those memories when we are not actively
retrieving them? Answer: In the Unconscious.
But the brain is not a computer, memories are not "stored," and there is
no need to posit any such mystical entity as "The Unconscious" to explain
memory. Memories are being continually recreated in the brain (which is
one of the reason so many of our most vivid memories are memories of
things that never happened).You can find a good introduction to this in
_The Invention of Memory_ by Israel Rosenfield.
Sebastiano Timpanaro did a fine job of demolishing the mythology of the
freudian slip in a book of that title, _The Freudian Slip_.
Some 20th century writers _did_ make direct use of Freud, and it is
useful to know Freud to understand those writers just as it is useful to
know something about astrology to understand writers who believed in that.
But Freud is about as far from human reality as astrology is. He can only
get in the way of understanding earlier writers -- even those writers who
were, in fact, his predecessors and developed similar ideas on their own.
Another useful perspective on Freud is to be found in Thomas Laqueur,
_Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud_. No one before
Freud had ever dreamt of such an oddity as the vaginal orgasm: he invented
it out of whole cloth, as he did so many of his "theories."