Tribute to Freud Critical Essays

Hilda Doolittle

Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces Tribute to Freud Analysis

“This is obviously not an historical account of . . . a new branch of psychological research and a new form of healing called psychoanalysis,” H.D. reminds her readers. Tribute to Freud can be read as a case study of H.D.’s attempt to rid herself of her psychological burdens, but as she searches to satisfy this aim by seeking to interpret her visionary experience on Corfu, it also becomes evident that she looks to Freud for support and confirmation of her previously held belief in the healing power of the imagination and of art.

In her Freud-inspired and-directed search, H.D. recovers threads of her life to discover personal and universal patterns: “It was not that he conjured up the past and invoked the future. It was a present that was in the past or a past that was in the future.” She found her own personal pattern to be bound with Freud’s, professing further, “The years went forward, then backward. The shuttle of the years ran a thread that wove my pattern into the Professor’s.”

H.D. and Freud shared a love and fascination for the antique world—its art, culture, and mythology. They discussed the rare artifacts collected in Freud’s study as great appreciators of art as well as interpreters of symbols and universal patterns of the collective unconscious.

Freud’s theories about the unconscious, or H.D.’s interpretation of them, helped her clarify ideas which she had been developing in her poetry and fiction and which she attempted to codify in 1919 in a brief psychological tract she titled “Notes on Thought and Vision.” In this work, which she alludes to in Tribute to Freud, she distinguishes different states of mind; her state of “over mind” comes close to Freud’s notion of the unconscious. She also distinguishes between temporal events, which she defines as occurring in “clock time,” and universal experiences, which occur in moments “out-of-time,” a state similar to Freud’s universal consciousness.

In the memoir, H.D.’s most direct homage to Freud emphasizes these ideas and Freud’s personal integrity in expressing them:He had dared to say that the dream came from an unexplored depth in man’s consciousness and that this unexplored depth ran like a great stream or ocean underground. . . . He had dared to say that it was the same ocean of universal consciousness, and even if not stated in so many...

(The entire section is 985 words.)