Childhood Studies Sigmund Freud
by
Todd Dufresne
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0105

Introduction

Sigmund Freud was born in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) on 6 May 1856, spent most of his life in Vienna, Austria, and, after a lengthy battle with cancer of the jaw, died on 23 September 1939 in north London, England. Freud trained as a neurologist at the University of Vienna, founded a private practice as a “nerve” doctor, and became the founder of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis began as a psychotherapeutic practice, based on the cathartic power of speaking, used to treat actual neuroses, such as neurasthenia (inexplicable symptoms of psycho-somatic origin), and psychoneuroses, such as hysteria. Freud’s earliest patients came from within his own social and cultural milieu, namely, upper-middle-class Jewish women. At first, Freud employed hypnosis with patients, then the pressure technique (Druckprozedur, whereby he would lay a hand on their heads), and finally words alone within the analytic setting; ultimately, Freud would sit behind a patient, who reclined on a chaise-lounge in his home office, and listen to intimate details of their lives for fifty-minute sessions three to five times weekly for a few months at a time. The theoretical origins of psychoanalysis are controversial. In 1896 Freud coined the word psychoanalysis in articles about the cause (or etiology) of hysteria: childhood sexual abuse. A year later he privately dropped the seduction theory but continued to publish on and develop psychoanalysis. Only in 1905 did Freud publically acknowledge his changed etiology, according to which hysteria was caused by childhood sexual fantasy. In short, after 1897 psychoanalysis proper was born: the interpretation of unconscious, repressed fantasy. Typically, Freud’s work is divided into pre-, early, mid-, and late periods of psychoanalysis. The final period is the most well known but is also the most confounding. At that time, Freud examined the role of culture in individual psychology and initiated a focus within psychoanalysis that became influential in America after his death: ego psychology. Most confounding is his insistence on what was already an outdated biology based on the Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics. Not only did Freud thereby reinvest psychoanalysis in indefensible scientific ideas from the pre-psychoanalytic era, but he also revealed anew his Romantic belief that human nature changes only very slowly. In other words, after 1920 Freud instituted a pessimism (his late dualism) that compromised psychoanalysis as a cure for everyday suffering and misery. It cannot be surprising that many analysts thereafter emphasized elements that “saved” psychoanalysis from Freud’s own dark views and therapeutic pessimism. Freud has nonetheless remained a seminal, albeit misunderstood, source on the importance of childhood in the development of adult psychology.

“Anna O.”

On one occasion, Freud 1957 attributed the birth of psychoanalysis to Josef Breuer’s lengthy treatment of Bertha Pappenheim’s hysteria in 1881–1882. Thus the origins of psychoanalysis are sometimes linked to technical and therapeutic innovations for the treatment of formerly untreatable mental disorders. It was Pappenheim, in her early twenties, who called the technique of open discussion and the cathartic release therein “chimney sweeping” and “the talking cure.” Freud was duly impressed, and in their Studies on Hysteria of 1895, Breuer and Freud presented “Anna O.” as Case 1 in their argument (Breuer and Freud 1955a), developed in Breuer 1955, first, that hysterical and obsessive patients “suffer from reminiscences”; second, that talking can get to the historic and traumatic root of mental disturbance; and, third, that the resulting knowledge is efficacious. Jones 1953 provides Freud’s version of events.

  • Breuer, Josef. “Case Histories. Case 1: Fräulein Anna O.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 2, Studies on Hysteria. By Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 21–47. London: Hogarth, 1955.

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    Earliest reported case of a cure through cathartic talk, conducted and written by Freud’s senior colleague, Josef Breuer, and essential to the creation narrative of psychoanalysis. “Anna O.’s” symptoms included aphasia, amnesia, paralysis, headaches, and hallucinations. It is the first case of Studies on Hysteria.

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  • Breuer, Josef, and Sigmund Freud. “On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena: Preliminary Communication.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 2, Studies on Hysteria. By Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–17. London: Hogarth, 1955a.

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    Key early theoretical statement of 1893 about the therapeutic efficacy of talk therapy, and the claim that hysterical patients “suffer from reminiscences.” Became chapter 1, the theoretical foundation, of Studies on Hysteria.

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  • Breuer, Josef, and Sigmund Freud. Studies on Hysteria. Vol. 2. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1955b.

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    Establishes Freud’s bona fides as a therapist and theorist of hysteria. Includes foundational case studies by Breuer and Freud, all of which follow in the wake of claims made in the “preliminary communication” (Breuer and Freud 1955a) and the case of “Anna O.” (Breuer 1955). Originally published in 1895.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 11, Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Leonardo da Vinci, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 7–55. London: Hogarth, 1957.

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    One of Freud’s most significant retellings of the backstory surrounding the case of “Anna O.” At Breuer’s expense, Freud emerges as someone courageous enough to confront the sexual fantasies of his (often female) patients. Originally published in 1910.

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  • Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 1, The Formative Years and the Great Discoveries, 1856–1900. New York: Basic, 1953.

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    Contains classic summary of Freud’s view about “Anna O.,” and reveals for the first time her true identity, the well-regarded Austrian feminist social worker Bertha Pappenheim.

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Debate about “Anna O.” and Freud’s Case Studies

While presented as a cure and the first recorded success of the talking cure, we now know from works such as Hirschmüller 1989 that many details about the case of “Anna O.” are false. At the end of Breuer’s treatment, Pappenheim/“Anna O.” was admitted to a sanatorium for a new problem, addiction to morphine and chloral hydrate (for facial pain), and an old problem, hysteria. Freud was well aware of Pappenheim’s true state after treatment by the “talking cure.” Borch-Jacobsen 1996 and Dufresne 2003 thus charge Freud and Breuer with dissembling and fraud. Freud’s other cases studies, surveyed in Sulloway 1991, did not fare much better. After the early case studies of Studies on Hysteria, published one year before Freud coined the word psychoanalysis, Freud only published four formal case studies of his own patients (Dora, Rat Man, Wolf Man, and one on female homosexuality), and one informal case study of a child (Little Hans). Although these cases have often functioned as the canonical bedrock of psychoanalytic training, they were all failures. In fact, as Mahony 1996 argues of Dora, Freud sometimes embraced them as failures, if only to demonstrate the intractability of neuroses and the power of patient resistance to treatment. Beyond these cases Freud published an analysis of Judge Daniel Paul Schreber, based on written documents.

  • Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. Remembering Anna O.: A Century of Mystification. Translated by Kirby Olson. New York: Routledge, 1996.

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    Complete and updated account of the now-revised narrative of what happened to “Anna O.,” including how Freud opportunistically used the case to forward the cause of psychoanalysis.

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  • Dufresne, Todd. “The Strange Case of Anne O.: An Overview of the Revisionist Assessment.” In Killing Freud: 20th Century Culture and the Death of Psychoanalysis. By Todd Dufresne, 4–25. London: Continuum, 2003.

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    The most accessible brief overview of the latest rationale for criticism of Freud’s (and Breuer’s) handling of the case of “Anna O.”

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  • Hirschmüller, Albrecht. The Life and Work of Josef Breuer: Physiology and Psychoanalysis. New York: New York University Press, 1989.

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    Major biography of Josef Breuer, with significant details about Freud and Breuer’s relationship and the case of “Anna O.” Originally published in German as Physiologie und Psychoanalyse in Leben und Werk Josef Breuers (Bern, Germany: Huber, 1978).

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  • Mahony, Patrick J. Freud’s Dora: A Psychoanalytic, Historical, and Textual Study. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.

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    In this third book on Freud’s major cases, the lay analyst and English professor demonstrates Freud’s “counter-transference” toward a female patient, that is, his negative feelings toward female sexuality and puberty. Mahony is skeptical about Freud’s technique and about the personal motivations that fuel Freud’s interpretations in this much-discussed case study.

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  • Sulloway, Frank. “Reassessing Freud’s Cases: The Social Construction of Psychoanalysis.” ISIS 82.2 (1991): 245–275.

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    Comprehensive yet brief reassessment of Freud’s case studies convinces author that he was too generous in the past about the empirical, clinical side of Freud’s legacy. Psychoanalysis is not a science. Available online by subscription.

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Freud’s Noncanonical Cases

There are sources of information about some of Freud’s other cases. Along with personal reflections about Freud (see Personal Reflections on Freud), sometimes by patients, these fragments concerning Freud’s cases are highly valuable for scholars interested in the way Freud conducted his practice. Swales 1986 provides new details about an early formative case. Edmunds 1988 reveals uncomfortable facts about Freud’s practice and its relation to his followers. Borch-Jacobsen 2011 provides historical context about Freud’s patients and early practice, often bungled.

  • Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. Les patients de Freud: Destins. Auxerre, France: Editions Sciences Humaines, 2011.

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    Controversial assessment of Freud’s treatment of patients, in French. In 2012, the author revisits Freud’s patients discussed in this book in a highly accessible English blog for Psychology Today called Freud’s Patients, a Serial.

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  • Edmunds, Lavinia. “Freud’s American Tragedy.” Johns Hopkins Magazine 30 (1988): 40–49.

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    A concise, astounding accounting of Freud’s self-interested, unethical, bungled, and even bizarre treatment of Horace Frink in 1921, an American analyst that Freud favored for institution building in New York. More readily available as chapter 20, “The Marriage Counselor” (pp. 260–277) in Crews 1998 (cited under Recommended Primary Materials on Freud).

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  • Swales, Peter. “Freud, His Teacher, and the Birth of Psychoanalysis.” In Freud: Appraisals and Reappraisals: Contributions to Freud Studies. Vol. 1. Edited by Paul E. Stepansky, 3–82. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1986.

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    Reveals identity of a wealthy Jewish patient (“Frau Caecile M.”) discussed only briefly in Studies on Hysteria, but who was a significant figure in Freud’s private correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess. Comprehensive discussion of her life and connection to Freud.

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Freud’s Seduction Theory

Freud was a reluctant therapist and would have preferred, if not for widespread racism toward Jews, to forge a career in scientific research and theoretical work. As a compromise, Freud conceived of the analytic couch as research by other means. Freud was certainly eager to make a contribution to science, and in early 1896, he published Three Essays that claims to resolve a significant conundrum: Why hysteria? His answer in Freud 1962b and Freud 1962a was that hysteria (and obsessional neurosis) was the result of repressed, and so unconscious, childhood sexual abuse at the hands of uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, teachers, governesses, nursemaids, fathers, and so on. This is the famous seduction theory. Less well known is the fact that the theory was presented under the aegis of psychoanalysis, a word introduced to the world in these very essays, specifically Freud 1962c. Essentially, Freud believed that talk therapy could guide patients to reconstruct repressed experiences from their childhood, and by the mid-1880s he was convinced of the determinative importance of (early) sexuality for adult psychology. However, two features should be emphasized: in the seduction essays Freud never assigned special status to child molestation by fathers, and Freud never wrote about the recollection of memories. In the essays childhood sexual abuse was generalized, and Freud spoke only of (therapist-guided) visualizations and reproductions of abuse. Moreover, Freud is candid that his patients resisted his narratives of sexual abuse, although he insisted that such narratives were efficacious, that is, cathartic. In short, Freud in 1896 applied the findings of the “preliminary communication” of 1893 and the Studies on Hysteria of 1895: hysterics suffer from reminiscences; talk therapy can reveal the repressed past; and such revelation is experienced by patients as cathartic relief from neurotic symptoms. What he added in the seduction essays is the foundational content (or depth) of repression: a traumatic experience of childhood sexual abuse.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Aetiology of Hysteria.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 3, Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 187–221. London: Hogarth, 1962a.

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    Written a few months after the first two seduction essays (Freud 1962b; Freud 1962c), this essay summarizes his findings and delves more deeply into the childhood sexual experiences that cause hysteria.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 3, Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 157–185. London: Hogarth, 1962b.

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    Written at the same time as “Heredity” (Freud 1962c), Freud echoes his previous findings: hysteria is caused by adult sexual abuse of a child. Neuroses erupt after puberty. Freud does qualify in both essays and in terms amenable to the thought of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893) that “the susceptibility to a hysterical reaction had already existed before the trauma” (p. 166). In short, the abuse only triggered the latent (biological) hysteria that we see in adulthood.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Heredity and the Aetiology of the Neuroses.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 3, Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 141–156. London: Hogarth, 1962c.

