H.D.íS TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM
An analysis of the use of chapter
H.D.ís Tribute to Freud
(c) Maurice G. London
According to psychoanalytic dogma, the
journey within the self leads one to the past and a discovery of its impact
on present psychology. That we are products of a past filled with mistakes
and successes can only lead to the further conclusion that each life choice
we make lays the foundation for our future happiness and unhappiness. In
response to a traumatic past and an uncertain future, the poet H.D. sought
help to change how she viewed herself and her world. H.D. saw both as fragmented
and chaotic, and she felt trapped by her fear of the uncertainty she saw
within herself and without.
The Kantian concept of the nature of an
object being entirely reliant on the perception of the subject is another
facet of the foundation of psychoanalysis, and changing these perceptions
by uncovering the past is a part of psychotherapy. H.D.ís need for healing
led her to seek psychological therapy, and eventually she came in contact
with the wisdom of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
Prior to visiting Freud in Vienna, H.D.
wrote, "I begin intensive reading of psychoanalytic journals, books and
study Sigmund Freud" (Tribute to Freud, vii). Having read any amount
of psychoanalytic literature, H.D. would no doubt have learned how psychoanalysts
relate our past, present, and future. World War I had left H.D. with indelible
impressions of death, and her fear of a war she thought was imminent left
her helplessly trapped between a painful past and an uncertain future.
In Tribute to Freud, H.D. concerns
herself not only with the interrelationship of the past, present and future,
but also with the idea of transcending the linear conception of time. As
noted by most recent critics, H.D. uses a free associative style as a way
to pay tribute to Freud, and this style affects all aspects of the text.
For H.D., time and space are connected as concepts that imply proximity
or distance, and so the literal spaces in the text of this free-associative
utterance become figuratively connected with time. The space between chapters
actually begins in the concluding sentence of one chapter and concludes
in the first sentence of the succeeding chapter. I use the word space not
only in terms of the physical distance which the eyes must travel to get
from one chapter to another, but also in terms of the span of time which
this journey takes. This second conception of the space as time is, actually
far more important to me as I consider H.D.ís method of dealing with these
chapter transitions. As the reader must cross that space in order to move
from one time frame in the text to another they are made to join H.D. as
she explores the transcendence of time, and the spaces in the text which
correspond to the chapter breaks are also made into examples of the writerís
artistic and philosophical concern
H.D. and the Fourth Dimension: The Centrality
of Time in the Memoir
At one point in the text of Tribute
to Freud, Freud says: "I keep an eye on the time - I will tell you
when the session is over. You need not keep looking at the time as if you
were in a hurry to get away" (Tribute 17) - Freud says this just after
H.D. has surreptitiously looked at her wristwatch, and it is precisely
this idea that Freud keeps an eye on the time, that he in a sense controls
time, which H.D., in the plainest sense, has a problem with.
The basis of H.D.ís conception of time
is her belief that the past, present, and the future are only three of
the four dimensions relating to time, and in considering the fourth dimension
she does not find the scientific interpretations of the three dimensions
applicable to her philosophy. H.D. begins her discussion of the fourth
dimension by stating:
"The actuality of the present, its bearing
on the past, their bearing on the future. Past present, future, these three
- but there is another time-element, popularly called the fourth-dimensional"(Tribute,
The scientific, dictionary definition of the
fourth dimension is:
"Time regarded as a coordinate dimension
and required by relativity theory, along with three spatial dimensions,
to specify completely the location of any event" (American Heritage
H.D. does not view the fourth dimension in
this way. She considers the past, present, and future to be the first three
dimensions instead of the X (longitudinal), Y (latitudinal), and Z (depth)
dimensions. H.D. shows her displacement from the scientific definition
in the language she uses:
"The fourth-dimension, though it appears
variously disguised and under different subtitles, described and elaborately
tabulated in the Professorís volumes - and still more elaborately detailed
in the compilations of his followers, disciples and imitators - is yet
very simple. It is as simple and inevitable in the building of time-sequence
as the fourth wall to a room" (Tribute, 23)
And later, she continues this thought when
"Here in this room, we had our exits
and our entrances. I have noted too, the four sides of the room, and touched
on the problem of the fourth dimensional: the additional dimension attributed
to space by a hypothetical speculation is the somewhat comic dictionary
definition" (Tribute, 100)
H.D. says that the fourth dimension is popularly"
called the fourth dimension, it is "disguised" by the elaborate details
of compilations of scientists, and its dictionary definition is comical"
to her. H.D. shows that she has her own beliefs regarding the fourth dimension
and how it relates to the conception of time.
