Play, Art, and Subject in Freud and Gadamer

Essay by elevauxCollege, UndergraduateA-, November 2014

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Play, Art, and Subject in Freud and Gadamer

Through history, we have already seen the attempt in Plato's Ion to define the literary imagination. Now, in Sigmund Freud's "Creative Writers and Day-dreaming," we find an attempt to give a scientific explanation for the nebulous process of artistic creation on psychoanalytical grounds. Freud establishes that human desire leads us to alter the existing and often unsatisfactory or unpleasant world of reality with everything from fantasies and dreams to children's play and works of art. Decades after Freud's publication, Hans George Gadamer approaches the subject of play and art using hermeneutics (the field of literary or textual interpretation), perhaps unintentionally responding to Freud's proclamations on the subjects in "The Ontology of the Work of Art and its Hermeneutical Significance" from Truth and Method. Freud claims that it is children who play, and this eventually evolves into fantasizing to reach escape after a certain age, presumably adolescence.

We must take his use of "dreaming," "daydreaming," and "fantasizing" simply as terms interchangeable with play, as he asserts that they are merely the natural progressions of play through an individual's lifetime. For both men, art is a manifestation of play. Together Freud and Gadamer assert that play is used to escape from reality: Freud states that play allows the subject to escape from reality, while Gadamer furthers this analysis by declaring the primacy of play over the player, thus countering Freud and highlighting the removal of subjectivity from play and from art entirely.

For Freud, play simply defines itself as a mental space directed toward inventing a situation in which unsatisfied wishes will be fulfilled, where escape from life's present actualities can be neglected and replaced with the idealized events of the past. He gives the example of an orphaned boy given the...