Freud, Faerie Tales, and Dream Interpretation:
Towards a Practical Hermeneutics
of the Instinctual Disruption of Texts

Marc Fonda


There are many ways of approaching Freud's intellectual corpus and in this paper the question is: what is it about Freud's theories that will allow us to approach texts such as folklore, myths, fairy tales, etc.? The answer to this question was not long in coming: Freud's work demonstrates that the motives behind the activities of the psychic apparatus, its processes and mechanisms, can be understood as influencing the transmission and evolution of written texts. In short, this answer involves the mutability of written texts. From this perspective James Jones' contention--that psychoanalysis can provide a hermeneutic through which an understanding of the sacred can be gleaned--becomes significant.0 Psychoanalysis furnishes a means of investigating the realms of both personal experience and cultural history in which the sacred manifests itself. Psychoanalysis need neither separate the sacred from the psychological nor be reductionistic in terms of religious experience. Rather, a psychoanalytical hermeneutic can contribute to a dialogue through which the interrelationships between individuals, culture, and the sacred can be explored.

In this paper I reflect upon such interrelationships by investigating how Freud's pleasure-unpleasure principle invokes the transformation of texts. To do this I needed to find some short, familiar texts in order to serve as examples. I found such texts in the brothers Grimm's Kinder- und Haus Märchen as out lined by John M. Ellis in One Fairy Story too Many. In this book, Ellis examines the variations of the faerie tales "Hanzel and Gretel" and "Snow-white" that are a result of the Grimms' revisions of the early editions of Kinder- und Haus Märchen.

Although the Grimms are known primarily for their work on folk tales and philology, I think we can find something of interest to the psychologist of religion. Precisely because these stories are thought to be the legends and folk tales of pre-Christian Europe, they are preeminently religious as well as psychological in nature. The Grimms' tales inform us not only about the culture in which they emerged, they also provide information about the value systems of "post-pagan" Christianized Europe.1 Finally, these tales refer to the types of existential issues that are intrinsically religious in nature--such as interpersonal relationships, nature, society, and the sacred.

The means through which I investigate these two fairy tales is based upon the thoughts of Sigmund Freud and Charles Rycroft. Freud's discussion of the mechanisms of the dream-work caused me to question whether it is possible that comparable activities and motivations are involved in the revision of written texts. The primary difficulty to this consideration is that Freud saw such activities as being explicitly limited to the primary process, or the unconscious mind. It is in Charles Rycroft's thought, however, that I found a reformulation of Freud's dichotomy between the unconscious and the conscious or the primary and secondary processes. Rycroft's argument admits that there is a continuum between unconscious and conscious thought. Thus it is possible to approach redactive material from a perspective that investigates the motives for and means by which textual manipulation takes place.

In my opinion, redactive transformation is most likely to appear under the following conditions: in texts that are frequently translated and re-translated; in documents that are subject to numerous interpretations over time; and, in manuscripts that have been edited continuously over a period of time. The Grimms' fairy tales fall under the latter category; and, they are excellent yet succinct examples for this initial analysis into a practical hermeneutic of sacred texts.

The organisation of this paper is two-fold: the first segment will outline the relevant aspects of Freud and Rycroft's thoughts that are pertinent to this investigation--specifically the role played by unpleasurable ideas in the revisioning process. Once this is completed, I will look at the two fairy tales as case studies in an attempt to promote an understanding of the interrelationship between redactive material and the pleasure-unpleasure principle.


Freud postulates that the pleasure-unpleasure principle functions as a continuum between the conscious and unconscious states of being.2 It is a notion3 that refers to the interplay of tension caused by unpleasurable ideas and by the processes that function to bring about the reduction of tension. The pleasure-unpleasure principle is said to apply itself to dreams as well as to every-day, waking activities. It does so in order to cause thoughts to become more acceptable to one's moral conscience. That is, this principle operates through the primary and secondary processes in attempts to repress or alter objectionable unconscious desires. By investigating the role of Freud's dream mechanisms utilised for the alteration of objectional, unconscious thoughts, it should be possible to speculate upon parallel activities in conscious textual activity.

The mechanisms that I refer to are the means through which original, unpleasurable dream-thoughts are altered to make up the dream proper. These methods include: condensation, displacement of affect, 'symbolization,' and secondary revisioning. The symbolization process operates through a variety of methods as an indirect form of expression. Secondary revisioning, in contrast, has been characterized as behaving similarly to preconscious thought. It operates as an attempt to establish order, to set up relationships and, most importantly, to cause the material to conform to our intellectual or moral expectations. One could say that secondary revisioning functions to both revise and to re-vision psychical material at the preconscious level.4 I believe there is no reason to assume that such activities do not occur during the writing process.