The Method out of Madness: The Chapter
Break as Transition
Before I begin to discuss the spaces created
by the chapter breaks, let me first restate my conceptualization. There
is a physical space on the page and a printed number which implies a chronological
order based on both the physical succession of the two chapters as well
as the numerical pattern of increasing numbers. H.D. crosses that space,
which could be said to correspond to a space of time, and skips from the
past to the present or to the future, etc. If you think about this in a
general way, this may seem to be what all writers do. But H.D. doesn't
always "advance the text" in what may be considered the standard fashion.
One way H.D. bridges that space is to link
the succeeding chapters through the use of repetition. The first and simplest
type of repetition is to repeat the same word or words in each sentence.
The more complicated type of repetition is repetition of a semantic category.
succeeding chapters. The members within a specific semantic category share
certain characteristics which arise from either the literal or figurative
meaning. The literal meaning of each word in a semantic category will be
related in some definitive sense (e.g. - gender, case, defining characteristics,
etc.). On the figurative level, the noun can either represent a concept,
an image, or an impression. H.D. then uses free association to carry forward
either the literal or figurative level of a word in a sentence into the
Another way H.D.ís style manipulates the
space is by shifting of the time frame, either through shifting the tense
of words from one chapter to the next of by changing the narrative scene,
or frame of reference. There are many time frames explored in the memoir:
H.D. addresses this concern for manipulating
the readerís sense of time as well as her own when she writes:
"But there I am seated on the old-fashioned
Victorian sofa in the Greek island hotel bedroom, and here I am reclining
on the couch in the Professors room telling him this, and here again am
I, ten years later, seated at my desk in my own room in London. But there
is no clock-time, though we are fastidiously concerned with time and with
a formal handling of a subject which has no racial and no time barriers"
the moment of the textís composition
the moment of a particular session with Freud
the mythic past
other moments in her past related to visions
H.D. joins the past to the present instead
of separating them as a more conventional writing style would force her
to. In the chapter breaks, she avoids the separation that barriers and
Finally these two methods are often used
simultaneously, and what generally arises from an examination of all of
these forms is an indication of one of the following thematic concerns
of the memoir:
By linking the succeeding chapters in these
ways, H.D. is forcing these comparison and contrasts to take place either
consciously or unconsciously. As a result, the difference between now and
then is minimized, the connection between the people in her life is strengthened,
and the tension between herself and Freud becomes the impetus for her to
assert herself and her own way of thinking.
The difference between Freudís scientific
theories and H.D.ís intuitive nature.
H.D.ís change from a passive woman who had
a great fear of death and loss to a woman aware of her strengths and the
validity of her own belief system.
The connection between one moment of the past
to another moment in the past, present, or future.
Let the impressions come in their own
way:" The Classification of Chapter Breaks in the Memoir
In the following section I describe through
the use of examples the two major categories of chapter transitions H.D.
utilizes in her memoir, the second of which has two subcategories. I do
not seek to account for all of her chapter transitions in this paper, for
to do so would prove, perhaps, a waste of the readerís "time." However,
this classification system can be used as a model with which to examine
the text to see what arises, and in a few cases, to see what does not arise.
I. Carrying forth members of an established
1) Chapter 1 à
Here you have the two words HE and HIM which
are connected to the previously established semantic category of J.J. van
der Leeuw. In the first sentence that HE is dead, having crashed while
flying a plane. In the succeeding sentence, again separated by the space
and a chapter marker, we have the HIM still alive and H.D. not always passing
him on the stairs leading to Freudís study. He has, in a sense, been resurrected
in the space. This relates, of course to H.D.ís fear of loss and her desire
to feel that all things have an eternal dimension
"On the way back he crashed in Tanganyika."
"I did not always pass him on the stairs."
Semantic category: J.J. van der Leeuw
(HE à HIM)
2) Chapter 7 à
This contrast between her initial passiveness
(seen in her use of the less direct HAD GONE) and her eventual assertion
(use of the more descriptive WAS DEAD) demonstrates her development not
only across that space between chapters but also her development over time
from a woman struggling to come to grips with her fears to one who is aware
of her strengths and the way in which they can be used to heal and to protect.
