In this contribution we take a psychoanalytic look at the novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. We follow the clinical adventures of Don Quixote and the diagnostic interpretations he comes across on his journey. We discuss a number of psychoanalytic case formulations that situate the knight in the realm of psychosis and that endeavour to construct the clinical logic of his adventures. Via a discussion of Lacan’s remarks on bovarysm and a consideration of the relationship between literature and psychoanalysis, we come to a second section, where we find our knight again, now no longer as a model of madness, but as a paragon of normalcy. Here Don Quixote has become a paradigmatic example of the way human identity and subjectivity are rooted in narrative and fantasy. Here each one of us becomes a Don Quixote, wandering through the world, guided by delusions and misapprehensions. We conclude with an examination of the way in which the fiction of psychoanalysis relates to the fiction of the subject. Here we encounter the psychoanalyst as a Don Quixote.
Starting from Sellars’ distinction between the manifest and scientific portrayals of man, we will develop three different philosophical readings of the possible consequences of this opposition with regard to the question of subjectivity: Dennett’s philosophical reconstruction of neuro-cognitive science; Husserlian phenomenology; and, Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis. Particular attention will be paid to the various ideas about the rights and limits of the first-person perspective and the issue of truth and fiction.
With reference to Mannoni (1979), it is argued that the clinical practitioner must, based on his own experience, continuously “retranslate” his theoretical language into his mother tongue. As an example, this paper focusses on how the author retranslates the Freudian notion of the death drive and Lacan’s category of the real, based on his educational and therapeutic work with children with behavior disorder. It is argued that these theoretical conceptions cover something that is not there but that nevertheless is operative. What is one to do when confronted with something that is not there but nevertheless is operative? The answer proposed is that one has to inscribe the subject in the sexual relation through the act of writing. This directive is illustrated via clinical work with children suffering from a psychically “silent” mother and is argued through a revisiting of the work of Fernando Pessoa.