A question which arises, however, is whether symbolization and revisioning are a result of some unpleasurable feeling that emerged because of the ideas being manipulated. It seems logical, within the Freudian conceptual framework, to suppose that this motivation will be present not only in the dream-work but also in intentional activity. The phenomena of revising texts in the academic, religious, and artistic milieus may thus be considered to be a result of both moral and aesthetic considerations.5 That is to say, if some ideational content within a written text causes an unpleasurable reaction, it will be revised, altered, or even left out (repressed) altogether.6

I would like now to turn to Freud's conjectures which are relevant to my argument. Freud often seems to foresee the argument I am trying to establish. For instance, in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, he notes that the tendency to forget the disagreeable seems to be an universal one. Furthermore, the capacity to do so is undoubtedly developed with different degrees of strength in different people. Freud also notes that the recollection of distressing impressions and the occurrence of distressing thoughts is opposed by resistance in non-neurotic persons.7 Such defenses, however, are not always able to put themselves into effect and they may come up against factors which aim at an opposite goal: repression. Hence, in cases in which the defenses cannot cause one to forget distressing ideas, the defenses usually function to displace the emotional content elsewhere.8

Such occasions of forgetting, or revisioning, are not limited merely to the individual but may also appear on a mass scale. As Freud points out: "where the origin of a people's traditions and legendary history are concerned, a motive of this kind, whose aim is to wipe from memory whatever is distressing to natural feeling, must be taken into consideration."9 The above passage suggests that Freud anticipated if not shared my opinion that the pleasure-unpleasure principle can operate in the mutability of a society's historical documents. Although Freud did not go so far as to examine this notion fully, he certainly did believe that these same unconscious processes and mechanisms were utilized by the preconscious and conscious systems.10 It is in "The Acquisition and Control of Fire" that Freud discusses distortions that may appear in the transition of fact to myth. Such distortions, he writes, "are of the same sort as, and no worse than, those which we acknowledge everyday, when we reconstruct from a patient's dreams the repressed but extremely important experiences of their childhood".11 Hence, when a document, historical or imagined, is translated into or considered to be a myth or story, it is subject to the same kinds of distortions that are indicative of dreams. If the content of the text is considered to be objectionable in nature, it may be altered in such a way as to be less distressing to the author or translator.

In the above, I have introduced our next topic: the pleasure-unpleasure principle. It is perhaps in Beyond the Pleasure Principle that Freud presents his most extensive formulation of these notions. Although Freud by no means suggests that the pleasure principle should be understood as dominating the course of mental events, he does state that there is a strong tendency to proceed along the lines of this principle.12 Thus, to Freud, the "mental apparatus" endeavours to regulate the quantity of excitation present as an attempt to keep excitation as low or as constant as possible.13 There are, however, circumstances that prevent the proper functioning of the pleasure principle. For instance, under the influence of external reality and the presence of the ego instincts, the pleasure principle is said to become subsumed by the reality principle. In other words, the demands from the external world and the ego instincts often result with the following: delayed gratification, the abandonment of other forms of pleasure, and the temporary toleration of unpleasure.14

The relation between the reality principle and the pleasure principle must now be confronted. The reality principle is said to evolve through both disappointments caused by unsatisfied wishes occurring in dreams and the influence of the external world.15 The result is an increased significance of the external-world which is heightened through the importance of the evolving sensory organs and the type of consciousness exercised by them. That is, the ego had to learn to comprehend sensory qualities in addition to internal and external affects of pleasure or unpleasure which previously had been of sole interest.16

This, Freud thought, is not enough. It is also necessary for a mechanism of passing judgments to evolve in order to replace repression. This mechanism developed the capacity to judge whether an idea was true or false in relation to one's memory--i.e., to test whether or not it agreed with reality. Furthermore, the mental apparatus also had to learn to restrain the flight response. Such restraint made it possible for the mental apparatus to deal with increased stimuli while postponing the process of discharging such tension.17 In summation, the reality principle is considered to be a development of the mental apparatus which evolved in response to stimuli from the external world. It also functions to protect the ego from the unpleasure caused by disappointments resulting from unrealistic wishes. Thus, the development of the reality principle has been called an evolution from an earlier style of mental activity. It is an evolution that takes into account the demands of the external world and is one that works to protect the ego.

Now, the reader might ask what all this has to do with the mutability of texts? If the mental apparatus functions as attempts to encourage pleasure and to expel unpleasure, the psychical motive for obtaining pleasure is ultimately guided by the reality principle. This principle seeks pleasure (pleasure that is assured through the accounting for of reality) even if it must be postponed or diminished.18 Hence, the reality principle operates to (a) make note of impending unpleasure, (b) pass a judgment upon it, and (c) cause an appropriate and constructive response--in our case, editing a text. That is, it is possible that the unpleasureable feelings that issue from a text may be the motive behind the alteration of any specific document being consideration.

