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118 the minnesota review Chesca Long-Innes Power, Meaning and Persuasion in Freud's "The Wolf-Man": A Response to Stanley Fish In July 1986, at the "Linguistics of Writing" colloquium held at the University of Strathclyde, Stanley Fish gave a paper in which questions of "power," "meaning," and "persuasion" were discussed in relation to a critical analysis of Freud's well-known "Wolf-Man" case history. An abbreviated version of the same paper appeared in the Times Literary Supplement of August 29, prefaced by the following introductory remarks: I have two epigraphs for this essay. The first is from James Strachey's preface to his translation of Freud's Introductory Lectures. Freud, he says, was "never rhetorical," and was entirely opposed to laying down his view in the authoritarian fashion. The second is a report by the WolfMan of what he thought to himself shortly after he met Freud for the first time: this man is a Jewish swindler, he wants to use me from behind, and shit on my head. This paper is dedicated to the proposition that the Wolf-Man got it right.' My response to Stanley Fish was prompted by two striking features of his paper: first, by the confrontation it represents between one specialist trained in the art of literary interpretation, and another who was discovering a method for the interpretation of dreams. To what extent do the two interpretive operations really coincide? Second, by a sense of deja-vu as I read his paper, as if everything he was saying had been said before, perhaps only in a different way. What is the fundamental objection underlying most attacks on Freud's work, how is it manifested in Fish's critique, and, most significant of all, is it a valid one? This essay, then, is directed not only at Fish's paper, but at the critical tradition it both reflects and perpetuates. Fish's "proposition" is based on the argument that Freud has used and manipulated the facts of the Wolf-Man's case to suit his own hypotheses, and, more specifically, to defend and justify the theoretical premises upon which the discipline of psychoanalysis is built. In Fish's analysis, Freud's account of the Wolf-Man's case history proceeds not according to the principles of rationality and objectivity, but is charac- Long-Innes 119 terized by a rhetorical pattern in which repeated claims of "independence "—for the analysis itself, for the "materials" upon which it is built, and for the patient's share ofthe work—can be shown to be powerfully subverted by the narrative in which they are submerged: "The real story of the case," writes Fish, "is the story of persuasion, and we will be able to read it only when we tear our eyes away from the supposedly deeper story of the boy who had a dream" (937). In the course of his critique, Fish will suggest that the greater part of the final interpretation of the dream which is the centerpiece of the analysis, is the product of "persuasion and force" on the part of Freud, the analyst, rather than the result of independent work on the part of the patient. Even where the patient does apparently speak for himself in the interpretation of the dream, the independence of his words is compromised, according to Fish, by the method in which they have been "induced" by Freud. Fish here refers to the way in which Freud attempts to overcome the patient's persistently apathetic attitude to the analysis by fixing a particular date on which the treatment would have to end, "no matter how far it had advanced." In so doing, suggests Fish, "the coercion [on Freud's part] could not be more obvious..." By imposing a fixed limit on the duration of the analysis, Freud was effectively assuring its advancement, and, what is more, assuring it "in a form he [would] approve." As further grist for his mill, Fish goes on to point out that "Freud does not shrink from naming [this imposition] as an exercise of 'inexorable pressure'; yet in the very same sentence he contrives to detach the pressure from the result it produces : 'Under...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 118-134
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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