Sigmund Freud – “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”

  • Freud is operating – even in the first paragraph – under the paradigm of creative writer as genius in this piece.  He also likens creative writer creativity to the world of play – like children.
  • Freud defines humour as something of a situation where the reality of daily life is interpellated with the play of childhood games.  People never stop playing – they just move their play into the creation of phantasies; these usually take the form of daydreams.  We only know these exist because psychologists hear about them from folks that need to get their fantasies heard.   These daydreams often find their way into creative writing: a new space for the play of childhood.
  • Freud claims that happy folks don’t fantasize; only the “unsatisfied” do because they have unfulfilled wishes.  These wishes usually take the form of either elevating someone’s personality/life or erotic imaginings.
  • Freud recognizes that the fantasizing of individuals works itself out in contextual ways – the imaginings aren’t stereotypical.
  • Freud makes a distinction between the author who takes over the ready-made materials of another era (who he likens to the ancients) and those that create their own materials (58-9).
  • How do poetical effects work?  In other words, how do the emotional effects elicited by reading works solicit emotional response?  For Freud, it is the overcoming of the barriers that exist between each individual ego and the ego’s of all of humanity.  To overcome the ego barrier, creative writers either use the “aesthetic” as a ruse for the pleasure we share in deep “psychical sources”; further, it could also be from a release of the “tension of our minds” – a living of day-dreams without the shame of navel-gazing (61-2).

T.S. Eliot – “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

  • E. highlights that we often – as critics – highlight the areas in a writing that are “unique” or seem to be specific to the individual who created them; however, in that process we also tend to ignore the things that the writer does that draw on the “dead poets, his ancestors” who “assert their immortality most vigorously” (74).
  • While E. recognizes that tradition is important, if applied too rigidly it impedes the success of original production in the current generation of writers.  If one has the “historical sense” of poetry post the 25 year old mark then it’s likely that you can tap into the “perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but its presence – the weight of tradition from Now back to Homer.  But again, too much learning actually impedes “poetic sensibility” (76).
  • Eliot is posing a dialogism in creative writing that anticipates the resonances we find in Bakhtin’s conception of the utterance . . . except that Eliot uses it to describe only creative writing as opposed to language as a whole.
  • E. uses this conception of writing to understand the role of criticism and the creation of new works of art – each must be read in comparison. . . not a comparison of one being better than the other but a comparison wherein they are taken on their own terms.  This means that “art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same.”
  • It would seem that Eliot provides something of an articulation of New Criticism in this piece : “I have tried to point out the importance of the relation of the poem to the other poems by other authors, and suggested the conception of poetry as a living whole of all of the poetry that has ever been written” – he calls this the “impersonal” theory of poetry.  He then returns to the science metaphors to legitimate this particular form of criticism.
  • Eliot moves poetry outside the individual (so ignore author and context – New Critical?) when he notes that “The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul: for my meaning is, that the poet has, not a ‘personality’ to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways.”  It is in this way that poetry is not an “expression of personality, but an escape from personality” (80).

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