Since the primary and secondary processes are the means by which the mental apparatus relieves tension via the pleasure and reality principles, the next step in our investigation requires that we look into these processes. It is characteristic of the primary process to attempt to alleviate instinctual tension through purely psychical means. That is, the primary process, which is considered to be a unconscious type of mental functioning19 and hence irrational,20 is thought to operate by reducing instinctual tension and promote pleasure through hallucinatory wish fulfilment.21 At this point, I think we can identify the primary process with the work of the pleasure principle--at least in terms of its motives.

Freud, however, notes that hallucinations are incapable of bringing about the pleasure attached to instinctual satisfaction. Thus, he suggests, the activities of the secondary process became necessary. This is so because the secondary process diverts instinctual excitations along a circuitous path so that they eventually cause a physical alteration of the external world which makes satisfaction possible.22 That is, the secondary process functions to bind the instinctual impulses that disrupt the primary process and thus permits the successful discharge of these impulses.23

Freud continues to characterize the memory system of the primary process as working towards the establishment of a state of "free discharge of the quantities of excitation"24 [Freud's emphasis]. The secondary process, in contrast, is said to work towards the inhibition of this discharge. Thus, the primary process is said to have a tendency to drop unpleasurable stimuli immediately. Freud illustrates this point through the following statement:

for the very reason that if its excitations were to overflow into perception it would provoke unpleasure (or, more precisely, would begin to provoke it). Avoidance of such memories, which is not unlike the flight response, is helped along by the fact that memory does not possess enough quality to excite the consciousness. As a result of the unpleasure principle, then, the first perceptual [the primary process] is totally incapable of bringing anything disagreeable into the context of its thoughts. It is unable to do anything but wish. If things remained at that point, the thought-activity of the second system would be obstructed, since it requires free access to all the memories laid down by experience.25

This, Freud suggests, is the key to the whole theory of repression. That is, "the second system can only cathect an idea if it is in a position to inhibit any development of unpleasure that may proceed form it"26 [Freud's emphasis]. It must be noted, however, that this inhibition of unpleasure need not be complete. Nonetheless, the beginning of unpleasure must be allowed for, since it is precisely the appearance of unpleasure that informs the secondary process about the possible unsuitability of an idea. In other words, Freud implies that the secondary process is obliged to correct the primary.

Because the two processes work together, Freud thinks that condensation of ideas must obstruct the attainment of the desired identification with conscious thought. Stated differently, thinking must aim at freeing itself more and more from exclusive regulation by the unpleasure principle and at restricting the development of the affect in thought-activity to the minimum required for acting as a signal. The achievement of this greater delicacy in functioning is aimed at by means of a further hypercathexis, brought about by consciousness. As we well know, that aim is seldom attained completely, even in normal mental life, and our thinking always remains exposed to falsification by interference from the unpleasure principle.27 In the above passage, we find an implied connection between the primary and secondary processes. This notion is possible because Freud presumes that the secondary process operates in conjunction with the reality principle.

Since Freud gives both ontogenic and phylogenic precedence to the primary process, we can understand why he believes that unconscious wishful impulses remain inaccessible to the secondary process. According to Freud, it is because of the later development of the secondary process that the bulk of instinctual impulses remain inaccessible to the means of understanding and styles of inhibitions indicative of preconsciousness.28 For Freud, the part played by the secondary process is restricted to directing wishful impulses along the most expedient paths. Nonetheless, as Freud writes, "these unconscious wishes exercise a compelling force on all later mental trends, a force which those trends are obliged to fall in with or which they may perhaps endeavour to divert and direct to higher aims."29

To continue with the previous discussion regarding the two mental processes, we may state that Freud understood the primary process to be the older of the two. The primary process is said to include such mechanisms as condensation and displacement and is governed by the pleasure-principle. The secondary process, in contrast, is a style of thinking that is said to follow the laws of grammar and formal logic and is governed by the reality principle, i.e., it reduces the unpleasure of instinctual tension by adaptive behaviour.30 In other words, the secondary process behaves through the functions of reality-testing and reality-manipulation.31 Consequently, there are two ways of distinguishing between these processes. First, in regards to the fate of an impulse and, second, in terms of the relationship to the object.32 From this view point, we may see the primary process as being "objectively autistic." The secondary process, in contradistinction, leads to communication, contact and interaction with an external object, "which, at the moment of consummation, is both objectively and subjectively present."33 Stated differently, the primary process is purely psychical, inner-directed and wishful in nature; while, the secondary process accounts for and works through external reality. Thus, in our case, the secondary process prompts the 'real' alteration of texts.