This change in H.D. is emphasized as well by the use of the word "deliberately."
"I was in Switzerland when soon after the
announcement of a World at War the official London news bulletin announced
that Dr. Sigmund Freud, who had opened up the field of the knowledge of
the unconscious mind, the innovator or founder of the science of psychoanalysis,
was dead.""(Tribute, 12)
"I had originally written had gone,
but I crossed it out deliberately." (Tribute, 12)
Semantic category: death of Sigmund
Freud (was dead à had gone)
3) Chapter 10 à
In this example, the connections between the
two sentences forces a contrast to arise between Freudís words "you do
not think" and H.D.ís "I simply felt nothing at all." This contrast is
between a intellectual function (thinking) and an emotional one (feeling).
Thus, H.D. is showing that her intuitive self is not the same as the scientific
nature of the Professor.
"The Professor said, ĎThe trouble is Ė I am
an old man Ėyou do not think it worth your while to love me." (Tribute,
"The impact of his words was too dreadful
Ė I simply felt nothing at all." (Tribute, 16)
Semantic category: Sigmund Freud (THE
PROFESSOR à HIS)
4) Chapter 54 à
In this case she concludes one chapter by
referencing CERBERUS, and in the following she uses the words HE and HIMSELF.
As the guardian of the gates of Hell is the most proximal personal noun,
these can be said to relate to CERBERUS. However, they are more logically
connected with Freud, the HE of the end of chapter 54. Yet H.D. links Freud
to not only CERBERUS, but also the CENSOR which is the repressive agent
in early Freudian theory. The space is what allows her to do this, because
pronouns can attach themselves to either a subject or an object, and as
CERBERUS is the last noun object to be mentioned before the space, it is
CERBERUS which is carried across the space and forms the semantic category
to which the HE and HIMSELF attach themselves in the absence of an antecedent
noun subject. Once the conscious mind makes the logical "leap" to instead
attach the HE and the HIMSELF to Freud, the notion of Freud as CERBERUS,
and as the CENSOR ARISES. As in this example, when H.D. repeats words from
an established semantic category across the space, she very often reveals
something about the way in which she perceives Freud or the argument which
she perceives to lie between them.
"The sleeping mind was not one, not all equally
sleeping; part of the unconscious mind would become conscious at a least
expected moment; this part of the dreaming mind that laid traps or tricked
the watcher or slammed doors on the scene or the unraveling tapestry of
the dream sequence he called the Censor; it was guardian at the gates of
the underworld, like the dog Cerberus, of Hell." (Tribute, 72)
"In the dream matter were Heaven and Hell,
and he spared himself and his first avidly curious, mildly shocked readers
neither." (Tribute, 72)
Semantic category: Cerberus (DOG, CERBERUS
à HE, HIMSELF, HIS)
II.A) Specific words or word forms appear
in both sentences
1) Chapter 11 à
In this example we see an initial situation
in which H.D. declares that THE PROFESSOR was not always right. As THE
PROFESSOR denotes a figure who existed in the past, H.D.ís use of the word
"was" can either place the narrative frame of reference at the point of
the textís composition or at an earlier point in which she was reflecting
back. The moment of the memoirís composition makes the most sense given
the fact that she is positing something that was generally true across
the time Freud was alive ("not always"). Therefore, when she returns to
THE PROFESSOR in the succeeding sentence it is not clear that she is speaking
generally (she never at any time argued) or of a specific session with
the professor (when he says to her, "you do not think it worth your
while to love me" (Tribute, 16)), although it may make the most sense
that she is describing the particular session. She continues: "In
fact, as I say, I did not have the answer" (Tribute, 18). The words
"the answer" is specific, and therefore the reader makes a transition to
the specific past. But in the vagueness of the time referential of the
second sentence, the reader is forced to generalize as in the preceding
sentence. Therefore, once the specificity is established afterwards, the
"I did not argue" exists both in the general past (throughout her time
with Freud) that specific moment from the past in which. Once again,
time has been mingled together through the use of the chapter break.
"But the Professor was not always right."
"I did not argue with the Professor." (Tribute,
Repeated words THE, PROFESSOR
2) Chapter 16 à 17
In this example, the phrases "ON his TABLE"
and "ON my fatherís TABLE" are made parallel. Across the space on the page,
H.D. has drifted from the specific past, a moment of the Professorís inviting
her to look at the things ON his TABLE to a general reflection of the past
invloving her fatherís TABLE. Only after the similarity between the two
phrases is established do the differences emerge, these being between the
two different people referred to. The word "his" of the first sentence
refers to Freud and the "my fatherís" refers, of course, to her father.
