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On Freud's "Creative Writers and Day-dreaming"

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This is the fourth volume in the series Contemporary Freud: Turning Points and Critical Issues, published with the International Psychoanalytical Association. Each book in the series presents a classic essay by Freud and discussions of the essay by prominent psychoanalytic teachers and analysts who differ in emphases and who come from different theoretical backgrounds and geographical locations.First presented as an informal lecture in 1907, "Creative Writers and Day-dreaming" pursues two lines of inquiry: it explores the origins of daydreaming and its relation to the play of children, and it investigates the creative process. Following an introduction by Ethel Spector Person, the contributors to this volume - Marcos Aguinis, Harry Trosman, Harold P. Blum, Jose A. Infante, Joseph Sandler and Anne-Marie Sandler, Ronald Britton, Janine Chasseguet- Smirgel, Elizabeth Tabak de Bianchedi, Robert N. Emde, and Moises Lemlij - provide commentaries on Freud's essay, explicating the twists and turns in psychoanalytic theories of fantasy and in applied psychoanalysis. Their essays place Freud's paper in historical context, describe the clinical value of daydreams and fantasies, offer a Kleinian view of fantasy, provide analytic approaches to creativity and fantasy, comment on the ambiguity caused by multiple translations of Freud's text, and reframe the idea of fantasy from a modern biological and developmental approach.This volume contains Freud's original essay.

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A Masterpiece of Illumination

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A Masterpiece of Illumination

MARCOS AGUINIS

TRANSLATED BY PHILIP SLOTKIN

I

The year 1907 had been a fruitful one for Sigmund Freud, and its culmination was surely his successful lecture entitled “Der Dichter und das Phantasieren” (“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”). On the night of 6 December, confident of breaking out of his isolation at last, the 51-year-old Freud made his way from Berggasse 19 to the crowded rooms of the publisher and bookseller Hugo Heller, the advertised venue for this presentation. Heller, a cultivated, restless, and enterprising man and himself a member of the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, had sent a questionnaire about their literary preferences to thirty-two well-known people—including not only the provocative figure of Freud but also Hermann Bahr, August Forel, Thomas Masaryk, Hermann Hesse, Arthur Schnitzler, and Jakob Wassermann. Subsequently published as a pamphlet with an introduction by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, this questionnaire and Freud's responses give us some idea of his tastes at the time.

 

A Modern View of Freud's “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”

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A Modern View of Freud's “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”

HARRY TROSMAN

“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” can be considered a further reflection on Freud's contemporaneous psychoanalytic study of Wilhelm Jensen's novella Gradiva. “Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's Gradiva” (Freud, 1907) is the first published psychoanalytic study of a work of fiction. Previously, Freud had commented on Oedipus Rex and Hamlet in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), and in his correspondence with Fliess (Freud, 1887–1902) he had considered Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's short story “Die Richterin,” but the Gradiva study was the first systematic account in depth, and Freud was clearly impressed with how readily the imaginative work lent itself to psychoanalytic interpretation. Thus, a few months later, when called upon to offer a lecture in the rooms of the Viennese publisher and bookseller Hugo Heller, he had an opportunity to organize his thoughts about the psychoanalytic contribution to literature.

In fact, the short paper we are discussing offers some general notions about the nature of artistic creativity. When we consider the range of applications of psychoanalysis to the field of literature, clearly the psychology of creativity is an important area for study. Broadly, psychoanalysts have concerned themselves with three major areas of investigation. They have been interested in the author's biography and have considered the literary work as an expression of the personality of the creator. The work offers clues to components of the personality that are otherwise obscure, enigmatic, or even concealed. The literary work can be seen as the form of disguise, and the work of the analyst becomes an unmasking like the peeling back of resistances in the clinical situation. Psychoanalysts have also concerned themselves with the analysis of a literary work per se. This is the approach Freud largely followed in the analysis of Jensen's Gradiva, and this form of analysis has attained a prominent place in the psychoanalytic literature as well. In fact, one of Freud's major contributions to this area is in the analysis of a visual work of art, the dissection of Michelangelo's statue of Moses (Freud, 1914). Freud carefully teases apart the gestures and inferred movements of Moses in order to reveal an underlying meaning to the stance of the prophet. A third psychoanalytic approach, heralded by “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming,” concerns itself with the sources of creativity.