Charles Rycroft, a British psychoanalyst, criticizes any formulation of the differences between the primary and secondary processes that tends to dichotomize the two processes. He does so because he thinks that such schemes also dissociate the notions of phantasy and reality--i.e., they suggest that imaginary ideas and real objects are absolutely separate. The assumption held by such formulations34 is also criticized.35 In other words, Rycroft believes that it is misleading to limit the symbolization process to 'primary thinking.'

Rycroft introduces his critique of Freud's conception of the primary process by stating that conscious mental activity must include all of the mechanisms of Freud's unconscious--i.e., symbolization, displacement, condensation, mobility of cathexis, representation by opposite, etc. Rycroft continues to note that this broader understanding of the primary process has not been employed previously. He states that the reasons for this lack of consideration are as follows: (a) some mechanisms are logically necessary consequences of the tendency to hallucinatory wish fulfilment; and, (b) that the inclusion of symbolization and displacement, in the concept of the primary process, implies two things that Rycroft thinks are basically untrue. These two falsehoods are as follows:

  1. that the modes of unconscious and conscious mental activity are qualitatively absolutely different; and,
  2. that symbolization is a feature of unconscious mental activity and does not occur in conscious thinking.36

Rycroft resumes this argument in the two articles "An Inquiry into the Function of Words" and "Beyond the Reality Principle."37 He maintains that opinions that hold the primary process to be necessarily unconscious are untenable for the following reasons: 1) dreams are conscious; and, 2) conscious operations of the primary process can be observed in (i) various pathological material, and (ii) imaginative activity--play in children and artistic creation in adults.38 Moreover, Rycroft suggests that symbols be included in the general category of words--even if they are distinguishable from other symbols--because: a) their immediate symbolic connections remain conscious; b) that the displacement of the cathexis from the thing-representation is only partial, i.e., the word remains linked to and yet distinguishable from its referent; and, c) that they are conventionalized.39 He continues by stating that these differentiating characteristics enable words to be used by the secondary process for purposes of communication even though they continue to carry cathexes from instinctual sources.40 In other words, Rycroft suggests there is an intrinsic connection "between the secondary processes and verbal imagery, and between the primary processes and dream imagery."41 Hence, as he concludes, it is better to designate the symbolism of the secondary process as being discursive and that of the primary as non-discursive,42 even though they are both charged with affectual energy. Furthermore, Rycroft argues that in so far as dissociation between the primary process and the secondary process does not occur, fantasy will continue to engage external reality and enrichen it. When, however, fantasy becomes disengaged from external reality, the emotional appreciation of it is impoverished and becomes an activity from which the individual feels alienated.43

Rycroft's argument is useful because it permits us to extrapolate a continuum in the mechanisms and the types of thinking employed by the two processes. Hence we can make the claim that the means by which one alters written material may be similar to, if not the same as, the activities Freud described as the 'dream-work.' To further his argument, Rycroft offers a fourteen point theory of symbolism.44 His theory of symbolism is helpful because it broadens the applicability and scope of several psychic mechanisms that Freud explicitly understood in terms of the primary process. In brief, Rycroft suggests that once an object has been chosen to represent another it may be used by either the primary or secondary processes. As such, it may be treated in the same way as the object which it symbolizes. Such objects are chosen due to (a) the ego's ability to perceive it and (b) the fact that it has the ability to carry the affect. Thus, as Rycroft points out, "An object can only be used as a symbol by the secondary process if it is capable of giving real satisfaction, and hence there is no tendency to distortion of the symbol and denial of its actual nature."45 This implies that there is a connection or continuum between the styles of thinking representative of the two processes. Rycroft suggests that if it is true that there is no real quantitative difference in these manners of thinking, then it would be justifiable to say that the mechanisms of primary process thinking are also active in the secondary process. That is, those mental techniques which Freud considered indicative of unconsciousness are also accessible to consciousness.

Furthermore, it seems to me that each of these dream mechanisms are really a classification of a specific facet of symbol formation. Condensation, by definition,46 suggests exactly what is meant by "multivalent."47 Displacement of affect also implies an almost a priori understanding of what a symbol is. That is, a symbol is an object capable of carrying an emotion, but that this emotion does not necessarily originate in or from the specific symbol to which the affect is attached.48 Representation by opposite, again, I believe reflects an facet of symbol formation. The representation of an affect and idea in an opposing form from what it was originally has often been noted in dictionaries of symbols, for instance.49

Secondary revisioning, to Freud, is one of the four most important aspects of dream formation.50 This mechanism can be described as the work of the preconscious or conscious in an attempt to make sense of the material presented to it.51 It is not, however, a process free from error. Hence, Freud notes the following:

our waking (preconscious) thinking behaves towards any perceptual material with which it meets in the same way in which the function we are considering behaves towards the content of dreams. It is the nature of our waking thought to establish order in material of that kind, to set up relations and to make it conform to our expectations of an intelligible whole. In fact, we go too far in that direction....In our efforts at making an intelligible pattern of the sense-impressions that are offered to us, we often fall into the strangest errors or even falsify the truth about the material before us.52

