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It seems natural to think about novels in terms of dreams. Like dreams, novels are fictions, inventions of the mind that, although based on reality, are by definition not literally true. Like a novel, a dream may have some truth to tell, but, like a novel, it may need to be interpreted before that truth can be grasped. There are other reasons why an analogy between dreams and novels seems natural. We can live vicariously through romantic fictions, much as we can through daydreams. Terrifying novels and nightmares affect us in much the same way, plunging us into an atmosphere that continues to cling, even after the last chapter has been read--or the alarm clock has sounded. Thus it is not surprising to hear someone say that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is "like a dream." It describes dreams, it frightens Iike a nightmare, and it is a structure that allows author and reader to explore wishes, fears, and fantasies. The notion that dreams allow such psychic explorations, of course, like the analogy between literary works and dreams, owes a great deal to the thinking of Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian psychoanalyst who in 1900 published a seminal essay, The Interpretation of Dreams. But is the reader who calls Frankenstein a nightmarish tale a Freudian literary critic? And is it even valid to apply concepts advanced in 1900 to a novel written in the first half of the nineteenth century? To some extent the answer to the first question has to be yes. Freud is one of the reasons it seems "natural" to think of literary works in terms of dreams. We are all Freudians, really, whether or not we have read anything by Freud. At one time or another, most of us have referred to ego, libido, complexes, unconscious desires, and sexual repression. The premises of Freud's thought have changed the way the Western world thinks about itself. To a lesser extent, we are all psychoanalytic interpreters as well. Psychoanalytic criticism has influenced the teachers our teachers learned from, the works of scholarship and criticism they read, and the critical and creative writers we read as well. What Freud did was develop a language that described, a model that explained, a theory that encompassed human psychology. Many of the elements of psychology he sought to describe and explain are present in the literary works of various ages and cultures, from Sophocles' Oedipus Rex to Shakespeare's Hamlet to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. When the great novel of the twenty-first century is written, many of these same elements of psychology will probably inform its discourse as well. If, by understanding human psychology according to Freud, we can appreciate literature on a new level, then we should acquaint ourselves with his insights. Freud's theories are either directly or indirectly concerned with the nature of the unconscious mind. Freud didn't invent the notion of the unconscious; others before him had suggested that even the supposedly "sane" human mind was conscious and rational only at times, and even then at possibly only one level. But Freud went further, suggesting that the powers motivating men and women are mainly and normally unconscious. Freud, then, powerfully developed an old idea: that the human mind is essentially dual in nature. He called the predominantly passional, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche the id, or "it." The ego or "I," was his term for the predominantly rational, logical, orderly, conscious part. Another aspect of the psyche, which he called the superego, is really a projection of the ego. The superego almost seems to be outside of the self, making moral judgments, telling us to make sacrifices for good causes even though self-sacrifice may not be quite logical or rational. And, in a sense, the superego is "outside," since much of what it tells us to do or think we have learned from our parents, our schools, or our religious institutions. What the ego and superego tell us not to do or think is repressed,...
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