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    Completed in early 1896, this essay contains the first published reference to psychoanalysis. The cause of hysteria, Freud writes, is “a precocious experience of sexual relations with actual excitement of the genitals, resulting from sexual abuse committed by another person” (p. 152).

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Freud’s Abandonment of Seduction Theory

The medical establishment of 1896 did not accept Freud’s new seduction etiology, many considering it an obvious artifact of a suggestive treatment. By 1897 Freud, too, realized that he had blundered: despite his optimistic reports, the many reproductions and visualizations of repressed childhood sexual abuse had not resulted in any discernable progress or cure for his patients. Or perhaps (as one critic argues) Freud’s reproductions of childhood sexual abuse were rather too successful and so too fantastical to be believed. In either case, Freud privately told his dear friend Wilhelm Fliess that his published essays were mistaken. However, Freud did not tell anyone else, most especially his reading public, and he continued to publish works of psychoanalysis without qualifying the etiology of hysteria. Consequently, readers still assumed that by psychoanalysis Freud meant the recovery of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. It was not until 1905 that Freud explicitly acknowledged his shifted focus to the analysis of childhood sexual fantasy. And so what about the many “reproductions” of childhood sexual abuse as reported in 1896? Freud’s official response was long after the fact: they were fantasies that he mistook for reality. Put otherwise, hysteria was not caused by childhood molestation but by ubiquitous and infantile fantasies about desiring to be molested. Hence psychoanalysis proper: the “discovery” of infantile sexuality and of unconscious fantasy, of the most disturbing variety. Masson 1984 proposes the influential argument that Freud had actually crumbled in the wake of establishment criticism of the seduction theory. On this view, Freud lacked the moral courage of his true realization of the ubiquity of childhood sexual abuse—something Masson, and some feminists of the 1980s, had supposedly rediscovered. But most knowledgeable Freud scholars, in works such as Borch-Jacobsen 1996 and Esterson 2001, reject Masson’s thesis, not least because Freud never originally claimed to recover memories at all, only reproductions and efficacious visualizations. Other works such as Krüll 1986 reject the theory on different terms. Scholars have also learned a lot from the resurgence of belief in the therapeutic value of recovered memory in the wake of the 1980s. As Freud’s early critics warned, patients in therapy are prone to suggestion, so much so that every novel theory, including the many theories about the true content of recovered memories of trauma, seems to produce copious confirmations among eager patients. In short, the evidence for recovered memories (not just of sexual abuse but of devil worship, UFO abduction, and so on) points not to objective facts but to “epistemic looping”: patients are made, and sometimes lives are destroyed, to prove depth theories that are actually arbitrary. Naturally the decline of the recovered-memory movement by the early 1990s was also fueled by a concern for the children of psychotherapeutic regimes (e.g., McMartin preschool fiasco of the 1980s); regimes, as Crews 1995 argues, that owe a debt not only to Freud’s old theory of seduction but also to his never abandoned belief in the truth of repression and the unconscious. For although Freud dropped the molestation etiology between 1897 and 1905, he never dropped the theories of repression or the unconscious that fuel such “depth” interpretations.

  • Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. “Neurotica: Freud and the Seduction Theory.” Translated by Douglas Brick. October 76 (1996): 15–43.

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    Extends the critical response to Masson 1984, arguing that if Freud dropped the seduction theory, it is not because there was no proof for it, but because suggestible patients produce far too much confirmation of the therapist’s bias, in this case, the bias that repressed sexual trauma at an early age causes mental illness years later. Written in the wake of “recovered memory” debacle in the United States and elsewhere. Available online by subscription.

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  • Crews, Frederick. The Memory Wars: Freud’s Legacy in Dispute. New York: New York Review of Books, 1995.

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    Comprehensive and accessible overview of the role played by psychoanalysis in the recovered-memory movement. The first half examines Freud’s legitimacy; the second examines the impact of psychoanalysis, especially the foundational ideas of repression and the unconscious, on contemporary therapeutic practice. Book includes letters to the editor and author responses.

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  • Esterson, Allen. “The Mythologizing of Psychoanalytic History: Deception and Self-Deception in Freud’s Accounts of the Seduction Theory Episode.” History of Psychiatry 12.47 (September 2001): 329–352.

    DOI: 10.1177/0957154X0101204704Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides close reading of Freud’s retrospective accounts of what happened during the adoption and abandonment of the seduction theory. Attends to Freud’s strategic rhetoric to reveal how he managed to obscure the facts and why he bothered. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Krüll, Marianne. Freud and His Father. Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans. New York: Norton, 1986.

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    German scholar contests the theory of Masson 1984 but explores the possibility that Freud abandoned the seduction theory out of guilt over implicating, at least implicitly, his own father in the theory. Also speculates about Freud’s Catholic nanny. Freud’s father died in 1896. Originally published in German as Freud und sein Vater (Munich: Beck, 1979).

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  • Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff. The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984.

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    Influential argument that Freud abandoned his etiology of 1896—namely, the claim that hysteria and obsessional neuroses are caused by repressed childhood sexual abuse—because of lack of courage in the face of establishment criticism.

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Freud’s Autobiography

Psychoanalysis is often considered the autobiography of its founder, Sigmund Freud, writ large. Some scholars therefore date the birth of psychoanalysis proper with the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud 1953) at the end of 1899—that is to say, with Freud’s self-analysis. “The interpretation of dreams,” Freud famously argues, “is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind” (The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 5, The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. Translated and edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953, p. 608; emphasis added). Written under the impress of his father’s death in 1896, Freud developed many key ideas and considered his “Dream Book” his most important work. Anzieu 1986 is the classic sympathetic work on this aspect, while Welsh 1994 provides more criticism. Among Freud’s key ideas, three are noteworthy: abnormal and normal psychology exists on a continuum (not in opposition); dreams are the fulfillment of wishes; and the Oedipus complex. Freud argued that the analysis of dreams is a window onto the objectively true, universally valid conditions that determine general psychopathology—what he would in 1901 call The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. In addition to the death of his own father, Freud analyzed his own childhood. For example, Freud discusses a bedwetting incident at the age of two that he linked to guilt and ambition. So even after dropping the seduction etiology, Freud continued to believe in the structuring importance of very early childhood experiences and fantasies—often forgotten because they may be preverbal or repressed because they may be monstrous and (internally) censored but, in either case, stored in the unconscious. His innovation of the Dream Book is to give, publically, etiological significance to unconscious fantasy (e.g., Oedipus complex), and for laying the groundwork for his key claim of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality of 1905: infantile sexuality is not yet fixated on the genitals but is polymorphously perverse, namely, is undifferentiated. While Freud never formally disavowed the seduction theory during this period but simply shifted his narrative inward, the Three Essays of 1905 quietly formalize the new fantasy etiology that begins most clearly in the Dream Book. Later Freud continued to revisit and rewrite his own history, as in Freud 1959 and Freud 1964, the latter taking up his own passing sense of unreality during a vacation not long after his father died.