What Freud describes above is an activity that each of us undergoes when confronted with ideas, memories, or circumstances which do not fit in well with our expectations and understanding. This is an activity that, in terms of dreams, Freud ambiguously relates to the conscious manipulations of ideational material.53 That is, the process of the secondary revisioning of dreams occurs initially when one remembers the dream-text by filling up the gaps in the dream-structure with shreds and patches. [And, a]s a result of its [secondary revisioning] efforts, the dream loses its appearance of absurdity and disconnectedness and approximates to the model of an intelligible experience.54 Although secondary revisioning is not always successful, Freud considers it to be capable of contributing to the development of new aspects of the dream-text through the selection of morally acceptable, psychical material.55 Nonetheless, Freud thinks that this activity occurs with regular frequency in waking, perceptual life.

If we reject, as Rycroft suggests, Freud's dichotomization of primary and secondary process thinking and embrace a view point that is inclusive of the two types of thinking, we can develop a perspective that permits an understanding of the work of secondary revisioning, condensation, displacement, etc., as contributing to the plasticity of texts. This is an outlook which permits the possibility that consciously objectionable redactive material may cause an editorial response in the individual as he or she attempts to generate a more acceptable rendition of the text.


In terms our interest in the mutability of texts it is evident that symbolization and secondary revisioning are of great importance. I have also attempted to establish that it is possible that the mechanisms which Freud attributes to the dream-work can also be said to play a role in conscious and intentional textual alteration. By referring to our examples in the next section, we may be able to note such activities.56

Whether and to what extent the pleasure-unpleasure principle is involved in textual revisioning is a difficult question to explore. It does, however, seem to be the case that objectionable notions are often left out of written material. For instance, John M. Ellis, in One Fairy Story too Many outlines several cases of revisioning in the Grimms' Haus- und Kinder Märchen.57 I will examine the revisions which occurred in the two tales "Hanzel und Gretel" and "Sneewittchen" (Snow-White).

Ellis suggests it was the repulsive situation represented in "Hanzel und Gretel" that induced its revisioning--i.e., the fact that in the original tale it was both parents that abandoned the children. Ellis notes that many other aspects of the Grimms' material was revised due to their lack of comfort with the ideas expressed in the Tales. It is this lack of comfort, Ellis proposes, that not only resulted with the revisions but also removed from the tales the cardinal and crucial properties of the stories as if they were merely an unnecessary and repulsive outgrowth. Ellis claims that the brothers' Grimm limited and, indeed, brutalized the "lesson" of each of the tales they altered. However important the moral of these stories may be, it is not in the scope of this paper to be concerned over much about their loss (a factor which is nonetheless important),58 but with how these changes came about.

Ellis indicates these revisions were due to what was perceived to be a dreadful circumstance in the story. And that

the effect of this [revision] is to change in a more general way the relations between the parents and children in the story; instead of the horrendous situation of both parents deciding to abandon their children, we have the much less disturbing situation of only one parent wanting to do so, with the other resisting and giving in only through weakness. One evil parent can be regarded as aberrant and atypical; for both to be so malevolent is an altogether and more frightening matter.59

Ellis goes on to indicate that the subsequent editions of the tales carry this process of removing the dangerous idea of the threatening parents even further. He writes: "The first edition cut the number of malevolent parents from two to one; by the final edition the number is reduced to zero. The wicked mother has become a step mother; now neither parent plots malevolently against the children."60

Whatever the motives, it seems evident that the brothers Grimm purged the fairy material of what was to them morally and aesthetically objectionable.61 Later in One Fairy Story too Many, Ellis indirectly argues my point when he writes: "It is not difficult to conclude here that the Grimms, in dropping these stories, were purging the KHM of content they found to be objectionable: successful crime, sex, suicide, illegitimate birth, wanton violence by children and family members. In the final collection, this kind of content is minimized...."62

In Ellis's description of "Hanzel and Gretel" we find a case in which the editors altered the text by revising the roles of the antagonists or parents. As Ellis points out, these changes appear to have occurred due to their objectionable content. I suggest that we may examine these changes from a viewpoint that understands such means of alteration as being similar to those employed by Freud's dream-work. Briefly, the reduction of parents, in the first revised edition, could be considered to be a result of condensation of the two parents into one. This revision may contain what may be called representation by opposite. That is, the real mother is represented by what could be generally understood as its opposite--the step-mother. In either case, I think we may assume that there has been a displacement of affect. First, the emotional content is displaced from both parents onto only one; and, in the second case, the affect is displaced entirely from the children's biological parents onto the 'false' mother.

