‘The healing power of love’: The literary/analytic bond of marriage in Freud's essay onGradiva

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Abstract

Freud 's declared position regarding the management of ‘transference love’ advocated ‘abstinence’, objectivity and even ‘emotional coldness in the analyst’. However, his essay on Jensen's Gradiva reveals an identification with an involved and responsive ‘maternal’ analytic position associated with theorists such as Ferenczi, Balint and Winnicott. These theorists attribute the origins of transference love to the pre-oedipal stage, shaping their analytic model on the basis of the early relationship with the mother. Freud generally had difficulty identifying with such a position, since it entailed addressing his own inner feminine aspects. Yet a literary analysis of his ‘Gradiva’ reveals this stance in his textual performance, i.e. in the ways in which he reads and retells Jensen's story. Freud 's narration not only expresses identification with Zoe, the female protagonist, but also idealizes her ‘therapeutic’ conduct, which is closer in spirit to that of object-relations theorists. His subtext even implies, however unintended, that an ideal treatment of transference love culminates in a psychical ‘marriage’ bond between the analytic couple, a metaphor used by Winnicott to describe the essence of the mother–baby (analyst/patient) bond. Freud 's reading process is itself analogous to Zoe's ‘therapeutic’ conduct, in that both perform a creative and involved interaction with the text/patient.

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