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JÉ} Paranoia or Persecution? Comrade V.'s Curious Case History Daniel L. Zins Ernest Keen reminds us that throughout its history as a discipline psychology has attempted to adapt the methods of physics to the study of people, making the necessary subject matter changes but retaining the old concept of rigor. Except for historical accident, Keen observes, it is unclear why "psychologists could not adapt the methods of literature to the study of people, making those changes that are necessary to achieve a degree of rigor but preserving the old concept of articulating the being-in-the-world of people."1 In fact, there is evidence that many modern psychiatric case histories have been modeled on novels. José Barchilón and Joel Kovel point out that Freud took a logical step when he "applied" psychoanalysis to the main characters in Gradiva, because he was quite aware of his debt to the great novelists of the past and of his own time. Freud almost explicitly stated, they add, that "had he not studied his hysterical patients the way a writer describes his heroes, neither he nor anyone else would have discovered, in our day, the unconscious dimensions and rules of human behavior."2 And Freud, Jerzy Kosinski once remarked in an interview, was a great novelist of his time, supplying us with the notion that there is a plot to our lives.3 In his important and very suggestive essay 'The Fiction of Case History: A Round," James Hillman also emphasizes that Freud was more of an artist than a scientist." Hillman cites the French writer Alain's discussion of history versus fiction, quoted by E. M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel, to reveal that Freud's histories are the stuff of fiction, expressing the fictional side of human nature: The human being has two sides, appropriate to history and fiction. All that is observable in a man falls into the domain of history. But his romanceful or romantic 142 PARANOIA OR PERSECUTION? side [roman as fiction] includes "the pure passions, that is to say the dreams, joys, sorrows and self-communings which politeness or shame prevent him from mentioning "; and to express this side of human nature is one of the chief functions of the novel.5 In psychological "fictions," Hillman argues, plots are the theories, or "the ways in which we put the intentions of human nature together so that we can understand the why between the sequence of events in a story."6 The chief aim of Freud's case histories is telling us why. Assembling all his narrative skills for the sake of plot, Freud devised a plot (Oedipus) to fit all his stories. Hillman's fundamental point is this: Psychology would do better to tum directly to literature rather than to use it unawares. Literature has long been friendly to us, openly incorporating a good deal from psychoanalysis. Those in literature see the psychology in fiction. It's our rum to see the fiction in psychology, which could enrich our repertoire.7 In James Park Sloan's fascinating novel The Case History of Comrade V., Claes, V.'s psychiatrist, is keenly aware of the value that fictions can have in therapy, and it is precisely this insight which enables him to devise V.'s richly imaginative tieatment. Convinced that V.'s life has been dominated by some deleterious fictions, Claes helps him to choose healthier alternatives. If, of course, we can believe Claes. Whether we can ever be certain who is telling the truth in Sloan's intellectual labyrinth is highly problematic. Claes, who claims to be V.'s therapist, may be essentially correct in his analysis of V.'s mental illness. Claes's unnamed colleague , however, thinks that V. might be a rather gifted psychiatrist having a game with them. It is also possible that it is Claes who is playing a game with the novel's readers. Or Claes himself may be the schizophrenic. Another possibility is that V. is not insane at all, but is being persecuted as a political dissident. I hope to show why Sloan has discovered a particularly efficacious technique to dramatize these complex issues. I will also discuss...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 141-150
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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