8 months ago

Sigmund Freud

up as a sexed human

up as a sexed human being. For Freud, you might want to argue, women and men were made, not born. The assumption of sex and gender roles was a process which could move in any number of directions, not a biological fact carved into the stone of the body. So, even if some of the stories Freud came to tell about the development of the boy and girl may now seem absurd or untenable, his great discovery was to realise that people’s sexuality emerged from the translation of instinctual drives into stories – stories that involved the parents and the young lover’s early life, stories that children told to themselves and to each other about where babies came from, fears and anxieties about punishment, and fantasies about love. SUMMARY Freud’s sexual theories of the first decade of the twentieth century posited polymorphously perverse desiring infants who resemble adults in the passionate sexual nature of their attachments. According to Freud, boys and girls have wider-ranging non-genital sexual lives than adults; in his Three Essays on Sexuality (1905) Freud widens the definition of sexuality to encompass more than just pleasure received from genital sensation. The sexual instincts are divided up into an aim (an activity that will help one achieve pleasure) and an object (the thing or person that will satisfy the aim), and there is no guarantee that aims and objects will correspond to their socially acceptable forms. Sexual difference enters Freud’s theories only in the later stages of infantile sexuality, with the Oedipus complex. In the forgotten period of infancy, and later in the revived sexual development of puberty, boys and girls react to the sexually desired (and desiring) parental figures by taking their places in the Oedipus complex and negotiating its attached anxieties – for boys, the castration complex; for girls, penis envy. It was through Freud’s case histories that he came to advance these strange stories of childhood sexuality, and it is to these tales that we now turn.

4 CASE HISTORIES Freud’s case histories are some of his most accessible and fascinating works. Each unfolds like a psychological mystery, compulsively readable; we follow along with Freud’s diagnoses and his various patients’ reactions to his interpretations of their symptoms, as they try to puzzle out the contents of their own minds and the causes of their illnesses. Freud developed psychoanalytic theory through his practice of unearthing the stories of his patients’ pasts. But his writing up of the case histories into publishable form involved another type of narrative as well – the story of the analysis itself: the uncovering of the material which unravelled the patients’ hidden memories. In a sense, each case history of Freud’s contains at least two stories: the story of the past events and fantasies which led to the patient’s illness and his or her seeking of psychoanalytic help; and the narrative of the analysis with Freud, which, piece by piece, constructs and reconstructs those past experiences. Freud’s case histories have been particularly rich sources for literary critics who are interested in exploring the way narrative structure can affect narrative content, and the question of how or if we can securely distinguish between ‘history’ and ‘story’ (see Brooks 1985; Bernheimer and Kahane 1985). Despite the importance of these individual cases to Freud’s creation of psychoanalysis, Freud wrote and published very few case histories in his lifetime, all of them towards the beginning of his career. One problem he encountered was that of privacy – the intimate sexual material contained in a case history was potentially recognisable to readers of the inbred intellectual society of turn-of-the-century Vienna, even though Freud always disguised the people he wrote about by giving them false names. Freud’s patients were often the wives of his friends or themselves people he knew in other capacities. Because psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams and symptoms often referred to punning meanings of names and places, Freud had to go through convoluted changes in order to try to protect his patients’ privacy while still retaining the double meanings of the proper names. This problem of the relation between intimacy and exposure, between what is necessary for the sake of medical accuracy and what is too revealing for the reading public, or the privacy of the individual, to sanction, pervades Freud’s writing of his case histories. Studies on Hysteria is Freud’s first foray into the art of the case history. Because, however, the cases in the Studies were carried out before the psychoanalytic method was fully developed, when Freud and Breuer were still employing hypnosis and the cathartic method, I have discussed them in Chapter 1 instead of here. After his initial writing-up of his patients’ stories for Studies, Freud refers to many of his cases in passing (especially in his early books, such as The Interpretation of Dreams), but he records only six of them for publication. Two out of those six he did not witness first-hand. One of the second-hand cases is his analysis of the judge Daniel Paul Schreber, who was institutionalised with psychosis. Freud never actually met him but wrote a fascinating analysis of the material Schreber put into his memoir of his own severe mental distress. The Schreber case is therefore a psychoanalytic reading of a text, rather than an analysis of a person. In some ways it has more in common with Freud’s readings of other literary and artistic works than it does with the other case histories. Another case history, that of Little Hans, a five-year-old boy with a phobia of horses, was also carried out at a distance. Freud met the child only once; the bulk of the analysis of the child’s fear of horses was conducted by the boy’s father, who was a follower of Freud’s. Little Hans is itself a marvellous read – it is obvious that Freud

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