A further example of such textual revisioning can be found in Snow-white. This is a striking instance of how the brothers Grimm practically destroyed the whole point of the story in their zeal to render it less offensive.63 In the original version of the story it is the biological mother who was the antagonist. In this version what is described is a narcissistic situation in which the mother is said to identify with the beauty represented by the flesh of her flesh.64 Upon seeing the dangerous and threatening situation which she invoked, mother attempts to destroy daughter and, in failing, is destroyed herself. Thus "Snow-white" was originally a tale of mother-daughter rivalry and sexual envy. It is a story that is not merely limited to the mother's active participation. That is, it is at Snow-white's wedding that the mother is forced to dance in red-hot shoes until she drops dead.65

In the second edition, however, the brothers replace the real mother with the step mother we know today. Here the biological mother is said to have died one year after Snow-white's birth. Thus, as Ellis notes, "gone is the ambivalence of the battle of the generations, and the crucial link between the mother's narcissistic wish and its later result."66 Here we may note that this alteration of the text illustrates a displacement of affect. That is, the tale no longer has the high emotional content characteristic of ambivalence which is represented by the mother-daughter rivalry. It is now about the vanity of a specific person. The pain of what Freud would call the sexual envy of the mother-daughter Oedipal situation has been reduced to something trivial and meaningless in comparison. Thus we can say the secondary revisioning process has effected alterations in the material. The morally objectionable material has been altered in such a way as to render a more acceptable outcome. The biological mother-persecutor is substituted by the step-mother, the daughter's active participation in the revenge is repressed and the emotional content of the tale has been reduced to an insignificant level.


If the above assumptions are true, we can conclude that it is indeed the case that there is a similarity if not a continuum in the means of thinking employed by the primary and secondary processes. That the two processes employ the mechanisms of Freud's dream work in order to bring about the emancipation of tension caused by unpleasurable ideas. Furthermore, we can undoubtedly claim that secondary revisioning has taken place. That is, the revisions were made in order to promote a more acceptable and logical understanding of the material at hand.

Although I think that this approach may be helpful in the analyzing the mutation of textual material, I have no intention of claiming that this approach is the only or, indeed, a complete means of examining such material.67 All that I have attempted to show is that it is possible that the pleasure-unpleasure principle operates during both unconscious and conscious ideational activity. I have also attempted to point out that it is logical to suppose that the same mechanisms which Freud attributed to the unconscious realm of the dream-work can also be seen to function in the realm of textual manipulation. This, of course, implies that there is no fundamental and ultimately discrete division between the two mental systems.


0 James W. Jones Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Religion: Transference and Transcendence. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), p. 2.

1 Ruth Bottigheimer, Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 168. Earlier in this book Bottigheimer notes that there is a Christian exegetical school of the Tales which has been so pervasive as to have "influenced Freudian interpreters like Bruno Bettelheim, who assumes that many of the Grimms' tales express Christian values."(144) [see: Bettleheim's The Uses of Enchantment, pp. 13f, 219, 228ff.].

2 In the first section of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud sketches his basic assumptions from which this text developed. He claims as his first assumption that the course of mental acts are automatically regulated by the pleasure principle.(S.E. 18:7) Although, as he writes, it is strictly improper to speak of the pleasure principle as dominating the 'mental apparatus,' which is nonetheless, characterized as having a strong tendency [Freud's emphasis] towards the pleasure principle.(Ibid., p. 9) Furthermore, Freud discusses the flight-reflex as operating to "banish distressing affective impulses like remorse and pangs of conscience."(S.E. 6:147) See also: Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (S.E. 20:92-94) where Freud speaks of the flight response as a motor reaction to a perception of external danger; he also refers to the flight-response as being congruous to repression.

3 Other names used to refer to this activity are as follows: the "principle of constancy" and the "nirvana" principle. These both refer to the motive of the psychical apparatus to maintain as low a level of tension as possible. (See: 'Appendix: Emergence of Freud's Fundamental Hypotheses' to 'The Neuropsychoses of Defense,' S.E. 3:62-71; Beyond the Pleasure Principle S.E.18: 9 & n. 2, 62; 'The Economic Problem of Masochism,' S.E. 19:159-161). In the last two references Freud suggests there is a fundamental distinction between the nirvana principle and the pleasure principle, even if the two are very similar to one another. That is, that the former operates in conjunction with the instinct to death and the latter represents the demands of the instinct towards life.

4 Unluckily, Freud discusses the notion of secondary revisioning at length (which is not much) only in The Interpretation of Dreams (S.E. 5:488-508). I feel that his apparent underestimation of this concept is unfortunate, since this theoretical construction is fundamentally important in the consideration of how we, in my opinion, remember and react to our psychical experiences.

