Literature – Repeat Nothing

Robert Rowland Smith

in Death-Drive

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640393
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671601 | DOI:
Literature – Repeat Nothing

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The flip side of destruction is creation, allegedly. This chapter sets out to see if the two are really so different, and whether the nature of creativity doesn't also fall within the death-drive's compass. Freud's writings on art and literature argue that creative works are the disguises worn by wishes that have been repressed, threads to guide us through the maze of the artist's mind back to its creative source. But so too, according to Freud, are less palatable phenomena such as obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Yet Freud balks again at making the connection, or at least he will not make it explicit, so this chapter imagines he had. The chapter uses Freudian logic against Freud, so to speak, reasoning that creative acts, stemming as they do from the unconscious, cannot be separated so hygienically from those more rebarbative endeavours that lead not to creation but to its supposed opposite. Creativity is ‘determined’ by the death-drive, where the death-drive is obsessive, compulsive, repetitive, undeviating, monomaniacal, and so forth. Because of its own emphasis on repetitive, fixated love, the starting example is Ian McEwan's novel Enduring Love, and from that the chapter goes on to explore competing concepts of creativity, not just from clinical psychoanalysis (Hanna Segal and Christopher Bollas) but in the work of critics such as Nietzsche and Leo Bersani. It shows that, throughout these interventions, ‘creativity’ never quite succeeds in slipping the shadow of death.

Keywords: creation; death-drive; creativity; Ian McEwan; Enduring Love; Hanna Segal; Christopher Bollas; Nietzsche; Leo Bersani

Chapter.  11531 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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