Thus she has drawn yet another significant parallel in her memoir, this
time between Freud and her father. As these two men are separated by space
and time in H.D.ís life, they are also separated by the space on this page.
However, H.D. has linked the two, perhaps to display the similarity between
her feelings for each man or perhaps to echo the psychoanalytic phenomenon
of transference, in which the analysand transfers feelings and anxieties
about the mother or the father to the analyst. Both possibilities seem
"Or even bodily, one may walk into that room,
as the Professor invited me to do one day, to look at the things on his
table." (Tribute, 23)
"On my fatherís table there were pens and
ink bottles and a metal tray for holding the pens." (Tribute, 24)
Repeated words: ON, TABLE
II.B) Verb tense shift and repetition of
1) Chapter 13 à
Between these chapters H.D. repeats the description
CONSIDERABLY TALLER, yet connects it to two different people: "the analysand
who preceded me" and "My brother," thus drawing a connection between
and the Flying Dutchman and her brother. Also, H.D. has placed the first
figure in the past by saying "was considerably taller" and the second in
the present by saying "is considerably taller." Her brother and the Flying
Dutchman both died prior to the composition of the memoir, so by placing
her brother in the present she has, in a sense resurrected him, as she
did earlier with the Flying Dutchman. This is a product of her concern
for seeing the eternal nature of all things.
"When, in the beginning, I expressed a slight
embarrassment at being Ďalmost too tall,í the Professor put me at ease
by saying that the analysand who preceded me was Ďactually considerably
taller.í (Tribute, 20)
"My brother is considerably taller." (Tribute,
Repeated words: CONSIDERABLY, TALLER
Time shift: past à present (WAS
à IS )
2) Chapter 71 à 72
Here the word THERE is attached to two different
words, "were" and "are," the past and present forms of the verb Ďto be.í
The word THERE implies distance, a term related to the concept of far as
the contrasting word Ďhereí is to near. Therefore, H.D. first places the
classic, or mythic past in the past, by saying "THERE WERE those Gods,"
but subsequently places the classical past in the present by saying "THERE
ARE the wise and the foolish virgins," possibly a reference to the rites
at the Oracle of Delphi (I am unsure on this point, yet the talk of virgins,
regardless, conjures up religious impressions, which connote and denote
a classical past). H.D. has therefore moved the text from one time frame
to another across the space, first presenting the ordinary idea that "gods"
exist in the past, then moving this concept which was once THERE and in
the past to a THERE that still exists.
"There were those Gods, each the carved symbol
of an idea or a deathless dream, that some people read: Goods." (Tribute,
"There are the wise and the foolish virgins
and their several lamps." (Tribute, 93)
Repeated words: THERE
Time Shift: past à present (WERE
"I must be born again or break utterly:"
A Closing Reflection
H.D.ís need for the help of Sigmund Freud
was due to an inability to move beyond the pain of the past as well as
her fear of a future she saw as inevitable. H.D.ís concept of the world
was one in which time was linear, and as such it became a trap for her
because she had not overcome her pain of what had come before, nor could
she avoid the prophetic fears she had about the future. With the laws of
psychoanalysis in her mind she came to the professor not completely open
to what she expected him to do in order to help heal her psyche. H.D.ís
own philosophy was in many ways at odds with the strictly scientific conception
of a linear relationship between her past, her present and her future.
In Tribute to Freud, H.D. explores the issues of time as she views
them, both in the content and the form of her writing.
By presenting her exploration of this transcendence
and using a stream of consciousness style to express her discoveries, H.D.
liberates herself, and the reader, from a strictly historical view of events.
In this paper I have argued that the chapter spaces are themselves a part
of H.D.ís exploration, or display, of the ability to transcend time barriers.
Whether H.D. actually intended consciously to do this, I will never know,
but certainly in her poetry, as in all poetry, we see evidence of the poetís
awareness of the effects of separation and space. For myself at least,
and perhaps now for others as well, the meaning that results from the form
of H.D.ís chapter breaks is both a literal and figurative exploration of
the transcendence of time barriers.
H.D. Tribute to Freud. New York: New
Directions Books, 1974.
American Heritage Dictionary. New York:
Houghton Mifflin, 1992