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October 13, 2006

Lindsey Smith's Commentary on Freud

“The hysterical symptom does not carry this meaning with it, but the meaning is lent to it, welded to it, as it were; and in every instance the meaning can be a different one, according to the nature of the suppressed thoughts which are struggling for expressing.” (Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, pg. 34)

This passage is found when Freud is explaining hysterical symptoms. He states that the capacity for the symptoms to repeat is a characteristic of a hysterical symptom. Those hysterical symptoms have psychical, or mental, significance. He then says the psychical meaning is “lent to it” or “welded to it”. I think these lines are interesting because they are giving physical characteristics to the suppressed thoughts. He also says the suppressed thoughts are “struggling for expression”. He again is giving mental thoughts a physical expression. This passage also shows how Freud can be considered a detective because he looks for the meaning of the suppressed thoughts which struggle for expression in Dora’s hysterical symptoms. This is complicated because in the passage he says the meanings can be different for each hysterical symptom. In this sense, he is investigating Dora’s symptoms to reconstruct the meaning of her suppressed thoughts. This also shows the contrast between discovering meaning and reconstructing meaning. Freud is reconstructing meaning because he can’t see what he is looking for; he must use what he knows about her symptoms and find their connections to suppressed thoughts.

Posted by linzsmit at October 13, 2006 02:00 PM


Lindsey -

I like the notion of repetition in both mental and narrative forms that you express in your quote commentary- how mental or narrative repetition/obsession is essentially what leads to physical expression of hysterical symptoms. Your analysis of Freud as a detective who must reconstruct Dora's "suppressed thoughts" and the meaning therein is very cool, because it draws analogies to the other conventional, narrative detective stories that we have been reading this term.


Posted by: emmorris at October 13, 2006 07:00 PM

You say:

"He states that the capacity for the symptoms to repeat is a characteristic of a hysterical symptom."

I am not sure how that is implied in this passage, however. Does he say anything in this passage about symptoms repeating?

He does use the phrase "in every instance", which is perhaps you concluded that this passage is about symptoms repeating, interpreting that phrase as referring to multiple instance, and hence, repetition.

But notice that the phrase "in every instance" does not, in and of itelf, necessarily imply repetition of the symptom in the same patient, for the phrase "in every instance" might well refer to multiple instances of the same symptom, but in different patients.

So I'm not so sure that the idea of "repetition" necessarily follows from the passage as quoted.

Otherwise, good points -- especially your careful annotation of the way in which this passage showcases Freud's fundamental insight that the reconstruction of "motive" is an act of performance, rather than an act of discovery -- and thus presents an interesting parallel to the task of meaning-creation that a reader of literature must undertake also.

Posted by: bhattach at October 14, 2006 06:06 PM


I like the way you explore the physical expressions of suppressed thoughts and the reconstruction of meaning by way of identifying and combining these expressions. I think that the process of deriving meaning from these 'symptoms' is exactly what makes Freud so much like a detective. In a way, these symptoms are clues (or stories) and Freud's job is to turn them into an explanation of hidden thoughts by discovering the meaning 'welded' to them.


Posted by: jennlong at October 18, 2006 09:44 AM

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