Chapter 25. "Art as Unrepressed Wish-Fulfillment" by Sigmund Freud

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from Introductory Lectures
The Reading Selection from Introductory Lectures
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Sigmund Freud (adapted) Library of Congress

About the author …

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), born in Moravia, lived in Vienna most of his life. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna and researched physiology under Ernst BrŘcke. Two neurologists were of special influence on Freud's early studies of nervous disorders: Jean Charcot, who had some success with hysteria using hypnosis, and Josef Breuer, who as friend and colleague, introduced the "talking cure" whereby some patients improved via catharsis—a transformation upon conscious realization of a repressed traumatic experience. Freud's development of psychoanalysis first became widely known through the publication of his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis in 1916. His later work transformed the vocabulary and science of psychology and colored diverse theories in art and literature.

About the work …

In our excerpt from Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis,[1] Freud briefly touches on the role of the unconscious in artistic creation. He writes, "[O]ur entire psychical activity is bent upon procuring pleasure and avoiding pain, that it is automatically regulated by the PLEASURE-PRINCIPLE." Freud notes that as "the Ego learns that it must inevitably go without immediate satisfaction [and] postpone gratification … the Ego becomes 'reasonable' [and] follows the REALITY-PRINCIPLE."[2] In this short reading selection, Freud explains how the repressed desires of the libido of an artist are sublimated into a socially recognizable artistic product which fulfills the unconscious wishes of the spectators. Art, then, for Freud, seems to be the transformation of common neuroses into a kind of socially admired, shared fantasy.

Ideas of Interest from Introductory Lectures

  1. According to Freud, what are the roles of pleasure and wish-fulfillment in fantasy?

  2. What does Freud mean by a "reservation" from the encroachments of the reality principle?

  3. Explain what Freud means by "introversion." Clarify whether Freud is committed to the view that at one stage of the creative process the artist cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality.

  4. Describe Freud's concept of "the true artist."



Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; A Course of Twenty-Eight Lectures Delivered at the University of Vienna. Translated by Joan Riviere. London: George Allen and Unwin. 1922. 311-315.


Freud. 298-299.