Freud and Turn of the Screw

One's initial temptation is to approach this parallel as if it were personified by resemblance between Freud's behaviour (as described by himself) and that of the governess in James's story. This amounts to broaching the issue in terms of Karl Kraus's jibe about psychoanalysis; 4 both Freud and the governess, so the story would go, are simply projecting their own lunacy onto helpless innocents, whom they subsequently proceed to "cure." Indeed, both Freud and James's character ruminate at great length about the danger of such projection, and in the midst of a key scene of "The Turn of the Screw" (in Chapter X) the governess draws back from confronting the child Miles with what she "knows he ...

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sexual gratification other than penetrative intercourse (Freud 1905, 47-52). Nothing like such specificity is ever attached to the governess's assumptions about what is going on between Miles and Flora and their ghostly visitants, but the extent of her scrupulousness suggests that the sexual stakes are correspondingly high. In one of his remarks about the story, James indirectly expresses identification with his governess's point of view by underlining his decision not to offer an "inch of expatiation" about the nature of the corruption (1984, 1188), a phrase that chimes interestingly with the governess's account of Miss Jessel, in the scene by the lake (Chapter XX), as the very realization of evil: "She [Miss Jessel] rose erect on the spot, [. . .] and there was not, in all the long reach of her desire, an inch of her evil that fell short" (114). [End Page 432]

Both Freud and the governess are prevaricating, however, not only about sexual specifics, but on the basis of ...

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appears for the second time in the story, after his original appearance on the tower, he peers through the dining room window at her. She uses her immediate interpretation that he is looking at but not for her, to run to the same position outside the window (assuming his own position), in order, as it were, to see herself being seen, or "seen through." This manages to suggest not only that the governess and Quint might in some sense be doubles (to put this more baldly, "transference" might be articulated as the lost self turning up in someone else), but as well that their duplication is a kind of obfuscation of an epistemological problem: their inability to both be in the same place at ...

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Added: 4/23/2011 09:12:59 AM
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