The mythification of memory: Freud, Lacan and Sebald’s Austerlitz

This paper explores the theme of memory and the process of remembering, linked to the inception of psychoanalysis and Freud’s work with his first hysterical patients which taught him that remembering, or rather, reminiscing, forms a crucial part of every analysis. Remembering is imprecise and is therefore of immense significance. What doesn’t fit into the narrative of life is “trauma.” It is what could not be assimilated by the subject and thus it is separated from “memory” (Braunstein, 2010, p. 6). In developing this, I will assess Freud’s early work with female hysterics and his work on technique, as well as Lacan’s elaborations of Freud’s technique in his work in the fifties which instrumentalise the importance of “dialectic” in supporting the analysand’s speech and remembering. What is essential is the “reconstruction” of the past and not simply reproducing it. W.G. Sebald’s compelling novel Austerlitz (2001) serves as a complimentary text in assessing the subjective significance of memory and remembering.

Remembering versus Repeating

Taking Kierkegaard, i.e. one of Lacan’s main references with respect to the notion of repetition, as a starting point, the author firstly situates this reference in Lacan’s seminar. It is argued that Lacan confronts Kierkegaard’s notion of repetition with the Platonic idea of reminiscence. Further it is shown that according to Lacan it is repetition rather than reminiscence that structures human experience. Secondly the author revisists Kierkegaard’s On repetition (1843) and argues that a sharp distinction should be drawn between Kierkegaard’s conception of repetition and the Greek one. Finally it is shown that Kierkegaard’s philosophical insights were at odds with the very way in which he faced life (Regine) and death (father).

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