DOSTOEVSKY AND PARRICIDE FREUD PDF

This blog consists of my notes on various literary and critical texts I teach at the undergraduate and postgraduate classes. Critiques and comments are welcome Freud is fascinated by complex and rich personality of Dostoevsky. The Oedipus complex is an essential concept in Freudian psychoanalysis. He is jealous and directs his aggression towards his father.

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Were it not for Freud, we would still be examining each of these strands separately, unable to see how they are all interwoven. There is some evidence that he did not know all that was available in German.

Aware of the limitations of his source material he took pains to qualify his arguments: "We cannot be completely certain on this point This cannot, strictly speaking, be proved It would be very much to the point if it could be established that [his seizures] ceased completely during his exile to Siberia, but other accounts contradict this," etc.

He was 71 years old when he wrote the essay. As I have said, "Dostoevsky and Parricide" has stood up well over these many years.

Apart from questioning by some medical experts and by E. A full frontal attack was then mounted, and it has turned into an act of demolition. The attack came from two directions: Slavic scholars and medical experts. Scholars, led by Joseph Frank, have questioned the biographical facts on which Freud bases his theory.

At any rate, no one has seen fit to question the evidence cited to discredit the "facts" used by Freud. Slavic scholars have found scientific support from medical experts, specialists in epilepsy epileptologists , headed by the world-famous authority Henri Gastaut. In the nineteenth century heredity was considered the decisive factor. Since organic epilepsy is a disease of the brain, measuring instruments can record abnormal surges of electrical current in the part of the brain that is not functioning properly.

Hence there is no electrical disturbance in the brain; there is nothing to measure. The epileptic seizure is psychologically determined. As Freud explained it: Hysteria originates through the repression of an unbearable idea from a motive of defense By virtue of its repression, the idea becomes the cause of morbid symptoms, that is, pathogenic.

And when his father was murdered by his angry serfs as Dostoevsky heard , then the unconscious wish was fulfilled. At that time, according to the "family legend," Dostoevsky suffered his first epileptic attack. At this point, however, I would like to raise a crucial issue which I think has been overlooked. There is no connection between his epilepsy and parricide. Nor would Dostoevsky himself be aware of any such connection.

Thus if Nelly in The Insulted and Injured has an epileptic seizure this is stated just when her hated father comes to visit her, it must be regarded as meaningless, designed merely to awaken pity for her. As a matter of fact, this is precisely what E. In his biography of Dostoevsky, Carr finds the epileptic seizures of the author equally meaningless. I do not even feel inclined to defend literally every opinion voiced by Freud in his article, such as his views on Russian history and the Russian character.

To do this it will be necessary to examine the charges made against Freud by epilepsy experts a wrong diagnosis and by literary scholars a factual problem. In Strakhov witnessed such a seizure during a conversation with Dostoevsky: It was late, about p. Fyodor Mikhailovich was strongly moved and walked about the room while I sat at the table. He was saying something lofty and joyous; when I encouraged his idea with some comment or other he turned to me with an exalted look, showing that his emotion was at its height.

He stopped for a moment, as if seeking words for his thought, and had already opened his mouth. I gazed at him with fixed attention, sensing that he was about to say something unusual, that I would hear a revelation of some kind. Suddenly there came from his open mouth a weird, longdrawn-out and senseless sound, and he fell unconscious on the floor.

The effect of his convulsion was that his whole body stretched out and he foamed at the mouth. In half an hour he regained consciousness and I walked home with him.

He lived not far off. Fyodor Mikhailovich often told me that before the onset of an attack there were minutes in which he was in rapture.

I would feel the most complete harmony in myself and in the whole world and this feeling was so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such bliss I would give ten or more years of my life, even my whole life perhaps. Now and then his face turned red and sometimes splotches appeared.

But the most important thing was that he lost his memory and for two or three days he would feel utterly broken. His mental condition was also grievous: he could scarcely overcome his anguish and hypersensitivity.

The nature of this anguish, in his own words, was that he felt he was some kind of criminal; it seemed to him that he was weighed upon by mysterious guilt, by a great crime. It is known that the hysterical seizure can mimic almost perfectly the true epileptic seizure - to such an extent, in fact, that one can hardly be distinguished from the other even with the help of electrical measuring instruments.

Nevertheless, differences between the hysterical and epileptic seizures have been observed clinically; standard tables of comparison can be found in any textbook on epilepsy. Thus the epileptic attack occurs when the patient is alone at night, asleep - whereas the hysterical seizure usually occurs in the presence of others. In an epileptic attack the patient bites his tongue or otherwise injures himself - whereas in a hysterical attack there is no physical injury.

