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October 13, 2006

Alyssa's Quote Commentary on Freud

Alyssa Roehmer
Section 004

“…the information I receive is never enough to let me see my way about the case. This first account may be compared to an unnavigable river whose stream is at one moment choked by masses of rock and at another divided and lost among shallows and sandbanks. I cannot help wondering how it is that the authorities can produce such smooth and exact histories in cases of hysteria.” (Freud 10)

Dora reveals her side of the story because Freud has already heard what her father has to say. However, neither of these two variations pleases Freud; he trusts his own processes and interpretations. Freud is similar to other detectives that we have studied, including Holmes and Dupin. The “information” (clues) that Freud receives, as a medical “detective,” is not enough to help him solve the case; he has to apply his own intuition. His arrogance (“let me see my way about the case”) and dissatisfaction with authorities (he does not concur with their “smooth and exact histories”) is like Holmes’ and Dupin’s independence of the police.

Dora’s case is like the “unnavigable river” because, in a way, Freud is “along for the ride.” Although he claims superior knowledge throughout this study, he has no control over the outcome. Dora’s memory, like the river, is “choked by masses of rock,” and sexual thoughts have been repressed (“divided and lost among shallows and sandbanks”).

Freud, like Oedipus, is at a crossroads with Dora’s story on one side and her fathers on the other. Yet, he plunges onward with his own opinions, and is essentially defeated in the end because Dora stops treatment.

Posted by romie at October 13, 2006 01:28 PM



I think you rightly draw attention to the metaphor of analysis as navigation and hence related to journey (as in "unnavigable river") -- and this is also very reminiscent of Oedipus, actually, because the turning points in his life (the encounter with the Sphinx, the massacre at the crossroads) also came in course of (literal) journeying.

You commentary also reminded me of how hydrodynamics and flow are potent sources of metaphor, for Freud, about the workings of the mind -- we see this in the reference to the "river" in this passage. Your classmates Jenny and Monika hae also remarked on the word "ooze" used by Freud to describe how the return of the repressed is like an "oozing out" -- another reference to liquids and their flows.

The only thing I'd quibble with you a little bit in your quote commentary, though, is whether the analogy "Freud, like Oedipus, is at a crossroads with Dora’s story on one side and her fathers on the other" really works. At a crossroads, you have to choose one way or the other. No third way is possible. However, Freud's situation is not quite like that -- he doesn't necessarily have to choose betweeen just the two possibilities (Dora's and her father's versions) presented to him. He can rejecct both if he chooses (and in fact that is what he does). But anyway, this is a minor quibble.

Posted by: bhattach at October 14, 2006 04:50 PM

I think that it is kind of interesting that Freud actually notes to his readers that the information that he is given is not enough to allow him to actually make any solid conclusions with the case. In most areas, Freud does seem to come off as a bit arrogant but here, he is in a sense admitting his fallability and humanity. When he compares the case to an unnavigable river, I think that he is referring to how the case would develop in leaps and bounds (like the free parts of a river) and then clog up again. In Dora's case, Freud would go through phases of gaining a lot of information and gaining ground in the case and would then hit another blockage. In the end, he was faced with a permanent block when Dora quit treatment.

Posted by: samlily at October 17, 2006 12:30 AM

I think it is also important to notice how early in the paper Freud admits this conclusion. He is expressing the complex and sometimes impassible “masses of rocks and sandbanks” of the “river” that is Dora’s mind. As this paper is a reconstruction of Dora’s treatment, Freud is able to write about the ending in the beginning of the work. He does this when he makes clear that even in a reconstruction he cannot fully understand Dora or her illness. Within this statement, Freud allows the reader to interpret the rest of the paper as they will, because Freud admits that even he is unsure of all the facts because there were some memories repressed and, as is revealed in the end of the paper, some things were never discussed because Dora made the final blockage when she ended her treatment.

Posted by: lacaga at October 17, 2006 10:08 PM

I am most interested in the relation of this passgage to other works from this class. As you mentioned, Freud seems rather similar to the detectives that we have read about previously. It is interesting to me that we are reading Dora in this class, because at first I was unsure as to why this would be considered a "mystery novel". However, your comparison of Freud's "information" with the clues in the detective stories helped me to notice the link. Dora is as much a mystery novel as the others, with Freud as the detective searching for the "clues" necessary to solve the "case".

Posted by: burkmar at October 18, 2006 11:16 AM

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