Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Noel-Smith, Kelly. "Harry Potter's Oedipal Issues." PSYCHONALYTIC STUDIES 3 (2001): 199-207.

By adopting a psychoanalytic perspective - and acknowledging that this is only one of many ways of approaching the question of the books’ popularity, or notoriety - it is hoped to show that the extraordinary success of the Harry Potter books is due, in part, to the universal phantasies they contain, in particular, those deriving from the Oedipal period. Freud suggested that creative writers, whose unconscious often fuels their writing, entice us to read about their creations by offering us the chance to enjoy our phantasies without self-reproach or shame (Freud 1908). It follows that, the more common the phantasy, the more popular the work of literature will be which allows us to engage with it, whether consciously or not. The author need not be aware that her works contain these phantasies: indeed, J. K. Rowling in a recent article said: “The most frequently asked question you get as an author is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ I find this frustrating because I haven’t got the faintest idea where my ideas come from, or how my imagination works. I’m just grateful that it does, because it gives me more entertainment than it gives anyone else.” (The Sunday Times, 21 May 2000). Freud discusses phantasy in detail in his papers on creative writers and daydreaming (Freud 1908) and in his paper on the formulations of the two principles of mental functioning (Freud 1911). He suggests that phantasising is what we do when our ego, acting in accordance with the reality principle and taking into account the often frustrating external world, comes into conflict with the pleasure principle, which seeks immediate fulfilment of id demands. Phantasy represents a compromise between the two: it creates an internal world which represents the external world as we should like it to be. Hanna Segal suggests that writers, and other artists, can afford to let their phantasies run free because their art provides them with a secure link to reality (Segal 1994). Similarly, a book can provide the reader, as well as the writer, with this link to reality, this security. Alice climbing through the looking glass, the back of the wardrobe in an old house providing a doorway into Narnia, flying out of a nursery window then ‘second to the right and straight on till morning’: the reader’s link to reality is the point of entry into a world which does not really exist, from fictional reality to fictional phantasy, from a room in a house to Wonderland, Narnia or Never-Never Land. Works of fiction appease the reality principle-we know that what we are reading about is not really happening-so allow fulfilment of id phantasies, through our immersion in the book, without the danger to the ego which would arise were the phantasies acted out. . . . The rest is here:

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