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Psychoanalysis & Rhetoric: Metaphors in the Work of Melanie Klein & J.-B. Pontalis

  • Author(s): Holohan, Michael David
  • Advisor(s): Freccero, Carla
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation project examines the role of rhetoric and figurative language in the formation of psychoanalytic theory. I begin with the premise that psychoanalysis is not only a clinical practice and a theory of mind, but that it is also a writing practice that must be considered rhetorically. Founded as it is on paying close attention to the speech of the patient, psychoanalytic discourse has always been concerned with the form of its own expression. Because of this, psychoanalytic writing opens itself to the kind of analysis that pays attention to and highlights the rhetoric of its written form. In focusing on psychoanalysis as a discourse, I wish to raise the question of form, and thus of rhetoric in its relation to psychoanalysis as a whole. The underlying surmise of this project is that the rhetorical form by which psychoanalytic theory and practice is inscribed structures both theory and practice.

In this project I am concerned with the description and analysis of the rhetorical foundations by which the psychoanalytic works of Melanie Klein and J.-B. Pontalis are made possible. By doing so I hope to broaden and advance an understanding of the psychoanalytic tradition as a development of rhetorical form. I also sketch out a critical approach that makes possible a similar investigation of other psychoanalytic texts.

This dissertation seeks to contribute to a critical approach that would make it possible to develop a comparative analysis of psychoanalytic theories and an understanding of the differences between the many diverse theoretical approaches that constitute the field of psychoanalysis. The dissertation's focus on the role of rhetoric and figurative language would also contribute to a fuller understanding of psychoanalysis and its relationship to the humanities. Such a focus seeks to exemplify a literary analytical approach to psychoanalysis that derives its mode of investigation from a close attention to the rhetorical construction of psychoanalysis and the underlying themes that animate it. This approach puts psychoanalysis in conversation with larger questions within the humanities about the structure and construction of discourses and the epistemological status of theory in relation to its object of inquiry.

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