  • Anzieu, Didier. Freud’s Self-Analysis. Translated by Peter Graham. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1986.

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    Comprehensive and now-classic interpretation of the dreams Freud discusses in The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud 1953). Kleinian orientation, finds that Freud’s theorization covers up his depressive anxiety. Originally published in French as L’auto-analyse de Freud et la découverte de la Psychanalyse (Paris: Presses universitaire de France, 1975).

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  • Freud, Sigmund The Interpretation of Dreams, First Part. Vol. 4. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953.

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    Freud’s classic self-analysis and a founding moment for psychoanalysis as the interpretation of dreams as wish fulfillments. Freud’s bedwetting episode is discussed in chapter 5 (B), “Infantile Material as a Source of Dreams” (pp. 189–219). Freud’s father states that “the boy will come to nothing” (p. 216) and so begins a recurrent theme about ambition in his dreams. Originally published in 1900. See Volume 5 for The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. Translated and edited by James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1953).

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “An Autobiographical Study.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 20, An Autobiographical Study, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, The Question of Lay Analysis, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 3–74. London: Hogarth, 1959.

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    A late assessment (1925) of the history of psychoanalysis, with less passion than in “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement” (1914; see Freud 1957b, cited under Reflecting on the History of Psychoanalysis). See also the important, and more personal, follow-up “Postscript” written in 1935 and appended to this essay.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis: Letter to Romain Rolland.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 22, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 237–248. London: Hogarth, 1964.

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    In 1936, Freud analyzes his own sense of unreality (“derealization”) when visiting the Greek Acropolis in 1904 on vacation with his brother, Alexander. Last major self-analysis that Freud published and one of the most significant. Part of his interpretation hinges on his relationship with his father, who died in 1896, and which fueled Freud’s self-analysis in The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud 1953) in the years that immediately followed.

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  • Welsh, Alexander. Freud’s Wishful Dream Book. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

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    Analyzes Freud’s argument in The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud 1953) and finds it performative, arbitrary, and often comic rather than strictly logical.

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Child Analysis

Given Freud’s universalistic claims about infantile sexuality, psychosexual development, and unconscious fantasy, the near absence of clinical substantiation with children is remarkable. Technically, Freud did not analyze children and never wrote even one case of a child analysis. The best we have is his second-hand report of an analytically inclined father’s pseudo analysis of his young boy, “Little Hans,” first introduced in Freud 1959b. Freud supervised (very loosely) the analysis and then in 1909 narrated the case of Max Graf’s attempt to cure his four-year-old son, Herbert Graf, of his horse phobia. Freud’s conclusion: the boy, during his “scientific” investigations of sexuality, suffered from castration anxiety and an Oedipus complex. Freud 1959a provides more details about infantile theories of sexuality. A second, subsequently more famous child analysis was published in 1920 (see Freud 1955). There Freud briefly discusses a one-and-a-half-year-old boy’s play with a wound spool (without noting that the boy was his grandson, Ernst Halberstadt). The result is Freud’s highly influential interpretation of absence/presence in the child’s symptomatic play with the spool: repeatedly throwing the spool away, fort [gone], and reeling it back in again, da [there]. The words, “fort-da,” were attributed to the baby’s preverbal grunts of “o-o-o-o.” The “fort-da” story, along with Freud’s theories of the “repetition compulsion” and the “death drive,” has since become a foundational touchstone for analyzing children’s play. As for child analysis proper, that profession was mostly left to women analysts (e.g., Anna Freud, Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth, Melanie Klein) and only many years after Freud had established his theories about infantile sexuality. The best entry into this field is Appignanesi and Forrester 1994, which is highly sympathetic to psychoanalysis. In this rich but problematic context, it cannot be surprising that critics routinely charge Freud with overdetermining his findings according to his theories, to wit, of courting forms of epistemic feedback (e.g., expectancy bias and confirmation bias). A simple, but arguably fatal, example of this feedback is the ubiquitous (theoretical, clinical, and historical) problem of suggestion, of undue influence, in the development of psychoanalysis.

  • Appignanesi, Lisa, and John Forrester. Freud’s Women: Family, Patients, Followers. New York: Basic, 1994.

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    Unique source discusses Freud’s women followers, many of whom were child analysts. Includes photos.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 18, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–64. London: Hogarth, 1955.

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    The foundation of Freud’s late metapsychology and the cultural works that follow in its wake. Introduces Freud’s new dualism of life and death drives, the repetition compulsion, and the now-famous child analysis of his grandson Ernst. Ernst’s meaningful (symptomatic) play with a spool is the origin of Freud’s “fort-da” story. Originally published in 1920. For an alternative translation, see Dufresne 2011 (pp. 49–99; cited under Recommended Primary Materials on Freud).

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “On the Sexual Theories of Children.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 9, Jensen’s “Gradiva” and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 205–226. London: Hogarth, 1959a.

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    Essay of 1908 overlaps with and grounds claims made about “Little Hans” in 1909 (see Freud 1959b). Freud explores the various “theories” (i.e., fantasies) children develop about sexuality, such as giving birth through the anus. All children, Freud asserts, “tried most eagerly to discover what it was that their parents did with each other so as to produce babies” (p. 226). Penis envy is discussed, female homosexuality, and the “castration complex.”

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Sexual Enlightenment of Children.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 9, Jensen’s “Gradiva” and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 129–139. London: Hogarth, 1959b.

