Meet Paul Allen Miller

Since 1999, the Sigmund Freud Foundation and the Austrian Fulbright Commission invite American scientists for a study visit which is combined with a visiting professorship on a university in Vienna. We introduce you to 2024's grantee Paul Allen Miller, who arrived in March.

What does it mean to you, being here at Berggasse 19?

It is a bit of a dream come true.  I first came to Vienna as graduate student in 1983.  One of the first places I went to was Berggasse 19.  I have been interested in Freud for many years. I read him for the first time when I was in high school.  I have also long had an amateur interest in Vienna as the cradle of European modernism.  I have a strong interest in the music and art of the period.  So all in all it is a wonderful opportunity.

 

Why did you apply for the Fulbright-Freud Scholarship?

The short answer is that I was invited to.  I had not known about the lectureship, but I received an email from the Washington Fulbright office saying that given my scholarly interests I might want to apply.  I had just finished a six-year term as the Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of South Carolina and was looking for a new challenge.  I was also starting a new book project focused on rhetoric and the way it mobilizes the death drive, so this seemed the perfect opportunity.  I knew that these awards were highly competitive, so when I advanced on my first application even though I was not the ultimate awardee, I decided this was something I should pursue again, and I was very happy to receive the award.

 

Can you tell us more about the research project you are pursuing during your stay?

I am currently doing research to complete my book, Truth and Enjoyment in Cicero: Rhetoric and Philosophy Beyond the Pleasure Principle (forthcoming Oxford).  In it, I offer a fundamental re-examination of the relation between truth and enjoyment as understood in the traditional confrontation between rhetoric and philosophy in Cicero. His simultaneous advocacy of classical rationality and continued emphasis on the importance of performativity and enjoyment in language - on ratio as a desire (cupiditas) and force (vis) in the real - situates him at the crossroads of reason and the unconscious, where rhetoric meets truth and desire.  Where the modern, post-Cartesian concept of truth, abstracts truth from subjective experience of both the speaker and the hearer, for Cicero truth is inseparable from our experience of it, and it is precisely the possibility of their separation that he criticizes in works like De Oratore where he seeks an ideal reconciliation between rhetoric and philosophy, truth and enjoyment.  My book looks at the problem of enjoyment (jouissance) as central to understanding the differend between rhetoric and philosophy.  I distinguish “pleasure” from “enjoyment,” with pleasure always being balanced by the constraints of the reality principle and hence always open to rational substitution and deferral.  Jouissance, however, is a drive that leads beyond the utilitarian calculus of balancing pleasure against unpleasure, seeking a form of radical experience that can be both sublime and destructive, an experience that calls into question the trusted verities of the reality principle.

 

You share Freud's great interest in antiquity. Can you let us know what connection you draw between Psychoanalysis and antique writing?

My work has always been influenced by psychoanalysis.  My second article was on Vergil’s Aeneid and it used Civilization and its Discontents to examine the role of certain types of female characters within the poem and the suppression of other types.  I am greatly influenced by the French psychoanalytic tradition and have written extensively about Lacanian psychoanalysis as a tool for understanding ancient literature and philosophy.  I have also written about the importance of antiquity for the thought of the French feminists, Derrida, and Foucault, all of whom were engaged with psychoanalysis in both positive and critical ways.

 

Enjoyment in antiquity and enjoyment today: do you see big differences in different eras?

For me, the unconscious is not a constant.  It is not a throbbing pit of instinct that broadcasts a single message, rather what is repressed depends very directly on the society in which the unconscious finds it place.  To take a classic example, Freudian analyses of modern cultural artifacts often identify what are termed phallic symbols.  These are embodiments of phallic power and desire that are nonetheless sublimated or censored in some way, and hence they manifest in symbols that require interpretation.  The cliché is the cigar.  In ancient Rome, phalloi were everywhere on open display.  Young boys wore phallic amulets around their necks to protect them from the evil eye.  The Vestal Virgins tended the cult of this god called Fascinus.  I can show you Roman chandeliers that consisted of tiny oil lamps with winged phalloi where the flame shot from the end.  What does it mean in this context to speak of a phallic symbol or to say that anything here is unconscious or repressed?  It is ridiculous.  Repression certainly existed in ancient Rome, but it was organized around different axes.  So, the unconscious is not a constant, rather it is culturally constituted.  But Freud in fact says nothing different.  You cannot simply apply a key to a dream and produce an automatic interpretation, you must always situate the dream (or any other text) in the analysand’s associative chain, and that chain itself is made up of culturally constituted signifiers, of language and its meanings in a given context.

 

What are your current personal enjoyments in Vienna?

I have been walking in the Lainzer Tiergarten, strolling round the Ringstrasse, going to the opera, and attending other musical events.  I am looking forward to spending more time in the Museums.

 

Please let us know more about your general fields of interest as a scholar.

My PhD is in Comparative Literature and I have a Masters in Classical Philology.  In Comparative Literature, one is supposed to have three literatures and mine were Latin, Greek, and French. I am currently working on improving my German. I also have a strong interest in philosophy and I essentially approach Freud as a philosopher or cultural theorist. One of the things I have enjoyed about the programming at Berggasse 19 is that it has brought more into contact with analysts rather than just scholars. I think this is important. Psychoanalysis is a clinical practice as well as a body of scholarship.  Responsible students of it need to be aware of both sides of the equation.

 

You take part in our scholarly event program. Can you let us know which events at the Sigmund Freud Museum you enjoyed the most so far and to which you look forward?

