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  • Introduction
  • David Hoddeson

This is the second of our two issues on transference in biography and psychoanalysis. As in our first issue (Winter 97) our chief focus here is on biographers’ autobiographical narratives—narratives describing the effects of (counter)transferences on the biographers’ relations to their biographical subjects. Three of the six articles that follow recount such experiences: Fred Karl (countertransference as a reverse mirroring that leads to new views of his subject, Franz Kafka); Nancy Rubin (unexpected repercussions in the writer’s life from hidden correspondences with biographical subjects); my own story (biography as family romance). Leigh Gilmore’s fourth contribution is harder to classify: a partly-Lacanian discussion on the relations between biography and autobiography through journalist Mikal Gilmore’s haunted relations to his brother, the executed murderer Gary Gilmore.

Testimony before theory has been our order of presentation throughout this series, but the distinction is obviously something of an artifice. There is no writing about (counter)transference unshaped by theory. Our emphasis rests on our belief in the powers of autobiographical retrospection to recreate the phenomenology of lived experience more directly and freshly, the better to reveal previously repressed materials—“phenomenology and psychoanalysis” remain “the two major systems promoting introspection.” (Schepeler, 124)

The complementarities of the two theoretical articles in this issue, by the interpersonally-oriented Adrienne Harris and the more (Anna) Freudian Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, also go to the heart of our enterprise. Young-Bruehl writes on the further contributions psychoanalysis might make to biography; Harris on what biography might contribute to writing psychoanalytic case history. As it happens, these are very close to the twin aims this symposium was founded on: the hope that biographers, with all their narrative art, would offer new ways for psychoanalysts [End Page 185] to present their cases; and that biographers would find, in the tenets of psychoanalysis, fresh ways to conceive biography.

It is worth noting that Young-Bruehl and Harris, for all their differences, converge at the crux of their individual discussions: they agree that the writer must enter the frame of what is written. As Young-Bruehl puts it, psychoanalysts have

stepped into their case studies; there they are, telling what they said and did, exploring their counter-transferences, setting themselves in the history of psychoanalysis, becoming subjects for biography as they explore their countertransferences

(April 21, 1996)

And as Harris observes:

Psychoanalytic practitioners are no longer in a privileged relation to knowledge and so must function in an altered relation to their objects. More participant observers than objective scientists. Seeing the psychoanalyst as interlocutor with a specific voice and style makes the segue into and interface with biography and autobiography almost inevitable. The lines between documentation and creative fiction are increasingly blurred, a state of affairs within psychoanalysis that has occasioned both critical worry and excitement.

(see page 257 in this issue)

We remain on the threshold of our enterprise. We have not even entered into a discussion of the degree that phenomena so protean and individual as biographical countertransferences are subject, in a theoretically profitable way, to classification. Or, for that matter, if the terms of psychoanalysis, fashioned to fit the pathologies of patients seeking to escape scripts of continuing self-distortion and suffering, are appropriate and applicable to writers in pursuit of so constructive and self-enlarging an activity as biographical writing.

Again, we have mostly excluded the Lacanian from an already overfull set of presentations—all the while a little haunted, to be sure, by the knowledge that biographical [End Page 186] transformations by their nature offer Lacanians conspicuous interpretive opportunities. In part, once again, omission speaks to predisposition. In declaring that biography is not monolithic, linear or univocal but mutable, mutually constituted and composite, I retain a belief in the constitution of personality outside language; in the possibility that character, however conflicted, is coherent, not irremediably disjunct; and that the construction of selves arises chiefly (though by no means exclusively) from relations among selves rather than appearances and symbolizations.

We have a great deal to thank our contributors for. The biographical profession is very often at its best when it remains devoted to very old (and in many quarters most unstylish) ideals...

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pp. 185-187
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