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    In this essay of 1907, Freud argues in favor of the sexual education of children, which will help resolve for them “the riddles of sex” (p. 134). Introduces “Little Hans” (Little Herbert in the original) who was never “seduced” and yet became deeply curious about his “widdler.” The case of Little Hans returns in full case form in 1909 (see Infantile Sexuality, Psychosexual Development, and the Oedipus Complex).

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Infantile Sexuality, Psychosexual Development, and the Oedipus Complex

Freud is perhaps best known as an early-20th-century sexologist, that is, as someone who contributed to the field of sexuality studies. His reputation in this regard is based on his claims for childhood sexuality that were registered most clearly in 1905 (see Freud 1953) but certainly includes the following: his only major discussion of a case of child analysis (Freud 1955a); his discussion of childhood masochism (Freud 1955b); and his late insistence on the importance of the Oedipus complex (Freud 1961a). Until 1905, readers of Freud could not have known for certain that he had dropped his seduction etiology of 1896, according to which hysteria and obsessive compulsive disorders are caused by repressed childhood sexual abuse. Freud privately dropped the etiology in 1897 and slowly swapped out the seduction theory for an etiology based on childhood sexual fantasy. The essential point: Freud turned his back on external reality and focused instead on internal reality, on fantasy. One result was that it was now impossible to refute an interpretation, based as it was on privileged access to repressed and unconscious content. In short, one would no longer look for confirmation of interpretations in reality. The fantasy etiology also gave Freud a new tool for dismissing critics, not just because he could invoke the confidential claims of psychoanalytic practice, but because personal fantasies are by definition independent of reality and as such nonsensical to refute (or disconfirm). One such claim was the Oedipus complex, the “finding” that men are driven by a universal experience of love for Mother and rivalry with Father. As with the seduction theory, Freud in 1905 (psychoanalysis proper) still looks for and finds the cause of adult neuroses in disturbing and sometimes traumatic experiences of childhood. That these experiences are etiologically significant is guaranteed by the universality attributed to infantile sexuality, a sexuality that Freud originally found not in clinical studies of children but in the analyses of adult patients (mostly upper-middle-class Jewish women) and most especially in his self-analysis of The Interpretation of Dreams. In other words, Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality is very much based on his own autobiography universalized. For a good example of how Freud applied his theories of childhood sexuality, see Freud 1955c. As for how Freud himself viewed the development of his work on childhood sexuality, see Freud 1961b.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 7, Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 123–243. London: Hogarth, 1953.

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    Contains “The Sexual Aberrations” (pp. 135–172), “Infantile Sexuality” (pp. 173–206), and “The Transformations of Puberty” (207–230). “Infantile Sexuality” covers sexual latency, manifestations of infantile sexuality, sexual aim, masturbation, sexual “researches,” developmental phases (oral, anal, genital, Oedipal), and sources of sexual stimulation (e.g., “mechanical excitation” such as swinging). Key claim is that adult perversions can be traced to infantile sexuality, which is “polymorphously perverse.”

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Analysis of a Phobia on a Five-Year-Old Boy (Little Hans).” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 10, Two Case Histories (“Little Hans” and the “Rat Man”). By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–149. London: Hogarth, 1955a.

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    In 1909, Freud narrates a father’s treatment of his son’s horse phobia, which turns on castration and the Oedipus complex. Key work on how children “investigate” sexuality like mad scientists, in part because accurate sexual information is taboo and so unavailable to children. Hence the role of fantasy, which is a kind of nonrealistic speculation about sex.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “‘A Child Is Being Beaten’: A Contribution to the Study of the Origins of Sexual Perversions.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 17, An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 175–204. London: Hogarth, 1955b.

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    In 1919, Freud claims that patients regularly indulge in the fantasy that “a child is being beaten.” Discusses Oedipus complex and masochism—the latter is an important step in the direction toward the “death drive” theory of Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920; see Freud 1955, cited under Child Analysis), the harsh superego of The Ego and the Id (1923; see “The Ego and the Id.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 19, The Ego and the Id and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–66. London: Hogarth, 1961) and Civilization and Its Discontents (1930; see Freud 1961b, cited under Freud’s Late Cultural Turn), and the idea more generally of “primary masochism.”

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “A Childhood Recollection from ‘Dichtung und Warheit.’” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 17, An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 145–156. London: Hogarth, 1955c.

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    Freud in 1917 analyzes a fragment of a childhood recollection by the celebrated German man of letters, Goethe, arguing for the “high value of such childish recollections” (p. 148). Interprets the meaning of children throwing out or breaking things, which is linked to the appearance of a new sibling.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 19, The Ego and the Id and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 173–179. London: Hogarth, 1961a.

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    In this essay of 1924, Freud reaffirms that the Oedipus complex “reveals its importance as the central phenomena of the sexual period of early childhood” (p. 173). Explores gender in light of the Oedipus complex. The girl’s Oedipus complex shifts from identification with the (impossible) penis to the goal of having a baby, that is, culminates in a desire “to receive a baby from her father as a gift” (p. 179).

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Infantile Genital Organization: An Interpolation into the Theory of Sexuality.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 19, The Ego and the Id and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 139–145. London: Hogarth, 1961b.

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    In 1923, Freud briefly discusses the evolution of ideas as expressed in the Three Essays (Freud 1953), including the fact that the resulting unification of old and new claims therein may in some instances be contradictory. Also discusses the penis as symbol, castration anxiety, and penis envy in women.

