Mimicry, Ekphrasis, Construction. «Reading» in Freudian Psychoanalysis

Markus Klammer


The essay explores the concept of interpretation in Freudian psychoanalysis as an act of reading. Freud understands the appearance of dreams and unconscious phantasies in analogy to the structure of perceptual images. On the one hand, he conceives of the patients’ verbal accounts of those images as a specific kind of ekphrasis. On the other hand, the images themselves are regarded as distorted versions of an underlying »dream text« rendering the fundamental desire that the images express and conceal at the same time. The essay shows that the complex system of translations between different layers of text and image in Freud is based on the assumption that the dream images themselves can be analyzed as texts only mimicking the »natural« appearance of perceptions. Freud’s notion of the »rebus« is central to this discussion. The final part examines Freud’s reading of Michelangelo’s Moses statue in the church San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. It demonstrates how the Freudian method of interpretation itself reduces the sculpture to a set of signs, making it perform a mimicry of textual systems.


Freud; Ekphrasis; Mimicry; Psychoanalysis; Reading

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-19421

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