Freud’s Case Studies: Personality, Psychology, and Pathology
A destitute Russian aristocrat, a self-sabotaging Austrian army officer, and an American feminist poet haunted by dreams of pregnancy and war. Borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive ideation, and the dissatisfactions of compulsory heterosexuality. Sigmund Freud’s patients ran a gamut of pathologies and social positions, but each came to him seeking insight and therapeutic relief. To heal them, Freud relied on the interpretation of symptoms, the process of free association, and the unique dynamics of enactment and asymmetrical personal disclosure he called “transference.” “The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown to him.” But who really were Freud’s patients, and how did the man behave during his sessions with them? How did analysis with Freud unfold in practice, and what was the man behind the couch actually like?
In this course, we will explore the stories of three of Freud’s most famous patients: the “Wolf Man,” the “Rat Man,” and the poet h.d. (Hilda Doolittle). Going beyond pseudonyms, we will juxtapose Freud’s published case histories with biographical research by subsequent scholars, evaluating his diagnoses in light of the trajectory of their lives, and, in some cases, their own first-person testimonies. How did Freud continually hone his techniques and refine psychoanalytic concepts, from the primal scene to castration anxiety to sadism and more? Alongside such theoretical concerns, we will ask how do these case studies reflect the times in which Freud’s patients lived? How do individual struggles interface dramatically with social change and world-historical traumas? In addition to primary texts by Freud, secondary readings will include work by Adam Phillips, Stuart Schneiderman, Jacqueline Rose, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Juliet Mitchell, Jacques Lacan, and others.
Course ScheduleSunday, 3:00-6:00pm EST
March 13 — April 03, 2022