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Freudian Clinical Technique

As works such as Roazen 1995 have demonstrated, Freud never practiced classical Freudian analysis. He is once reported to have quipped, “Moi, je ne suis pas une Freudiste.” From reports with patients, we know that he could be chatty, indiscrete, and personable but also prickly and intolerant of criticism. He sometimes socialized with patients, for example, at the dinner table or at conferences and even analyzed his own daughter Anna Freud (twice). As for his office space, it was littered with personal items, including dozens of rare antiquities and photographs of favored people. In his late years even his dogs attended sessions. In short, Freud’s style as a therapist was intuitive, idiosyncratic, and very human. Until the training of psychoanalysts was institutionalized in the early 1920s, the only way to become an analyst was to be analyzed by Freud or a designate. It was only Freud’s later followers who made a dogma of his thoughts on technique, including the injunction for silence and neutral or uncontaminated office settings. As for Freud’s earliest followers, such as Sandor Ferenczi and Otto Rank, they too were anything but “classical” Freudian analysts. Still, only Freud himself could get away with the dark remark he delivered to Ferenczi in a private letter of 1932: “Neurotics are a rabble, good only to support us financially and to allow us to learn from their cases: psychoanalysis as a therapy may be worthless” (The Clinical Diary of Sandor Ferenczi. By Sandor Ferenczi. Edited by Judith Dupont. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995, p. 185). Given the chance, as in his mature practice, Freud always preferred training students to treating patients. Note that Freud published surprisingly little about the technique of psychoanalysis. In Freud 1953, he spelled out some aspects. But many details were missing until Freud 1958 (1911–1915), that is, until fifteen years after he began publishing on psychoanalysis. A significant statement about technique appears in Freud 1963, about lay analysis in Freud 1959, and about the limitations of psychoanalysis in Freud 1964.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “Freud’s Psychoanalytic Procedure.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 7, Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 247–254. London: Hogarth, 1953.

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    Contains information about the clinical setting, plus Freud’s injunction that patients say “whatever comes into their heads, even if they think it unimportant or irrelevant or nonsensical” (p. 251). Written in the third person in 1904.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Papers on Technique.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 12, The Case of Schreber, Papers on Technique and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 85–173. London: Hogarth, 1958.

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    Between 1911 and 1915, Freud published six essays on the technique of psychoanalysis, his first explicit discussion of how it is supposed to work and be conducted. Discusses dream interpretation, transference, beginning the treatment, repetition, and so on.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Question of Lay Analysis.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 20, An Autobiographical Study, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, The Question of Lay Analysis, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 179–250. London: Hogarth, 1959.

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    Comprehensive defense of nonmedical or lay psychoanalysis, first, against the specter of “quackery” and, second, against the perceived careerism of some medical colleagues (especially American). Originally published in 1926.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Lecture 28: Analytic Therapy.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 16, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Part III). By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 448–463. London: Hogarth, 1963.

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    Freud’s most explicit discussion of the efficacy of psychoanalytic therapy. Lectures originally published 1916–1917.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 23, Moses and Monotheism, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 209–253. London: Hogarth, 1964.

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    Pessimistic candor about the efficacy of analytic therapy, and its “interminability,” written in 1937. Psychoanalysis described as one of three “impossible professions,” along with education and government.

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  • Roazen, Paul. How Freud Worked: First-Hand Accounts of Freud’s Patients. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1995.

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    Results of interviews with ten former patients of Freud, including Edith Jackson and James Strachey. Author interviewed over one hundred people who knew or worked with Freud and sprinkled the myriad details and some genuine revelations (e.g., about Freud’s analysis of Anna) into a few books. The result is a unique and eye-opening perspective on the way Freud actually worked. See also Roazen 1975 (cited under Histories and Biographies of Freud).

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Freud’s Late Cultural Turn

After 1920 (see Freud 1955), Freud returned to the cultural, social, and philosophical questions that animated his youth. The key works in this respect are Freud 1961a and Freud 1961b, on religion and culture, respectively. Like other social scientists, scholars of childhood studies have been highly influenced by these cultural or sociological works. But it should be emphasized that the late Freud subjected culture to the bedrock of an individual psychology grounded on biology, and to this end dramatically reinvested his thinking in the meta-biological arguments that first surfaced in pre-psychoanalytic works (e.g., the unpublished Project for a Scientific Psychology, written in 1895). The crux of these arguments: a total disregard for Mendelian genetics, rediscovered in 1900, and concurrent privileging of Lamarkian arguments about evolution. This is Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s 19th-century argument that evolution is driven by the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Many contemporaries of Freud, such as the English analyst Ernest Jones, begged Freud to minimize this aspect of his work. But Freud said about Lamarckian inheritance, and in one of his final works, “I cannot do without this factor in biological evolution” (“Moses and Monotheism.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 23, Moses and Monotheism, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 3–138. London: Hogarth, 1964, p. 100). The upshot: the late “cultural” works are based on a meta-biology that is actually anticultural.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 18, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–64. London: Hogarth, 1955.

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    Culmination of Freud’s mid-period metapsychology in 1920 and the foundation for all the cultural works that follow in the late period. Introduces the dualism of life and death drives and also the repetition compulsion. Trauma now includes a masochistic element of self-destruction, at one point traced to the play of a little boy (his grandson) with a spool.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Future of an Illusion.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 21, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 1–56. London: Hogarth, 1961a.

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    Accessible attack on religion as an infantile and universal obsessive neurosis. Psychoanalysis optimistically reflected in positivistic science, but ultimately Freud remains pessimistic about reason and maturity in a society driven by an antisocial biology. Originally published in 1927.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “Civilization and Its Discontents.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 21, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 57–145. London: Hogarth, 1961b.

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    In 1930, Freud applies the death drive and the harsh superego (guilt) to the chronic problem of unhappiness in civilization. For an alternative translation, see Freud 2002 (cited under Recommended Primary Materials on Freud)

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Scholarly Commentaries on the Culture Works

Much of the secondary literature on psychoanalysis is applied; that is, it uncritically assumes the theories that it applies to other fields (e.g., literature, film, criticism, etc.). There are surprisingly few sophisticated, critical examinations of Freud’s cultural works. Among the most philosophical are Marcuse 1966 and Ricoeur 1970, the former from a Marxist perspective and the latter from a hermeneutical perspective. Brown 1985 provides a competent overview of the late Freud from a classicist’s perspective, and Rieff 1979 provides the most accessible overview of Freud’s later work. Finally, Dufresne 2012 provides one of the most comprehensive assessments of Freud’s work on religion.

  • Brown, Norman O. Life against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History. 2d ed. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985.

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    A classicist interprets the significance of Freud’s late work, suggesting amendments (dialectics) to save Freud from the “suicidal therapeutic pessimism” (p. 84) associated with his dualism of life and death drives. Originally published in 1959.

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  • Dufresne, Todd. “Introduction.” In The Future of an Illusion. By Sigmund Freud. Translated by Gregory C. Richter. Edited by Todd Dufresne, 11–52. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2012.