 

The Clinical Value of Daydreams and a Note on their Role in Character Analysis

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The Clinical Value of Daydreams and a Note on Their Role in Character Analysis

HAROLD P. BLUM

The publication of “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” (Freud, 1908) was a landmark in the application of psychoanalysis to culture. The paper deals with the wish-fulfilling functions of fantasy, and Freud indicated that the wish-fulfilling character of dreams could have been derived from the similarity of dream and daydream. Considering the characteristics of daydreams and how the artist softens the character of his daydreams by altering and disguising them, Freud also introduced the dimension of defense. Daydreams are characterized by conscious wishes and defenses, and the paper may be regarded as an introduction to the study of conflict and compromise formation. The creative writer “bribes us by the purely formal—that is, aesthetic—yield of pleasure which he offers us in the presentation of his phantasies…. It may even be that not a little of this effect is due to the writer's enabling us thenceforward to enjoy our own day-dreams without self-reproach or shame” (153). Freud noted that the source of artistic creation may be found in fantasy and also that collective or shared fantasies could be found in the common fairy tales of childhood and in the myths and legends of nations. These fantasies, especially those associated with repressed wishes, could be found in the underlying symptoms and personality disorders of neurotics. Beneath the distortions of dreams, daydreams, and symptoms were the same unconscious wishes and conflicts of childhood.

 

Some Reflections on Phantasy and Creativity

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Some Reflections on Phantasy and Creativity

JOSÉ A. INFANTE

“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” (1908) was Freud's first attempt, apart from some comments in The Interpretation of Dreams, to apply psychoanalytic ideas to culture. The intention on this occasion was to contribute to the understanding of the work of the creative writer (the German word Dichter used in the title is sometimes translated as “poet,” but its meaning actually embraces all creative writers, including novelists and dramatists).

Freud begins by inquiring about the sources from which the writer draws his material and how he manages to move us so intensely. Notwithstanding his declared conviction that a knowledge of the conditions governing the writer's choice of material and the nature of his art would not help us in the least to become creative writers ourselves, he expresses the hope that it might be possible to discover some similar activity common to all human beings. He then shows us that all children in play create a world of their own, rearranging things in a new way that pleases them, and that this is essentially the same as what poets, novelists, and dramatists do. However, not only writers but all adults have phantasies with which they defend themselves against an unsatisfying reality. In both cases a current event arouses an infantile memory, thereby unifying past and present; the phantasy yields a future in which all problems will be solved in the imagination. Freud concludes that the real pleasure afforded by a creative work stems from the discharge of tensions, and he concludes his lecture by affirming that we are on the threshold of new, wide-ranging, and complicated inquiries.

 

Unconscious Phantasy, Identification, and Projection in the Creative Writer

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Unconscious Phantasy, Identification, and Projection in the Creative Writer

JOSEPH SANDLER AND ANNE-MARIE SANDLER

Freud's “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” (1908) is a remarkable piece of work, particularly when we consider that it was written less than eight years after the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. In this paper Freud traces a similarity between the small child's play and creative writing. Like the writer, the child at play “creates a world of his own, or, rather, re-arranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him” (143–44). It is only because the child prefers to link his imagined objects and situations to things he can see and handle that play can be differentiated from daydreaming.

For Freud, both play and daydreams represent the fulfillment of wishes. In the child play embodies the wish “to be big and grown up” (146), but the adult in his daydreams fulfills wishes that are of two essential kinds—ambitious or erotic. Often the two are combined. Where the adult's daydreams differ from the child's play, says Freud, is that the adult may be ashamed of some of his daydreams and therefore may want to keep them secret. It is important to note that thus far Freud is speaking of conscious daydreams, which can be tolerated privately but which the person would not want to have made public (146).

 

Reality and Unreality in Phantasy and Fiction

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Reality and Unreality in Phantasy and Fiction

RONALD BRITTON

“Der Dichter und das Phantasieren” could be translated literally as “The Poet and Fantasizing.” At the time Freud wrote it, in 1908, his enthusiasm was at its height for the explanatory power of his notion that the pleasure principle, subjugated in daily life by the reality principle, had found a region where it could operate freely—in dreams and neurotic symptoms. In this paper he added children's play, Phantasie, and imaginative writing. “The creative writer does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of phantasy which he takes very seriously—that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion—while separating it sharply from reality” (1908a, 144). The paper precedes by many years his thoughts in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920) and his description of an internal world in “The Ego and the Id” (1923). I think that his theory of Phantasie and fiction needed modifying following his later discoveries, just as his dream theories were enlarged to include his ideas about the internal relationships of ego, id, and superego; about trauma and repetition; and his concept of innate destructiveness.

