Writing and dreaming primary and primal scenes

Neale, Derek (2012). Writing and dreaming primary and primal scenes. New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 10(1) pp. 39–51.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14790726.2012.741604


This article examines the concept of the primal scene in the broad context of narrative production, literary theory and the writing process. It will investigate how primal scenes, and variants of the term such as primary scenes, hold a pivotal position between imagination and memory, between factual accounts and fictions, between history and fantasy. Such scenes not only initiate novels, sparking first imaginative investigations, but they also feature in the later writing process and can motivate the writing throughout. The concept and terminology comes from Freud, and this essay will discuss those origins along with other contexts. The notion of primal scenes has been scrutinised in a wider psychological perspective and also by narrative theorists. These critical approaches offer possible links to testimonies and theories about the creative process, and the discussion will look in particular at a novel and essay by Rose Tremain, alongside other examples, including consideration of the development from first images of a novel by the article’s author.

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