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    Lengthy introduction explores the contradictory (Romantic/Enlightenment) tone of Freud’s famous analysis of religious belief, which Freud described as the “universal obsessional neurosis” (cited on p. 11) and “infantile” (cited on p. 26). Insists on relevance of the death drive theory and, in turn, Freud’s meta-biology to Freud’s cultural works.

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  • Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Enquiry into Freud. 2d ed. Boston: Beacon, 1966.

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    A Freudo-Marxist utilization and transformation of Freud’s ideas, even as it reinvests most heavily in Freud’s earliest investments in fantasy, play, and the unconscious, namely, the id psychology. Expanded second edition; originally published in 1955.

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  • Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay in Interpretation. Translated by Denis Savage. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970.

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    French philosopher provides disinterested explication de texte of Freud’s work, especially work after 1920. Originally published in French as De l’interprétation: Essai sur Freud (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1965).

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  • Rieff, Philip. Freud: The Mind of the Moralist. 3d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

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    Expertly ranges across Freud’s late work, making a case for the subtitle and for reading Freud’s cultural works. Once considered a classic; now understood to have been co-written with Susan Sontag, Rieff’s wife. Originally published in 1959.

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Reflecting on the History of Psychoanalysis

Perhaps because psychoanalysis is based in part on Freud’s autobiography, the theories of psychoanalysis overlap with the histories of psychoanalysis—the one conforming to and seemingly confirming the other. Freud certainly attended to the way his life and work would be received, not only burning source documents such as letters but periodically writing his own histories of psychoanalysis. For example, Freud had a vested interest in narrating the seduction episode in certain ways that falsified or at least distorted the facts. The historical works are therefore already “political” works and are an ideal entry point for savvy readers interested in understanding how Freud wanted them to understand the movement, theory, practice, and history of psychoanalysis. In short, Freud’s own histories are rhetorically rich attempts to dictate history in advance of the historians. Freud 1957a is an early history lesson by Freud. Freud 1957b is among Freud’s most polemical works because he deals directly with “defections” from psychoanalysis. Freud 1961 and Freud 1963 are among the briefest and lengthiest of Freud’s own histories, respectively. Freud 1964 is the last substantial history that Freud wrote.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 11, Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Leonardo da Vinci, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 7–55. London: Hogarth, 1957a.

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    Based on 1909 lectures delivered at Clark University, Massachusetts, when Freud was given an honorary PhD. Gives a partial history lesson and covers all the main ideas of psychoanalysis until that time. Originally published in 1910.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 14, On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology, and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 7–66. London: Hogarth, 1957b.

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    Written in the wake of the “defections” of Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, Freud in 1914 tells his side of the story of the movement and retells the story of its creation.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “A Short Account of Psychoanalysis.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 19, The Ego and the Id and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 189–209. London: Hogarth, 1961.

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    From the late period, this brief summary of 1924 includes the resistance to psychoanalysis. Originally published in 1924.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Parts I and II). Vol. 15. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1963.

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    Comprehensive and lengthy but fairly accessible overview of psychoanalysis to the midperiod. Published 1916–1917. Parts I and II are in Volume 15; see Volume 16 for Part III.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. “An Outline of Psychoanalysis.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 23, Moses and Monotheism, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis and Other Works. By Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, 139–207. London: Hogarth, 1964.

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    Last major Freud-on-Freud work, begun in 1938 and published posthumously; intended for advanced readers. Telegraphic in style and possibly unfinished.

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Personal Reflections on Freud

The reflections of people who knew Freud, such as Weiss 1991, Sachs 1945, and Sterba 1982, or were analyzed by him, such as Wortis 1984, are obviously precious resources for scholars. In fact these reflections form their own subgenre within Freud studies and provide useful counterpoint to the legends of Freud that often began with Freud himself. Most personal reflections published of Freud are broadly sympathetic, including those collected in Ruitenbeek 1973, an excellent volume, but they include copious details that invariably challenge and correct Freud’s own self-portrait.

  • Ruitenbeek, Hendrik M., ed. Freud as We Knew Him. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973.

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    Best single source that gathers together dozens of short, classic, and lesser-known reflections on Freud by those who met, worked with, or were analyzed by Freud. Anecdotes, insight, adoration. Many entries translated from French and German originals.

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  • Sachs, Hans. Freud, Master and Friend. London: Imago, 1945.

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    Adoring, sometimes sycophantic, portrait of “the Professor” as “master” by an early member of Freud’s Austrian inner circle.

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  • Sterba, Richard F. Reminiscences of a Viennese Psychoanalyst. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982.

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    Chatty insider account of 1920s and 1930s Vienna, with drawings and characterizations of main figures in Freud’s circle.

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  • Weiss, Eduardo. Sigmund Freud as a Consultant: Recollections of a Pioneer in Psychoanalysis. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991.

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    Reflections of the Italian analyst Eduardo Weiss, including his own commentary on his correspondence with Freud included in the book. A slight book overall but reflects the breadth of Freud’s international network of followers. Originally published in 1970.

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  • Wortis, Joseph. Fragments of My Analysis with Freud. 5th ed. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1984.

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    Based on notes taken at the time (early 1930s), the young American psychiatrist provides a frank portrait of his brief “training” analysis with Freud. Freud seen as prickly, challenging, indiscreet, but also decent and encouraging. Originally published in 1954. Also published under the title My Analysis with Freud (Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1994).

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Histories and Biographies of Freud

There are numerous histories and biographies of Freud and psychoanalysis. The best are written after 1957, in the wake of Ernest Jones’s authorized biography (Jones 1953), first, because they often function as correctives of Jones’s unavoidable work and, second, because formerly restricted documents like letters have over the decades shed new light on nearly every aspect of Freud’s life and work. In this respect, the most important document about the birth of psychoanalysis remains the complete letters of Freud to Wilhelm Fliess. An early and fair response to Jones outside the English-speaking world is Robert 1966. A better response, in tone and content, is Roazen 1975. A loyalist biography, reverent in tone, is Gay 1988. Perhaps the best general biography of Freud is Clark 1980. An authoritative and informed critique of Freud is Webster 1995. In part because of the emigration of scholars and psychoanalysts to England and America before and during the First World War, much of the very best, most comprehensive work in Freud studies tends to have been written in English. When it is not, the best tends to be translated into English quite readily.

