Kathleen O, on 20 April 2012 - 07:37 AM, said:
Think of all the novels, plays, and biographies that were written when we were in the grip of a now much discredited Freudianism.
Off topic, but I feel compelled (as if by a strange unconscious force) to say something on behalf of Freud whose ideas are far
from being simply "much discredited" and who was himself, not so incidentally, a remarkable and witty writer.
Of course, programmatic and bad novels, plays, and biographies are written all the time in the grip of Freudianism...and Jungianism, Aristotelianism, Marxism etc. Occasionally good ones too.
I don't read many novels these days and have read few of those mentioned above but I did like Fitzgerald's Blue Flower
; I still remember thinking that like other British authors writing about continental figures obsessed with philosophy--living, breathing, eating philosophy--she gives the impression that she can't quite bring herself to take their obsession entirely seriously. (Stoppard is far worse in The Coast of Utopia.
Writers have always imagined their way into historical figures: I confess that whenever they write a fictional work about a figure I have a deep interest in or about whom I care and know something, it vaguely gets on my nerves--as if the writer were cheating their way into seeming more interesting and important than they would otherwise be with an openly fictional story (even one that actually drew on the lives of people they knew). Same w. films: I still have not seen Bright Star (film supposedly about Keats and Fanny Brawne), but I remember saying to someone who asked me about it: "If they want to make a regency romance--and have run out of Jane Austen--why not just adapt a Georgette Heyer novel?" I did not add what I was thinking "That would be more honest."
That said, I have never been able to work up my vague irritation into a serious ethical account of why writers and other creative figures should not
imagine their way into the lives of historical figures. It's entirely understandable that they should want to do so (and of course "history plays" have a long history of their own, as does history painting)...Even if one distinguishes between long dead Renaissance Queens and only recently dead modern ballerinas--as one could make a case for doing--I do appreciate why an artist might be drawn to explore imaginatively a compelling event/story. And if a great writer has the 'right' to try it--well I guess a lesser one does too...though the latter may well get more of a pasting from readers. At the same time, readers may well feel compelled to raise uncomfortable ethical questions too...if only because the genre seems to call for it.
To return to Leclercq: perhaps oddly, I feel intuitively that a "friend" or insider writing about Leclercq would seem more of a betrayal. Though here, too, writing seems to make its own laws. X or Y as "writer" and X or Y as "human being" are often two quite different things--and art rarely fits into neat ethical categories--certainly not great art and maybe not even bad/failed art or not-quite art...
P.S. I've never been particularly bothered by "reinvent"... sometimes it works...