Religious Irony and Freudian Rationalism in Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective (1986)

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the Christian dimension of Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective (1986) and its relation to psychoanalytic ideas. Most critics read Potter's drama as a psychoanalytic text, with reason. But Potter himself emphasised the religious aspect of the main character's plight which he did not think could be reduced to human dimensions. The article describes the antagonism between the religious and the psychoanalytic in this work, highlighting the ways in which the former serves to undercut the authority of the latter. I then consider whether attempts by contemporary psychoanalysts to understand religious experience in a positive light might supply a basis for a non-dualistic reading of Potter's work. I conclude that while accounts of religious experience that draw upon Winnicott's notion of `transitional phenomena' have a limited applicability to The Singing Detective, an important function of its religious dimension is to offer a religious critique of Freudian rationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411 - 423
Number of pages13
JournalLiterature and Theology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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