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.
For several years, Isabelle Le Gouic has been developing a multifaceted work combining poetry, drawing and music. The relationship to space, conceived as a psychic space as well as a game, is fundamental in her creations. Her literary work is based on sets of skilful puns addressing complex issues.
Isabelle Le Gouic’s unique trajectory, involving psychiatric hospital and art therapy, brought her from the hospital to the art space, resulting in the full accomplishment of her identity as an author. This successful transition began in the game set up by the hospital which she then developed by herself.
Different approaches to literature in literary theory can often be reduced to Lacan’s four fundamental discourses. However, in his later work, Roland Barthes investi¬gates the possibility of another, alternative discourse, namely that of the lover. In this discourse, the Imaginary plays a key role. The Barthesian Imaginary functions as an active (in the Nietzschean sense of the word) and creative hermeneutic tool. Important here is the Phrase, a literary sentence supplied by the discourse of the Other, that almost “magically” helps us to name something of our desire. Barthes also closely links this Phrase to his interpretation of the fantasy as the moving force behind our reading. In this way, literature forces us, as subjects of desire, into confrontation with the deconstructed, but indestructible, sinthome of our love, our desire: our ego.
Discussing the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesj, a tale of the quest for immortal¬ity, and digressing from time to time towards the epics of Homer, the author searches for the essence of the literary hero. The psychoanalytic reading offered here does not aim to uncover some underlying truth about the author or his characters, but rather to elucidate the functioning of the text in relation to the reader. This functioning turns out to be multi¬layered. At first the epic offers its reader the possibility of imaginary identification. But it does not stop there: archaic heroism invariably turns out to be connected with the theme of death. Death, in epical context, represents the ultimate lack no hero can overcome. Faced with the inevitable failure of the hero, the reader also cannot escape from con¬fronting this lack. The positive note of the epic resides in the fact that it shows how this lack can be the foundation of the journey the hero undertakes, the story that develops around him, the subjectivity he symbolizes.
Many psychoanalysts argue that clinicians have a lot to learn from literature. They share the deep-rooted conviction that artists are sensitive to clinical phenomena and that they make visible what is often overlooked by clinicians. Freud, for example, relies on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Half a century later, the assumption of Freud’s literary clinic has been taken up by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze in his study Présentation de Sacher-Masoch. Deleuze reads Sade’s and Sacher-Masoch’s literary novels from the same perspective as Freud. Sade and Sacher-Masoch, Deleuze argues, are first of all great symptomatologists. Their novels explore the sadistic and masochistic universe thoroughly. In his essay, the author discusses Deleuze’s reading of Sade and Sacher-Masoch. Deleuze argues that his study, whilst sharing Freud’s basic assumptions, is a critique of his conception of sadism and masochism.