Peter Pan and Freud

Who is talking and to whom?
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


We have been reading the wrong Freud to children.


Fairy Tale Psychic Life BLack Lake Time Literary Supplement Adventure Story 
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  1. 4.
    For more explicitly psychoanalytic discussions of Peter Pan, see John Skinner, ‘James M. Barrie or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’ (Skinner, 1957),Google Scholar
  2. Martin Grotjahn, ‘The Defenses Against Creative Anxiety in the Life and Work of James Barrie’ (a commentary on John Skinner’s article) (Grotjahn, 1957),Google Scholar
  3. and G. H. Pollock, ‘On Siblings, Childhood Sibling Loss and Creativity’ (Pollock, 1978).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See however Frederick Meisel, ‘The Myth of Peter Pan’ (Meisel, 1977) — one of the few articles I have found which attempts a reading of The Little White Bird and Peter Pan, not through Barrie’s personal history, but in terms of the unconscious scenario of narcissistic anxiety and defence which the stories might symbolise for the child.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    For a fuller discussion of this question of stage space in relation to classical and Shakespearian tragedy see André Green, Un Oeil en trop, le complexe d’Oedipe dans la tragédie (Green, 1969, trs. 1979), pp. 11–29.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    See for example Paul Schilder, ‘Psychoanalytic Remarks on Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll’ (Schilder, 1938) which describes nonsense as the effect of incomplete object relations and analyses the Alice books in terms of anal regression (a long note to this effect was cut out from this article when it was reprinted in Aspects of Alice (Phillips, 1972));Google Scholar
  7. Martin Grotjahn, ‘About the Symbolisation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (Grotjahn, 1947), replying to Schilder, rejects the moral judgement which declares the Alice books unsuitable for children but also defines them in terms of psychic and artistic regression; John Skinner, ‘Lewis Carroll’s Adventure’s in Wonderland’ (Skinner, 1947) does take account of the child’s pleasure in illogicality, but again concentrates mainly on Carroll’s biography;Google Scholar
  8. an exception is Alwyn Baum, ‘Carroll’s Alices: The Semiotics of Paradox’ (Baum, 1977) which discusses the Alice books in terms of the operations which they carry out on language. There is an interesting intellectual parallel between the psychoanalytic readings of the works of Carroll and Barrie, both analysed psychobiographically in terms of artistic and psychic regression, both receiving attention more recently in terms of the internal structure of the fantasies which their books represent and how these fantasies are symbolised for the child (Baum, 1977; Meisel, 1977). Baum has this to say on the limits of psychobiography in dealing with children’s fiction: ‘If we accuse Carroll of aberrance in his fantasies, we would similarly have to charge human society, as collective author of the world’s traditional literature, with neurosis’ (Baum, 1977, p. 87).Google Scholar

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© Jacqueline Rose 1992

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