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  • The Materiality of Remembering:Freud's Wolf Man and the Biological Dimensions of Memory
  • Teckyoung Kwon (bio)

Sigmund Freud's celebrated case study, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis" (1918), more closely resembles a literary work than it does a meticulously composed scientific record, given that it provides seemingly infinite possibilities for reinterpretation.1 The study not only describes the process involved in the interpretation of dreams, but it also outlines the structure of remembering through deferred acts, along with repetition and transference. Indeed, the style of the writing itself is seemingly intended to call attention to the way in which science and literature are dynamically synthesized, and the manner in which the mode of remembering functions in the study's dialectic. As Jacques Derrida observes, "The theory of psychoanalysis, then, becomes a theory of the archive and not only a theory of memory."2 Significantly, in Freud's case study of the so-called "Wolf Man," memory—or more accurately, remembering or recollection—serves as the key element, given its role as the kernel of Freudian repression. Perhaps the numerous rereadings of this single empirical scientific study are due to its treatment of memory, which is, after all, the most mysterious structure of the human mind. Building upon the materiality of the so-called memory trace, the human mind perceives reality through a circular process of remembering. We refer to this material as the void; and in its absence, there can be no repetition, no cultural transference, and, for that matter, no cycle of recollections.

As a reader whose development was shaped by the Eastern philosophical tradition, my interpretation of the Wolf Man case study focuses on transference, which contends that materiality, or animal nature, is the source of (re)creation as well as of remembering. In order to illustrate the narrative transference caused by this material base, my argument will proceed in the following order. First, I compare Freudian remembering to the Bergsonian model of memory through a brief examination of Matter and Memory, which features a version of the mode of remembering.3 Next, along with Freud's letter 52 and several key essays from the [End Page 213] metapsychology on remembering, I explore the mode of cultural turn, or transference, which is reflected by Derrida in his essay "Freud and the Scene of Writing." In the process, I examine how Derrida created a new paradigm of deconstruction, a seminal influence upon cultural studies, drawing upon Freud's mode of remembering—and I will consider what he repressed in the process of doing so.

Those who take issue with the positive transference of Freud's memory structure include dissenting figures like Frank Sulloway, who calls into question the politics of hiding materiality (or biology) in pure psychology, and Frederick Crews, who (along with Adolf Grünbaum) criticizes Freud's clinical method of recovering memory as untestable and "fundamentally flawed." To call attention to their misunderstandings, I refer to the HERA model that has been recently explored by neuroscientists, and that bears a striking—and for many, surprising—resemblance to Freud's apparatuses in the "mystic writing-pad." Accordingly, the crux of my argument examines Freud's embodiment of his concept of remembering, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis," in regard to Chuang-tzu's "dream of a butterfly." Ultimately, the cause of transference is grounded less in the dream of wolves than in the memory of the butterfly. My argument is designed to show that the cause of deferred acts, revealing narration as an endless process, is the material base of remembering. Furthermore, the material aspect of the mnemic system signifies the potentiality of psychoanalysis to achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and natural beings.

I. The Materiality of Remembering in Freud, Bergson, and Derrida

Bergson's approach to memory is not inherently incompatible with Freud's model of remembrance, given that both claim an intersection between mind and matter. A key element of Bergson's premise is situated in neuron theory, which contends that human perception is a powerful motor designed to adopt the pure memory that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. Cerebral movement, however, belongs to (unconscious) matter, not consciousness...


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pp. 213-232
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