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Transpersonal Therapy. Trauma and Violence. About Us. Freud and the legacy of Moses Author s : Richard J. Book Details Publisher : Cambridge U. Customer Reviews Customer Reviews Our customers have not yet reviewed this title. You may also like. Sign up to our postal mailing list. Others among these literary creations function in quite the opposite way.
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They do not hesitate to invent persons and even events in order to describe the special character of a period, but first and foremost they aspire to historical truth despite the admitted fiction. Others even manage to a large extent in reconciling the demands of artistic creations with those of historical fidelity.
How much fiction, contrary to the intentions of the historian, still creeps into his presentation, requires little further comment.
Freud is trying here to distance himself and his work from three of the many forms the mixture of a historical novel can generate: first, a novel that makes use of history as its prime material; second, accounts that aim at reaching the historical truth despite, and through, their fictional elements. The third might raise some questions: what does it mean to reconcile the demands of artistic creations with those of historical fidelity?
The movement can be understood in both directions. It is the shift of history toward fiction. On the other hand, if we read differently this expression we might stress more the element of the creation. Along this interpretation, what Freud is dismissing is exactly one of the common receptions of his Moses , that of being a fictional creation.
It does not really matter if such a creation actually aims at the representation of the past or not. It is the shift of fiction toward history. To explain why then he wanted to adopt this caption, Freud himself overtly admits the great difficulty of his task: the absence of any reliable source.
To overcome this problem. Proceeding by imagining, by agreeing upon the highest probability [ Wahrscheinlich ] and relying on it to move forward, it is a mode of investigation of the unknown more often associated with biblical scholarship than with historiography.
Freud and the Legacy of Moses (Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought)
To which extent, then, is Freud doing something different from that? Are his assertions, after all, something else than biblical conjectures? Pier Cesare Bori, one of the first scholars who had the chance to study the preface original manuscript, taking into account the biblical scholarship known and read by Freud, observes that the latter actually mastered the works of several great scholars of the Bible of his time, many of whom are indeed quoted and mentioned within the three essays.
Therefore, despite the abundance and recurrence of the mosaic theme in biblical literature and its great influence on him , Freud turns much more willingly to ethnography rather than to theology. In the quoted passage of the preface Freud seems to seize some of the most recent perspectives reached by the field of historiography. Some pieces miss, and the best he can do is to imagine what the contribution of the image on those pieces to the whole picture could have been.
The act of historical re-creation means picturing the linkage possibilities in the past. The peculiar form that the picturing of links takes is the figurative narrative. The flaw of Moses , from this point of view, does not appear anymore that of being a speculation in opposition of a solid work relying on solid sources. Moreover, it is worth noting how part of this material pointed to the same arguments Freud was making. He consciously aimed at a scientific paradigm.
To be clear, the core of our argument is not that Freud was doing history, but on the contrary that the actual practice of doing history is not that far from what Freud did. Ahead of its time, this insight impressively portends some later attempts to look at the historical text from such a perspective whose language and theoretical horizon, of course, were not there yet. To properly understand the spirit of this move it is important to locate such an attempt in the context that gave birth to it. The Writing of History has been published in France for the first time in and belongs, as we said, to that broad set of works attempting, in the wake of structuralism and post-structuralism, to rethink history.
On the other side of the historical text we find the reader of history, whose encounter with the historical text does not consist in its production , but rather in the interpretation and the reception of its narrative. What kind of history are we then able to read in Moses and Monotheism from the point of view of the historical narrative?
Another author who contributed to the same endeavor to rethink history, even if on a different level of analysis, is certainly Roland Barthes.
In The Discourse of History, originally published in , he boldly argued that the very constitutive structures of the historical narrative resemble those of classic fiction. Shifters are those explicit signs that allow the reader to see how and where the discourse is actually organized. With Freud this seems to become superfluous.
Moses and Monotheism is indeed often defined as redundant , 38 but it is worth distinguishing two aspects of such a characteristic. On the one hand, to be sure, there is a redundancy in the content : the story outlined throughout the text is relentlessly repeated, resumed, summarized, abridged, sketched and schematized, along with the plot already elaborated in Totem and Taboo.
Maliciously, we might even observe that it looks like an attempt to make the reader as himself familiarize with it and naturalize it.
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On the other hand, more importantly here, there is a certain redundancy of the form. What actually bothers are all the notes of method underlined by Freud himself, his explicitations, his admissions. A first critique of Moses can be found within the book itself. For instance, consider the several times Freud seems to choose to block himself — and the reader — from proceeding, just to begin again enthusiastically the page after.
To the contrary, the author seems to be this cumbersome presence within the text, dealing not just with the matter of history but also with his relation with it and with his construction of the discourse. Passing from analyzing the act of uttering to the very utterance, Barthes tries to decompose it in elementary units.
Freud and the Legacy of Moses (Chapter 1)
We can struggle to understand what its meaning may be, but a distinctive conceptual space is already allocated to it. In other words, what happens into a historical text is that what has been systematically predominates over what has not been and what could have been , operating in this way a repression. Both the occurrents and, even more boldly, the existents are only supposed to be there.
Both the entities and the predicates of his history are only hypothetical. Freud does not operate the usual historical censorship, for it is in fact Freud himself who gives the very terrain for the skepticism and the feeling of suspicion that his work leaves in the reader.
In the last part of the section of his article focused on the analysis of the utterance, Barthes implicitly — but not too much — suggests an identity out-and-out of what up to this point could have been considered a simple analogy between the historical narrative and fiction.