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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 23 / 69

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Cohen 20

Chapter 2: Detection and Repetition

I.

Detective fiction is perhaps the most concrete interest shared by Freud and

Nabokov. Excluding archaeology, detective

work

is Freud's favorite metaphor for

analysis, a trope he unabashedly deploys in the early case histories of Studies in

Hysteria and later complicates in The Wolf-Man (Brooks 269-71). The Wolf-Man

himself confirms Freud's fascination with Sherlock Holmes, conjecturing in an

autobiographical essay that his surprising interest in "this type of light reading

matter" is related to the similarity of detective and analyst in their use of

"circumstantial evidence" to reconstruct events (qtd. in Brooks 269). Nabokov

acknowledges his childhood admiration for Sherlock Holmes in interviews (Strong

Opinions 43 and

57),

but is quick to denigrate

Conan

Doyle as a children's writer (57)

and the mystery story in general as "a kind of collage combining more or less original

riddles with conventional and mediocre artwork" (129). As in his relationship with

Freud and psychoanalysis, Nabokov plays out his mingled appreciation and distaste

for detective fiction through appropriation and parody, most notably in Despair

(Hermann as criminal mastermind, Felix as victim, and the conspicuous absence of a

detective

[Oakley 480-81]),

Lolita

(Humbert7s

hard-boiled pursuit of Claire Quilty),

and Pale Fire.

The Wolf-Man and Pale Fire use the structural and thematic conventions of

classic detective stories, but invert their order and emphasis. Freud's chapter on the

"General Survey of the Patient's Environment and of the History of the Case" follows

the conventional detective model, introducing the fragments of information known

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