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Main page » Fiction literature » Questions for Freud: The Secret History of Psychoanalysis

Questions for Freud: The Secret History of Psychoanalysis


Nicholas Rand, Maria Torok “Questions for Freud: The Secret History of Psychoanalysis"
Harvard University Press | 2000-10-16 | ISBN:0674004213 | 256 pages | PDF | 1,3 Mb

Nicholas Rand and Maria Torok begin their Questions for Freud by identifying what they call "contradictions" internal to Freudian thought, the most important of which are the tension between individualist and universalist conceptions of dream symbolism, Freud's vacillation over the seduction theory, and the tendency of Freud and his followers to suppress challenges to psychoanalytic orthodoxy (which is particularly ironic in light of their liberatory aspirations). The authors then attempt to explain the presence of these contradictions by citing trauma in Freud's own childhood. As they acknowledge, the idea of psychoanalytically examining Freud's theorizing is nothing new: Max Schur, Marie Balmary, Marianne Kruell, and Barbro Sylvan have all tried their hand at it. What is novel is their choice of trauma: the conviction and imprisonment of Freud's uncle Josef for selling counterfeit rubles, which they support by reinterpreting Freud's dreams as recounted in The Interpretation of Dreams.

There are many good things in Questions for Freud--not the least of which is the lengthy discussion of Freud's misreading of Jensen's Gradiva--but the overall argument is unfortunately vitiated by two flaws characteristic of psychoanalytic attempts at explanation. First, Rand and Torok appear to infer the correctness of their explanation from the mere fact that Freud's dreams accommodate it. Second, they never explain in any detail how the avuncular trauma is supposed to have induced the contradictions in Freud's thought for which it is allegedly responsible. --Glenn Branch

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Tags: Freuds, which, their, Freud, contradictions, Freud, Questions