Freud Resources
> 1899a

Screen memories

Freud, Sigmund 1899a, 'Screen memories', SE 3: 301-322, trs. from 'Über Deckerinnerungen'.  [Abstracts: 89-90]  [Freud's paper was sent to a periodical on 25 May 1899.]  [On screen memories, see also 1901b, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, especially Chapter 4: childhood memories and screen memories. 1  (There's not much of use in the Traumdeutung.)]

[Abstract:]  A screen memory is a recollection whose value lies in that it represents in the memory impressions and thoughts of a later date whose content is connected with its own by symbolic or similar links.  The concept of screen memory owes its value as a memory not to its own content but to the relation existing between that content and some other, that has been suppressed.  …  A screen memory may be described as retrogressive.  Whenever in a memory the subject himself appears as an object among other objects, the contrast between the acting and the recollecting ego may be taken as evidence that the original impression has been worked over.  [Quotation from the abstract, pp. 89-90]
Cf. frame narrator (as in Heart of Darkness, Frankenstein); and more to the point the difference between narrating and experiencing selves.
Cf. 'The I who counts' Lacan 1977 [1973]: 20.

Freud argues (SE 3: 307) that the original memory is displaced by another that is associated with it.  [That is, it is a metonymic procedure.]
It is a case of displacement on to something associated by continuity [I think this should read 'contiguity']; or, looking at the process as a whole, a case of repression accompanied by the substitution of something in the neighbourhood (whether in space or time).  SE 3: 307
Freud writes: 'It will seem incomprehensible to us because we are inclined to look for the reason for its retention in its own content, whereas in fact that retention is due to the relation holding between its own content and a different one which has been suppressed.'  SE 3: 307 [my emphasis]

Note that this is a structuralist interest.

Is this the same as what happens in dreams: here the dreamwork is a structure which displaces the latent content of the dream with the manifest content???

latent content =>                                     <= dreamwork =>                 <= manifest content
original event and memory =>       <= screen memory =>  <= alternative memory

Is the same kind of structuralist mechanism that Lévi-Strauss describes when finding a term which is mediating a binary opposition???

raw =>                                                    <= rotted =>                         <= cooked

It would be the case if each mediating term is a (psychical) construct, while the other terms are givens.  That is, they are ontologically different, in their mode of being.

The process which we here see at work—conflict, repression, substitution involving a compromise—returns in all psychoneurotic symptoms and gives us the key to understanding their formation.  Thus it is not without importance if we are able to show the same process operating in the mental life of normal individuals ...  SE 3: 308

I would be wanting to follow others in extending this process that Freud finds in memory (and in dreams) to the creative process by virtue of which novels and films come into existence.

Tuesday, February 2, 1993
The idea of using the theory of screen memory to apply to what is literally on a screen—a film—is tantalising.  Does the above structuralist analysis work in a useful way for the reception of film?

latent content =>                                     <= dreamwork =>                 <= manifest content
reception =>                                            <= filmwork =>            <= manifest film

The reception, interpretation, reaction to the film is in relation to the filmwork—that which is actually on the screen, the text—which is in turn related to what appears to be represented in the film.
Tuesday, February 2, 1993
Later the same day.  I feel pretty confused about what is immediately above, and I think for good reason.  Beware of using this!


1 Freud 1901b, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, SE 6, trs. from Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, Berlin 1904, GW 4.

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