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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 21 / 69





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Cohen 18

strung together as though they had been derived from a primal scene of that kind"

(244). Freud's response to this imagined objection is startling:

All this would be very nice, if only the unlucky wretch had not had a dream

when he was no more than four years old, which signalized the beginning of

his neurosis . . . and the interpretation of which necessitates the assumption of

this primal scene. All the alleviations which the theories of Jung and Adler

seek to afford us come to grief, alas, upon such paltry but unimpeachable facts

as these. (244)

In a clever if overreaching paper written partly in response to Peter Brooks'

sympathetic reading of the case, Stanley Fish portrays The Wolf-Man as a rhetorical

performance in which the content of the analysis is a function of Freud's pernicious

desire to dominate and persuade. Fish pounces on Freud's use of "assumption" in

this passage, noting that the very analysis Freud has just given is being used as proof

of the primal scene on which it rests. "The necessity Freud invokes here is a narrative

necessity," Fish adds. "The primal scene is important because it allows the story of its

own discovery to unfold" (938). Since "it has been installed at the centre of a

structure of conviction[,] it acquires the status of that which goes without saying and

that against which nothing can be said. It then becomes possible to argue both for

and from it at the same time"; it is, in short, "something beyond rhetoric" (938).

Fish's vehemently anti-Freudian stance does not markedly differ here from Brooks'

more generous reading, which argues that the new, reformulated narrative a patient

acquires in analysis gains its therapeutic benefit not from its truth claim, but from its

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