In an epileptic attack the convulsions are followed by depression and disorientation; after a hysterical attack the patient feels better, more comfortable and relaxed. And still other contrasts could be drawn. If I may digress for a moment, I find it hard to understand the certainty with which epilepsy experts know that Freud is mistaken. Epilepsy in all its ramifications is still an enigma; it can be controlled by drugs but not cured.

The electroencephalogram or EEC, invented in to measure changes in the electrical field on the scalp, is a valuable tool but "at times it can be quite misleading.

To quote a study published in In spite of all that has been written on this subject, few studies have actually been carried out to determine what differences may exist between hysterical and epileptic seizures, and most offer only clinical impressions. This gives us some sense of the complexity of issues in epilepsy research. In a letter to Stefan Zweig dated October 19, seven or eight years before the writing of "Dostoevsky and Parricide" Freud offered two other reasons for a diagnosis of hysterical epilepsy.

It is strange that these reasons did not make their way, except obliquely, into the essay. Freud asserted in this letter in accordance with the prevailing opinion of his time that organic epilepsy - a disease of the brain - was associated as a rule with mental deterioration. Yet the famous epileptics of history, judging by their achievements, were not mentally retarded.

Here is a summary of the situation as of The nineteenth century concept of frequent and inevitable intellectual deterioration has rightly been laid to rest, but it is not possible at this point in time to replace it with a well-founded twentieth-century concept.

It is still not clear what proportion of epileptic patients actually deteriorate, or for what reasons. Conspicuous deterioration is probably relatively uncommon, but subtle degrees of cognitive impairment may be more frequent. He made the following grim entry about his last epileptic seizure: 6 November Average, but the morbid state was endured with great difficulty and lasted almost a week. The farther it goes, the weaker the organism in enduring attacks, and the more severe their effect.

If Freud is right, if the great epileptics of history suffered hysteria rather than organic epilepsy, what saved them from the fate of lesser mortals, ordinary epileptics?

The force of creativity rises to overcome the force of destruction within him. Thus he avoids the "cognitive impairment" that would be the fate of lesser men. His argument seems to be irrefutable and his critics must be reduced to helpless silence. But the situation is far from satisfactory. We need an explanation that reconciles Freud and his critics: the epilepsy is meaningful even though the symptoms of the seizure are those of organic epilepsy.

Is such a. And how could it be tested and confirmed? There is a grey borderland area between hysteria and organic epilepsy that is worth examining. It could be summed up as follows. A person may suffer from both hysteria and organic epilepsy, with each disorder manifesting itself separately.

Thus an epileptic seizure could result in hysterical convulsions. This is especially true of temporary lobe epilepsy. A person may suffer from both hysteria and organic epilepsy, with both disorders manifesting themselves at the same time, as a sort of hybrid phenomenon. While an epileptic seizure can result in hysterical convulsions, the reverse does not hold: hysteria cannot trigger organic epilepsy. Freud had stressed the importance of this connection.

Once a predisposition to epilepsy has been established, however, the disease can be set off by an emotional disturbance. It may be assumed that Dostoevsky had a genetic predisposition to epilepsy. These two genetic factors would have provided the basis for organic epilepsy.

These could have had two sources. On one hand, as we shall see later, Dostoevsky had a number of clashes with authority figures. On the other hand, each of his novels could be regarded as a rebellion or a need to rebel against an authority figures, whether that figure is the personal father, the state, or God.

It is noteworthy that only after Dostoevsky had completed The Brothers Karamazov where he came to terms with his father did his seizures end. Thus a series of emotional disturbances in his life and in his work - emotional disturbances centering on parricide - engendered the hysterical component of his seizures. Second, certain problems connected with the seizures can now be easily resolved. As we noted before, the symptoms of these seizures pointed definitely to a diagnosis of organic epilepsy, and critics took this to mean that Freud was refuted.

The experience of almost all other epileptics is that at the beginning of a seizure they feel fear, terror, or anxiety. In this case the patient, who suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, was not religious but loved music, and he compared the bliss of his aura with sensations evoked by music.

An elderly, pious woman with temporal lobe epilepsy, who had been converted to a new religion, claimed that at the beginning of a seizure she had a "revelation of god and all creation glittering under the sun. The sun became bigger and engulfed me. My mind, my whole being was pervaded by a feeling of delight.

Could it not be that, as in the case of Dostoevsky, the ecstatic aura - which was so deeply subjective - was the product of hysterical epilepsy? As Strakhov wrote: The nature of this anguish, in his own words, was that he felt he was some kind of criminal; it seemed to him that he was weighed upon by mysterious guilt, by a great crime. The guilt that followed his depression, however, is unique; at least, I have not come across it in the literature of epilepsy.

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Dostoevsky and Parricide

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DOSTOEVSKY AND PARRICIDE PDF

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