5 The preceding necessarily implies there is an interrelation between the aesthetic, the intellect, and the moral.

6 It may also be instructive to consider the relationship between the latent and manifest contents of both dreams, phantasies (see: 'The Economic Problem of Masochism,' S.E. 19:162), and other such material (i.e., myths and fairy tales).

7 Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. (S.E. 6:144-146).

8 Ibid., p. 147.

9 Ibid., p. 148.

10 See: Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, (S.E. 8) and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, (S.E. 6) for Freud's most extensive explorations of this possibility.

11 Sigmund Freud, "The Control and Acquisition of Fire," (S.E. 22:185-195). We must keep in mind, when reading the above, that Freud often equated early childhood and the "primitive" mental life of humanity--i.e., ontogeny as recapitulating phylogeny. It is interesting to note that later in this paper Freud states that the mechanisms that are employed in such distortions are (a) turning into opposite and (b) representation by symbols. This is important to my argument and will be explored more thoroughly later.

12 Beyond the Pleasure Principle. (S.E. 18:7-9).

13 Ibid., p. 9. This is accomplished by a three-fold process as follows: 1) that the mental apparatus binds instinctual impulses that impinge on it; 2) that there is a replacement of the primary process with the secondary process; and, 3) that there is a conversion of the freely mobile cathectic energy onto mainly quiescent cathexes.(62) Thus, it may be said that the task of the mental apparatus is to bind instinctual impulses and other excitations in an attempt to master, convert, and ultimately release unpleasurable feelings in order to promote the lowest possible levels of excitation.

14 Freud writes that under the influence of external-reality and the ego instincts the pleasure principle becomes subsumed by the reality principle. (Ibid., pp. 10f).

15 In "Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning," (S.E. 12:220), Freud suggests that the reality principle is set up through the non-occurrence of satisfaction expected to occur in dreams--i.e., the disappointment led to the abandonment of attempted satisfaction through hallucination. It must also be noted that Freud believes that the reality principle can do nothing but strive for what is useful and guard itself against the possibility of being damaged by the external-world. Therefore, the reality principle takes over the dominance of the pleasure principle not through deposing it, but as a means of safeguarding it (223).

16 Ibid., p. 221.

17 Freud notes it is possible that thinking was originally an unconscious process "in so far as it went beyond mere ideational presentations and was directed to the relations between impressions of objects, and that it did not acquire further qualities, perceptible to consciousness, until it became connected with verbal residues." (Ibid., p. 221)

18 Hence Freud, in "Lecture XXII: Some thoughts on development and regression aetiology" (Introductory Lectures. 16;257ff), writes: "The transition from the pleasure principle to the reality principle is one of the most important steps forward in the ego's development."

19 Sigmund Freud, "The Unconscious." (S.E. 14:186) See also: Charles Rycroft A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1968) p. 124-5.

20 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1976.) p. 765.

21 See: Sigmund Freud, "The Unconscious." (S.E. 14:186); and, Charles Rycroft A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1968) pp. 124f.

22 This activity, as I have depicted it as based upon Freud's writings, appears to be suspiciously similar to those activities of the reality principle.

23 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. (S.E. 18:62ff).

24 Sigmund Freud, "The Unconscious," (S.E. 14:759).

25 Ibid., p. 760.

26 Ibid., p. 761.

27 Ibid., p. 762.

28 It should be noted here that Freud thinks that the primary and secondary processes are the germs of what, in the fully developed mental apparatus, have been represented as the unconscious and the preconscious (Ibid., p. 768). 29 Ibid., p. 763.

30 Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1968), pp. 124f.

31 Charles Rycroft "Symbolism and its Relationship to the Primary and Secondary Processes," (Imagination and Reality. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1968), p. 44.

32 Ibid., p. 45.

33 Ibid. It should be noted, however, that these two processes are not clinically observable phenomena but are theoretical constructs designed to explain a particular range of facts. They were designed initially to explain neurotic and hysteric innervation and phantasy and, secondly, to explain dreams. (46)

34 Ibid. The assumption is as follows: that continued exposure to the differences between phantasized objects and real objects will result with the individual aligning himself or herself to external reality.

35 Ibid., pp. 46-47.

36 Ibid. Rycroft gives the following as the reason for this opinion: it is impossible to separate the unconscious from the conscious, i.e., he thinks that the mental apparatus operates as a unity and therefore it is illogical to subdivide the mind as such. (48)

37 Both of these papers can be found in his Imagination and Reality. (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1968), pp. 69-83 and 102-113 respectively.

38 Charles Rycroft "Beyond the Reality Principle," (Imagination and Reality. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1968.) p. 104.