 

“Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”: A Commentary

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“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”

A Commentary

JANINE CHASSEGUET-SMIRGEL

TRANSLATED BY PHILIP SLOTKIN

For reasons presumably related to its specific content and the questions it raises concerning both his thought and the subject treated, Freud's “Der Dichter und das Phantasieren” (1908) was translated into English as “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” and into French as “La création littéraire et le rêve éveillé” [Literary creation and daydreaming]. In both cases the translator's approach was to interpret the meaning of the text restrictively and to alter the original title in a way that minimizes its ambiguities. The German word Dichter actually denotes the poet, with all that word's range of implied connotations: imagination, creative capacity, and a tendency to turn away from external reality. In the text itself, the French translators (M. Bonaparte and E. Marty) sometimes use the term créateur (creator) instead of créateur littéraire (literary creator).1

One of the questions posed by a reading of Freud's paper is whether his hypotheses are relevant only to the process of writing or can be applied to the whole of artistic creation, or even to the creative spirit in every field of human activity. The German word Phantasieren does not possess the psychoanalytic connotations of “phantasy.” It predates Freud's discovery of psychoanalysis and denotes the activity of imagination in general. Freud admittedly makes frequent use in his paper of the word Tagtraum, whose literal meaning is daydream. However, his study actually raises a different question: Is creation a matter only of the conscious activity of daydreaming, or is it not also, perhaps even primarily, based on a kind of unconscious psychical work in which unconscious phantasies play a fundamental part?

 

Creative Writers and Dream-Work-Alpha

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Creative Writers and Dream-Work-Alpha

ELIZABETH TABAK DE BIANCHEDI

To give a seminar on one of Freud's articles is both a pleasure and a challenge. The article that concerns us today is no exception, aside from the fact that, having been delivered as a lecture, it is relatively shorter (it has only twenty-two paragraphs) and is presented in a clearer and more didactic style than some of Freud's theoretical papers written in that same period. On rereading it, one cannot but remain amazed by the depth of some of his reflections and the richness of the hypotheses used to explain and answer the problems and questions set forth.

In a very compact résumé, what Freud points out in this paper is that the sources or origins of the topics the creative writer uses for his novels or stories can be found in certain fantasies (daydreams) that, for the adult, substitute for the childhood activity of playing. Freud stresses that games, like day fantasies, are wish fulfillments (of an erotic and/or ambitious kind); the creative writer is capable of transforming these fantasies into works of lesser or greater art. The reader or receptor of these transformed fantasies can, through them, enjoy a certain forepleasure, which also allows him to better admit his own.1

 

Fantasy and Beyond: A Current Developmental Perspective on Freud's “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”

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Fantasy and Beyond

A Current Developmental Perspective on Freud's “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”

ROBERT N. EMDE

OUTLINE

The Selected Text of Freud in 1908 and the Developmental Approach Used for This Essay

Play as Adaptive

Developmental Origins of Play

Developmental Origins of Pretense

Current Research Horizons: The Developmental Course of Play and Pretense

Show and Tell: Early Play as Sharing and Procedural

The Sharks Will Come: A Child's Procedural Knowledge about a Dynamic Sequence

Current Research Horizons: Developmental Links between Play and Creative Writing

Fantasy and Beyond

A Reconsideration of Fantasy

The Future-Orientation of Fantasy

Creativity as Adaptive Throughout Life

A Developmental Systems Perspective for Creativity

Biological and Cultural Influences on Creativity

Sharing in Creativity Through the Products of Writers

Epilogue: Playfulness and Paradox as Incentives for Psychoanalytic Thinking

The World of “What if” in Literature, Drama, and Psychoanalysis

The World of “What if” in Scientific Brainstorming

 

“Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”: A Parochial View

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“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”

A Parochial View

MOISÉS LEMLIJ

As I have not managed to destroy the demons of my unconscious, I must consciously use their power. Demons put to good work are worth more than idle angels.
—Juan Rios, 1993

There are many perspectives from which one can approach this text by Freud, and numerous themes that can be developed from it. One could, for example, refer to other contributions to the theories of creativity and fantasy or to the methodological problems involved in the psychoanalytical approach to the artist and his work. I have opted for a point of view that could well be characterized as “localist.” From my “parochial” sphere, I attempt to approach some universal truths and uncertainties. I am motivated by the example of Freud himself, who, as George Steiner (1976) points out, extracted universal certainties from parochial material: on the one hand, from oral sources provided to him by his patients, most of them middle-class Viennese Jewish women, a sample that could well be characterized as biased in ethnic, cultural, and gender terms, and, on the other, from written material extracted from the syllabus of great literature as it was taught and categorized in Freud's Austria.

 

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