Why Freud?

Doug Davis

Freud has never been more with us. At least every few months sees a new expose of Freud's therapeutic misdeads, of his personal foibles, of his theoretical limitations. Freud stands revealed as limited by his own neuroses, gripped by sexist/patriarchal biases, overwhelmed by his own lust, fearful of his discoveries, unable to practice what he preached.

This public fascination with refuting and dismissing -- with deconstructing -- Freud has evoked a counter-current of orthodox writing that is less interesting to read but equally tendentious, as it seeks to defend Freud from each criticism, to shore up psychoanalysis as "science," and to convict Freud's attackers of ignorance of his writing, of political pre-conceptions and biases, and of various neurotic/voyeuristic vendettas against him.

My account seeks to avoid both the procrustian theory that deadens the writings of most psychoanalysts and the deconstructions of most post-modernists accounts in which the Freud I think I know disappears. My goal is to allow Freud to speak for himself, using the most vivid and evocative of his writings from the period when the uniquely "Freudian" position was takng shape. The result should be an appreciation of how much more interesting Freud is than the caricature presented by either the apologist or the nemesis. I would be gratified if the reader felt moved to go on to some of the more specialized critical works I cite, but I am even more interested in drawing today's student to the original Freud: the marvelous letter-writer of the 1870s and '90s; the brilliant, if self-contradictory pre-psychoanalytic author of the first theoretical papers on child abuse; the self-taught therapist of the early clinical writings; and, finally, the narrator of the one truly revolutionary Freudian work, The Interpretation of Dreams.

Davis, D.A. (1990). Writing Freud. Faculty Research Talk at Haverford College on November 29, 1990.

Davis, D.A. (1990). Freud's unwritten case. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 7, 185-209

Davis, D.A. (1990). Abortion and Its Discontents: Reproductive Psychodynamics in early Psychoanalysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, August.

Davis, D.A. (1994). A Theory for the 90s: Freud's theory of traumatic seduction in historical context. In press, Psychoanalytic Review.

Davis, D.A. (1997). A glossary of Freudian terminology.

Direct comments and questions to ddavis@haverford.edu.

Copyright (C) Douglas Davis 1994-1998. All rights reserved.