39 Ibid., ("An Inquiry into the Function of Words,"), p. 69.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid., "Beyond the Reality Principle," p. 104. Here Rycroft relies upon Susanne Langer's theory of symbolism. Langer's non-discursive symbolism, he writes, is a type of mental activity which uses visual and auditory imagery rather than words. It presents its constituents simultaneously and not successively and operates imaginatively but is incapable of generalizing. It is said to have no grammar or syntax. It uses elements that derive their meaning from their relations to the other symbols which are simultaneously present and are not derived from any defined or dictionary meaning. See: Susanne Langer Problems of Art. (New York: Charles Schribner's Sons, 1957), pp. 124-140.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid., p. 111.

44 Ibid., pp. 53-58.

45 Ibid., pp. 53-58.

46 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1976) pp. 383ff. Here condensation is described as the bringing together of numerous latent notions and associations into a single ideational node.

47 Mircea Eliade often calls symbols "multivalent." See, for instance, Symbolism, the Sacred and the Arts. (Edited by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona. New York: Crossroad, 1986), p. 5.

48 This is a notion suggested by Susanne Langer when she writes "as soon as the natural forms of subjective experience are abstracted to the point of symbolic presentation, we can use those forms to imagine feeling and understand its nature." (Problems of Art. New york: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1957), p.71.

49 For instance, J.E. Cirlot in A Dictionary of Symbols notes that the colour green has represented both vegetation (fertility) and death (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962), p. 53.

50 See chapter six of The Interpretation of Dreams where we learn that the other aspects of dream formation--or dream work--are as follows: condensation, displacement of affect and considerations of representability.

51 Ibid., p. 641.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid. p. 651 n. 1.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid., pp. 630-631.

56 In order to implement the method of investigation that I have proposed, there are several variables that must be taken into consideration. For instance, we must be cognizant of such issues as follows: what is or was considered to be morally objectionable at the time of revisioning? That something which is deemed unpleasurable may be culturally dependent. What is the relation between the individual performing the revisions, his or her culture as located in time and space and the motif of the story? For what purpose was the text used? And, so on. But, it does not require any real genius to recognize that the answers to these questions lie outside of the scope of this paper. Therefore, I will follow with a quick review of our examples in relation the proposed methodological approach.

57 In this book Ellis argues that "the Grimms deliberately, persistently, and completely misrepresented the status of the tales: they made claims for them which they knew to be quite false."(viii) That is, he claims, as modern Grimms research indicates, that not only did they falsify their methodological reports, but also constantly and consistently edited the material that they had collected, an activity which seems incongruous with their professed agenda of preserving the tales. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 6 & 16.

58 For example, Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, (New York: Vintage Books, 1977) makes an argument that fairy tales refer, in metaphorical language, to the sexual development of youngsters. Although Bettelheim approaches this argument from a strict Freudian interpretation of sexual development, he argues that it is necessary to allow children to understand the emotional and physical changes going on and that fairy tales provide important statements to youngsters (pp. 4-5).

59 John M. Ellis, One Fairy Story too Many: the Brother's Grimm and their Tales. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 72-73.

60 Ibid., p. 73. Ellis continues by suggesting that the brothers Grimm apparently were not satisfied that the point was clear enough. Thus, there were further revisions in the later editions of the Tales. To indicate this, and seemingly arguing my point, Ellis states the following: "They were not comfortable with the idea of parents abusing their children, and slowly removed that notion from the story. But this presents a very serious problem: the tales in the collection are frequently concerned with intrafamily strife--with the tensions between siblings, or between children and parents as the children grow up; what the Grimms were actually trying to do was to remove a central and essential feature of their material, part of what might make the material important, as if it were merely an unnecessarily offensive excrescence." (74)

61 But, as Ellis points out: "It would be a mistake, however, to think of the Grimms' reworking of the tales as invariably producing a softening and blunting of everything that was violent and shocking to them. To be sure, they softened whatever was shocking to their own moral outlook, and reduced the level of violence where it ran counter to that outlook [my emphasis]; but they retained and even increased the level of violence and brutality when, for example, those in the tales who suffered it deserved it according to their own moral outlook." (Ibid., p. 79.) Nonetheless, the most obvious motive for such revisioning may be pedagogical as the Kinder-und Haus-Märchen often depicted what has been called "role" stories for children. In fact, as Ruth Bottigheimer writes, Grimms' Tales had been used in the schools much as the bible had been formally--that is, "as a familiar text which exegesis clarified and anchored social values." (Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. Pp. 20-21).

62 John M. Ellis One Fairy Story too Many: the Brothers Grimm and their Tales. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), p. 91.

63 Ibid., p. 74.

64 Ibid., p. 75.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 This approach, I think, could be especially applicable to material that (1) is frequently, over a considerable span of time, translated and re-translated, (2) continually edited, and/or (3) re-interpreted.


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