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The Defense of Psychoanalysis in Literature: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A View From The Bridge Albert Rothenberg and Eugene D. Shapiro I Psychoanalysis and literary criticism were made for each other, if ever two endeavors were.* A psychoanalytic approach to literary criticism merges two intuitive and analytic pathways to the human heart. But this type of criticism has often proved banal and repetitious, reducing literary themes to the ubiquitous Oedipus complex and ignoring form, flux or language. Despite some notable exceptions, there have been serious sins. Psycho­ analytic criticism has often ignored the aesthetic integrity of a literary work, focusing exclusively on limited elements of plot and theme. Or, it has aimed at extraneous and scientifically un­ justified analyses of the personality of the author in relation to his work. There is really no reason to challenge the validity of psycho­ analysis or to look for some special theoretical flaw accounting for the unsatisfactory showing with respect to literature. Current clinical practice of psychoanalysis involves a type of formal analysis of patients’ behavior that lends itself directly to literary criticism. Practicing phychoanalysts routinely analyze formal properties of a patient’s behavior called psychological defenses. Curiously, no one has ever applied such an analysis directly to literature, despite the fact that literature contains the everyday * This investigation was supported by a Public Health Service Research Scientist Development Award number MH 23621 from the National Institute of Mental Health. 51 52 Comparative Drama stuff of clinical practice—verbal representation of feelings, thoughts, personality patterns and interpersonal interactions. Analysis of specific psychological defenses is clearly analogous in literature and in life. We will support this categorical state­ ment by presenting a concrete example of such a defense analy­ sis applied to literature. This analysis will be our defense of the use of psychoanalysis in literary criticism. Before we provoke an argument over whether psychological defenses are only present in sick people—emotionally sick, that is —or whether it is appropriate to discuss characters in literature as though they were real people, several assertions are useful. First, psychological defenses operate in all people, sick or healthy. Psychological defenses are specific unconscious or semi­ conscious patterns of behavior used to avoid internal or ex­ ternal threat. They are universal modes of dealing with anxiety and are intrinsic to personality and character. Defenses are more obvious in emotional illness because they are more overdeveloped and rigid there. Second, we feel there are problems in analyzing literary characters as though they were real people. Aesthetic form and statement, author’s intent, use of imagery, symbol and many other factors must be taken into account. But rather than pause too long with this theoretical problem now, we will go directly to our test example, the discussion of psychological defenses in Eugene O’Neill’s great play, Long Day’s Journey In­ to Night. We chose this play because psychological realism is a major factor in its appeal. Long Day’s Journey Into Night depicts a day in the life of an Irish-American family named Tyrone. It takes place in the early part of the twentieth century on a summer’s day in a small New England town. The family consists of the father, James Tyrone, who is a famous actor; the mother, Mary; and the two brothers, Jamie and Edmund. As is well known, these char­ acters directly represent the author Eugene O’Neill’s own family, and the author is represented in the play by the character Ed­ mund, the youngest. The two major events of the play are the return of the mother to her morphine addiction and the dis­ covery that young Edmund is stricken with tuberculosis. Some passages taken directly from the play illustrate al­ most all of the classical defenses: Mary: It makes it so much harder, living in this atmos­ phere of constant suspicion, knowing everyone is Albert Rothenberg & Eugene D. Shapiro 53 spying on me, and none of you believe in me, or trust me. This is an example of the defense of projection. Projection is a defense against unconscious or preconscious drives, fantasies, or conflicts through which these internal psychic products are perceived and represented as...


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