Transference, originally a term coined by Freud to represent the relationship between the analysand (patient) and the analyst, refers to the projecting and redirecting of one’s unconscious self, feelings and desires (especially those unconsciously retained from childhood which deals with core issues of identity problems rather than with past traumatic incidents) onto another being or object. The process of transference is a catharsis, and where one’s unconscious desires and feelings are repressed, they can obtain release through the action of repetition, which, in a psychoanalytic treatment, these repeated actions and thoughts (which are unconscious) will then be transferred onto the analyst.

In a literary text, transference may take two forms:

  • 1) the author as the ‘analysand’ projecting his unconscious desires and feelings unto his/her characters on to the ‘analyst’ (who is the reader)
  • 2) the characters in the novel to other figures or objects in the novel.
In a Gothic novel, transference manifests itself as the characters in the novel project their unconscious fears (desires, anxieties) onto another being, consciously making these fears or desires something almost alien from themselves – something they would call the “Other”, yet not realizing that this “Other” is actually inherent in themselves. For example, in Frankenstein, Victor’s feelings of hatred (or his unresolved conflicts with his father), are transferred onto the figure of the monster, who then outwardly expresses the hatred of father-figures in the novel. The monster is thus a projection of Victor’s inner self. However, the implication of transference is the indestructibility of the unconscious and its fantasies, and hence total transference of one’s unconscious desires can never occur. Hence, Victor and the monster become doubles of each other.
Courtesy of Michelle J.Y. Tiong, National University of Singapore

See also: workings of the mind

Freud, Sigmund, and Joan Riviere. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Garden City, N.Y. : Garden City Pub. Co., 1943. Print.