Beyond Discontent: Sublimation from Goethe to Lacan

Author(s): James C. Wagner

Literary theory

According to Freud's later works, we do not really feel well or free within civilization. Our discontent never disappears, and we shall never become completely reliable members of society. Alcohol already suffices, Freud tells us, to ruin the fragile architecture of sublimations. Since 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle,' sublimation seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for suppressing the drives. We sublimate because we did not get or were not allowed to have what we 'actually' wanted. Is sublimation a mere surrogate or perhaps even the name psychoanalysis found for 'theoria' in the twentieth century? With Freud as its pivot, Goebel provides an intellectual history of sublimation, which also serves as an introduction to other key ideas associated with the authors discussed, such as Schopenhauer's philosophy of music, the will to power in Nietzsche, the structure of Freudian psychoanalysis, Adorno's concept of modern art, or Lacanian ethics. In examining both its prehistory and reception, Goebel argues that sublimation can be reconsidered as the road toward an individual and social life beyond discontent.


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"In this highly sophisticated and kaleidoscopic account, Eckart Goebel offers a penetrating study of a topic that, despite its ubiquity, has hitherto failed to receive a sustained and critical analysis: 'sublimation.' With theoretical astuteness and literary elegance, philosophical and literary works are brought into fascinating and reciprocally illuminating conversation." -John T. Hamilton, Professor of Comparative Literature, Chair 2011 - 2012, Harvard University, USA

James C. Wagner is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of German at New York University, USA. Eckart Goebel (M.St. University of Oxford; Ph.D. Freie Universitat Berlin) is Professor and Chair of the German Department, and Director of Graduate Studies, at New York University, USA.

1. Trilogy of Passion: Goethe as Paradigm and Provocation; 2. The Sound of Psychoanalysis: Arthur Schopenhauer; 3. Transfigured Physis: Friedrich Nietzsche; 4. Self-Control: Sigmund Freud; 5. Walking the Dog: Creaturely Transcendence in Thomas Mann; 6. Sublimation of Nature: Theodor W. Adorno; 7. Das Ding: Jacques Lacan's Luther; Bibliography; Index.

General Fields

  • : 9781441178336
  • : Continuum Publishing Corporation
  • : Continuum Publishing Corporation
  • : June 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 240
  • : James C. Wagner