Hysteria, Dreams, and Psychoanalysis: an Introduction to Freud
In 1876, an aspiring young Austrian scientist named Sigmund Freud spent several thankless months in a lab in Trieste, trying to develop a technique for determining sexual differences among eels. In this, he failed, but by the time of his death in 1939, Freud had become world-famous for something else entirely: the founding of psychoanalysis, a sprawling body of knowledge that encompasses therapeutic practices, psychological theory, philosophical and cultural criticism, and more. Who was Freud, and what were his key ideas? Freud is often said to have “discovered the unconscious.” Is that true, and what does it mean? In what ways did Freud’s “Copernican Revolution” upend traditional Enlightenment accounts of philosophical, social, and political life that placed human rationality at their center? How have Freud’s ideas and his insistence that we are not “masters in our own houses” affected the way we conceive of everything from identity and agency to the nature of human civilization itself?
In this course, we’ll track Freud’s foundation and development of psychoanalysis as a discipline, reading and discussing excerpts from The Studies on Hysteria, The Interpretation of Dreams, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, and the “Dora” case study. From his development of the “talking cure” as a treatment for hysteria, to his investigation of dreams and everyday behaviors (like the famous “Freudian slip”), to his clinical cases studies, to his formulation of the Oedipus Complex, we’ll explore Freud’s key theoretical ideas and clinical contributions while charting his influence on fields ranging from political philosophy to literature. This course will focus on the first two decades of Freud’s work, ending at the First World War; it will be followed by a second course on his subsequent revisions to his theories and what has been called his “anthropological turn.” No previous knowledge of Freud or psychoanalysis will be assumed or is required.
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
September 17 — October 08, 2023