Setting Freud and Hysteria in Historical Context


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Two fascinating papers bring us back to the origins of psychoanalysis and the classical case histories, the Studies on Hysteria and the “Dora Case.” To set these in their historical and cultural background, we have to understand how and why Freud has now been criticized—by analysts, by people outside of analysis, by feminists, and so forth, but it is important to distinguish appropriate criticism from irrational censure. I would like to present this discourse on these case histories in the following way: Prior to Freud, these patients were not understood at all. One has to recognize what the treatment was of the hysterical patient in the late nineteenth century prior to Freud coming onto the scene.

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