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October 13, 2006

Emma Morris Freud Commentary

“The patients’ inability to give an ordered history of their life in so far as it coincides with the history of their illness is not merely characteristic of neurosis. It also possesses great theoretical significance. For this inability has the following grounds. In the first place, patients consciously and intentionally keep back part of what they ought to tell – things that are perfectly well known to them – because they have not got over their feelings of timidity and shame (or discretion, where what they say concerns other people); this is the share taken by conscious disingenuousness.” Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria p.10

This quotation occurs toward the beginning of Freud’s exposition of Dora’s case history. Freud establishes his account of hysteria in the context of its essential failure: not only did Dora leave treatment, she also – consciously or unconsciously – omitted critical parts of her story. Dora’s inability to tell her story wholly exemplifies the human inability to turn ours gazes inward, an analogy that can be drawn to the alleged collective nature of Oedipus’s plight. Freud speaks of this “conscious disingenuousness” in theoretical and overtly medical terms – however, his decision to frame Dora’s illness as a narrative provides deeper implications for this project: as a narrative, psychological motivations and deletions become objectified and subject to narratorial voyeurism or vicariousness. In this sense, Dora’s shame regarding her hysterical or somatic symptoms and her past, including her omissions is fit into Freud’s narrative in order to render it accessible, edifying, and universal.

Posted by emmorris at October 13, 2006 10:13 AM

Comments

Sayan's comment:

Good.

An interesting question here might be: What exactly does the word "theoretical" mean for Freud in this passage. From your quote-commentary, it seems that you tend to think of this word being (for Freud) a synonym of "universal" (as in a "collective" experience -- a word you also use in your commentary), perhaps. I'm wondering, though, whether (based on the passage) the word "theoretical" might not have some additional nuances, too, for Freud.

Posted by: bhattach at October 14, 2006 04:39 PM

Emma,
I like your passage choice because as you have shown, the meaning can be applied to Freud’s work as a whole. I think it's interesting that he says the mind unintentionally keeps things back because “they have not got over their feelings of timidity and shame." We could also turn this around to Freud as well. Could he have unintentionally left our part of his own story of treating Dora? I also like how you define terms like “conscious disingenuousness” in terms of how Freud was defining them, which is helpful. This and other ideas are explained very well in your commentary.

~Lindsey

Posted by: linzsmit at October 18, 2006 08:57 AM

Emma

I enjoy the way in which you consider Freud's decision to write of this case in the form of a narrative rather than a medical account. I believe this formatting makes the case more accesible to members of society and treats it as a collective issue (the inability to gaze inward) shared by many. Also, the assumption of failure is an important consideration. I think that in addition to naming the case study a failure, Freud places the blame entirly on Dora as a way of enforcing the belief that he would have the ability to solve the case with full cooperation. Overall, I believe your commentary suggests several important themes of the piece as a whole.

Jenny

Posted by: jennlong at October 18, 2006 09:56 AM

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