Strangers to Ourselves: an Introduction to Freud
In the process of investigating and treating the enigmatic disorder known as “hysteria,” Sigmund Freud established the discipline of psychoanalysis—and by doing so, profoundly altered Western subjectivity. By insisting that the bodily symptoms of hysterics represented unconscious conflict, Freud established a new way of thinking about human experience, motivations, desire, and suffering. The Freudian revolution destabilized longstanding social and philosophical biases that privileged consciousness, reason, and self-reflection as the anchors for subjectivity, proposing that we are not, in fact, “masters in our own houses.” Over the course of a half-century of clinical and theoretical work, Freud continued to elaborate the foundations of psychoanalytic theory and technique, amid controversy from both followers and detractors. Freud’s oeuvre displays the contradictions, uncertainties, self-doubt, and ceaseless revisions that accompanied the birth of psychoanalysis, as well as his struggles with both clinical phenomena and the elusiveness of the object of analytic investigation. How can we read and understand Freud and psychoanalysis today?
This course is a concise survey of Freud’s writing—including his work on dream interpretation, infantile sexuality, trauma and hysteria—introducing students to primary concepts as they evolved over four decades. We will focus on four broad periods of Freud’s work: his “discovery” of psychoanalysis in treating hysteria and working with dreams; his isolation of sexuality as primary in neurotic malaise; his elaboration of therapeutic techniques; and finally, his controversial late work on the concept of the death drive. How do Freudian ideas live on in our understandings and languages for psychological life, and why is Freud relevant in the 21st century?
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
September 18 — October 09, 2022