Histories and Biographies of Persons in Freud’s Inner Circle

Freud was surrounded by a handful of analysts fiercely loyal to what they called “the cause” (the psychoanalytic movement) and who could be more Freudian than Freud himself. Their biographies are therefore an essential part of the story of Freudianism. Grosskurth 1991 provides the most entertaining and accessible entry to the politics of Freudianism. Roazen 1969 provides a shocking and now classical examination of Freud’s relationship with his close followers. Brome 1982 is a good examination of the life and work of Freud’s biographer and follower, Ernest Jones. Robinson 1969 provides a level-headed intellectual history of three important figures operating in the 1950s and 1960s.

Intellectual Histories of Psychoanalysis and Freud

The best intellectual histories have been published after Ellenberger 1970, a monumental work. These works focus less on the life of Freud than on the coherence of his ideas—a tricky proposition, however, because his ideas are explicitly based on events from his life. So inevitably, the life always plays a part in understanding the theory. Ellenberger 1970 continues to be raided for keen insight into the prehistory of psychoanalysis decades after it was published. Sulloway 1979, also a classic, is the single best source on Freud’s debt to biology. Dufresne 2000 is the only book-length overview of the historical and intellectual significance of Freud’s late theory of the death drive. Lear 2005 is a useful counterweight of informed reverence for the achievements of Freudianism.

  • Dufresne, Todd. Tales from the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

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    Contains the fullest accounting of the death drive theory of 1920, introduced in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (see Freud 1955, cited under Child Analysis) and of its massive influence (especially in philosophy). Includes critical (skeptical) discussions about the “fort-da” story, Freud’s meta-biology, and the child analysis associated with Melanie Klein.

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  • Ellenberger, Henri F. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic, 1970.

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    Massive, rich, comprehensive source of detail about the backstory of the development of the unconscious in the years before Freud and after. Studiously well referenced, universally admired.

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  • Lear, Jonathan. Freud. London: Routledge, 2005.

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    Although not strictly an intellectual history, this loyalist discussion and defense of psychoanalysis by a lay analyst and philosopher fills a gap that comes close: the relation of psychoanalysis to philosophy. Useful insight mixed with boosterism.

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  • Sulloway, Frank J. Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend. New York: Basic, 1979.

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    The first book-length and still the most significant exploration of the importance of Freud’s problematic commitment to 19th-century biology from the pre-psychoanalytic to the late period of Freud’s thought. Includes a debunking of Freud “legends,” most started by Freud himself.

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Recommended Primary Materials on Freud

Scholars still refer to the Standard Edition of Freud’s works, edited and translated by James Strachey (24 vols., London: Hogarth, 1953–1974), in part because it is quite comprehensive and in part for convenience. Strachey’s editorial apparatus also remains unequalled, and the general index (Volume 24) is very helpful. Yet better, more updated translations of Freud’s works now exist. Strachey is now routinely criticized for making Freud’s language more scientific, British, humorless, and ponderous than in the original German. One series of new translations is called New Penguin Freud, edited by Adam Phillips (London: Penguin, 2002–). Many works have been translated for the series, but no attempt has been made to unify terminology, and multiple translators are being utilized. Other translations are appearing yearly. The upshot: scholars can now consult multiple versions of many Freud texts, especially the classics. Freud 2002, a translation of Civilization and Its Discontents is recommended as is Dufresne 2011, which includes a translation of Beyond the Pleasure Principle by Gregory C. Richter; also see Richter’s translation of The Future of an Illusion (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2012), edited by Todd Dufresne. In addition to translations, several key sources are worth noting. Crews 1998 is the single best entry to Freud criticism, which is very far ranging in tone and substance. Dufresne 2007 is a decent entry to Freud criticism through interviews with known figures in the field. Laplanche and Pontalis 1974 remains a highly useful, albeit at times technical, primer on all concepts of psychoanalysis written by two well-known French psychoanalysts. Finally, a superb starting point for all readers of psychoanalysis remains Freud’s own letters to Wilhelm Fliess, Freud and Fliess 1985. These letters are informative, at times shocking, and revelatory about the birth of Freud’s basic ideas.

  • Crews, Frederick, ed. Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend. New York: Viking, 1998.

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    Collects and abridges numerous works critical of Freud from numerous international scholars (e.g., Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Peter Swales, Frank Sulloway, Malcolm Macmillan, François Roustang, etc.) and from numerous perspectives (history, theory, practice). Very useful for quickly assessing myriad criticism. Good bibliography.

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  • Dufresne, Todd, ed. Against Freud: Critics Talk Back. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

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    Collects interviews with critics of Freud from around the world, including Joseph Wortis, Frederick Crews, Frank Sulloway, Frank Cioffi, Allen Esterson, Han Israels, and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. Useful for quick understanding of basic positions in the academic case against Freud.

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  • Dufresne, Todd, ed. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Translated by Gregory C. Richter. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2011.

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    Broadview edition includes extensive editorial apparatus, contemporaneous works by Freud, and over twenty (philosophical) responses to Freud’s death drive theory. Richter also provides extensive discussion of alternative translations, both in this volume and in his follow-up translation of The Future of an Illusion (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2012), also edited by Todd Dufresne.

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  • Freud, Sigmund, and Wilhelm Fliess. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887–1904. Translated and edited by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

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    Perhaps the single most important source for the development of Freud’s ideas in the pre-psychoanalytic period, based on candid and sometimes shocking admissions. Later, Freud tried to have the letters burned.

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  • Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Translated by David McLintock. London: Penguin, 2002.

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    Some “Britishisms” from Strachey still appear, but an elegant update. Numerous other volumes exist in this New Penguin Freud series including Studies on Hysteria in 2004, translated by Nicola Luckhurst. This series also published a very serviceable reader in 2006, The Penguin Freud Reader, edited by Adam Phillips.

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  • Laplanche, Jean, and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. The Language of Psychoanalysis. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Norton, 1974.

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    A classic survey by two French psychoanalysts, encyclopedic in scope, of Freudian terms across languages. A sophisticated source for theorists.

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