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Primary and Secondary: An Alternative Approach via Freud

  • Robin Jarvis

Abstract

A theory of the modes of functioning of the psyche has clear potential significance for the understanding of the reading process and of practices of interpretation — activities that engage the mind in complex and compulsive ways. Freud was continuously engaged in the construction and revision of such a theory from his earliest work through to The Ego and the Id. A constant feature throughout this extensive labour of self-revision was the binary character which Freud ascribed to the workings of the mind: much else in his theoretical writings is closely tied to the hypothesis that psychical life comprises two principles or processes, each with its distinct mechanisms and aims. It is only in very recent years, however, that the full ramifications of Freud’s account of the primary and secondary processes — the most inclusive and useful terms — have begun to emerge. I shall have occasion to refer to some of this work in due course. To begin with, it seems best to return to those texts in which Freud develops his ideas at greatest length and identify the most troublesome (and suggestive) areas. I should point out that I am not assuming any absolute validity for these ideas.

Keywords

Primary Process Secondary Process Reality Principle Pleasure Principle Perceptual Identity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Wollheim, Freud (London: Fontana, 1971), pp. 51, 54.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis (London: Hogarth Press, 1973), p. 341.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 58.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Jacques Derrida, ‘Freud and the Scene of Writing’, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, Yale French Studies, XLVIII (1972), 96.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Samuel Weber, The Legend of Freud (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), p. 38.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    See John Forrester, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (London: Macmillan, 1980), Ch. 3, ‘Symbolism’, pp. 63–130.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Norman N. Holland, The Dynamics of Literary Response (New York: Norton, 1975), p. 185.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Meredith Anne Skura, The Literary Use of the Psychoanalytic Process (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 147.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Jeffrey Mehlman, Revolution and Repetition: Marx/Hugo/Balzac (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 86.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    David Simpson, Irony and Authority in Romantic Poetry (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. 54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Robin Jarvis 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin Jarvis
    • 1
  1. 1.Bristol PolytechnicUK

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