Right now, my main focus has been on weekly lectures on Freud and Antiquity.  These are for obvious reasons close to my heart.  But the recent program on Dori Laub and his recording of testimony from survivors of the Shoah was also quite important for me.  I think in our focus on data and information we often lose track of the importance of experience.  One of the questions Laub’s work brought to the fore in my mind is what is the ontology of the past within the present.  We often act as though the past had an objective existence.  That it was somehow out there somewhere.  But where? How?  What does that mean?  You cannot touch it as the past.  You cannot see it as the past.  That only happens in the present.  The past exists because of our experience of it, and the records we make of that experience.  It has no existence outside of that.  This is true even of the ancient world.  It continues to exist only insofar as it continues to speak to our present existence and thus makes possible the world to come.

 

Paul Allen Miller is Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina and Distinguished Guest Professor of English at Ewha Womans University. He specializes in exploring intellectual relations between the ancient world and modern philosophy and theory, with an emphasis on psychoanalysis.

Professor Miller is editor emeritus of Transactions of the American Philological Association. He is the author of Lyric Texts and Lyric Consciousness (1994), Latin Erotic Elegy (2002), Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real (2004), Latin Verse Satire (2005), Postmodern Spiritual Practices: The Reception of Plato and the Construction of the Subject in Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault (2007), Plato’s Apology of Socrates (2010) with Charles Platter, A Tibullus Reader (2013), Diotima at the Barricades: French Feminists Read Plato (2015), Horace (2019), and Foucault’s Seminars on Antiquity: Learning to Speak the Truth (2021). He has edited fifteen volumes of essays and has published more than 100 articles. His latest book, Theory Does not Exist: Comparative Ancient and Modern Explorations in Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and Rhetoric will be published this spring.

For four months beginning in March 2024, he will serve as the Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer of Psychoanalysis during which he will teach the course “The Subject of Enjoyment in Antiquity” at the Institute for Classical Philology at the University of Vienna and finish research on his new book, Truth and Enjoyment in Cicero: Rhetoric and Philosophy Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the first major psychoanalytic treatment of the subject.

Laudatio on the occasion of the presentation of the 2023 Museum Award to the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna

by Robert Pfaller

Held at the Jewish Museum of Hohenems, October 12, 2023

 

Dear awardees, Dear Director Loewy, Ladies and gentlemen,

„Beware of understandig!“ – exactly 70 years ago, the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan used this brusque but catchy phrase in order to teach his students Sigmund Freud’s basic rule.[1]

This rule says:

  • Never try to complete what the analysand says or shows;
  • Do not paint over the gaps of what is put forward to achieve some plenitude;
  • Do not complete things with unbridled imagination to achieve a supposed integrity.

And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the principles of the redesign of the Sigmund Freud Museum. The rule was followed in a radical and consistent manner.

  • Without pretending something was there that is not,
  • without painting over the gaps, and thus
  • allowing the absence of Freud, his violent displacement, to continue to be perceived, and not to pretend he or his family had only just left the apartment and practice.

“Not to appear to be more than we are”, this is how Monika Pessler, the Director, concisely summarized this attitude. In particular for a museum, which, after all, aims to offer something to its visitors, to show them something, this is an uncommon and courageous decision.

The team at the Sigmund Freud Museum, the researchers, architects, restorers, designers, decided not to compensate for the lack of important exhibits–which for any museum has to be immensely regrettable–by prompting the visitors’ imagination with obvious methods like photos or immersive media like film, sound, video, or virtual reality.

Now, psychoanalysis has taught from its beginnings that even an absence, for instance of words, speaks; that even the supposed lacunae of a dream are not necessarily gaps in its representation, but on the contrary may often be representations of gaps–as Freud for instance once said with regard to a specific dream: of body orifices– and should be acknowledged as such.[2]

By not painting over anything, but, on the contrary, removing earlier illustrations, the Sigmund Freud Museum’s team, frequently surprising us, has achieved to allow the encountered lacunae to be read as representations, and to allow the emptiness and the absence to be felt as an often-touching presence.

 Allow me to illustrate this by three exemplary cases:

For example, the wall of the treatment room, where, as you all know, the famous couch is missing as it is in London today: by removing several layers of paint added over the years from this empty wall, what suddenly reappeared were the holes of the screws that must have fixed the rug to the wall behind Freud’s couch.

With these holes, which may have been drilled by Freud himself in order to hang the rug on the wall, the rug that was meant to protect the analysands from the cold; with these gaps in the wall, which were probably made in 1906, the year when Freud moved his practice from the ground floor to the mezzanine of the building, the father of psychoanalysis becomes strikingly visible–just like the painful and shameful fate he and his new, inconvenient science were subjected to in this very place.

In the redesign of the museum, the walls of Anna Freud’s living quarters were also opened. And what appeared there were the still existing cables of the in-house telephone that connected Anna Freud’s apartment to her partner’s, Dorothy Burlingham’s, who lived on the second floor of the building with her four children from 1929. With this in-house telephone, they were able to warn each other of the Gestapo closing in.

And a third example: the coat rack, which was in the entrance to Freud’s waiting and treatment room. It has been preserved with its original brown wall hangings and hooks. Only a last hook, at the end of the narrow room, has disappeared. Any other museum might have rectified this embarrassing absence by inserting a duplicate, probably admitting this in all honesty by labeling it accordingly.

The Freud Museum’s team, however, have asked themselves why this hook might have been removed. And they found an answer in the adjoining window: there, we can still see the crack in the glass that must have been caused by the pane hitting this last hook of the coat rack.

Now we feel someone must have been there who, in order to avoid further damage to the window, decided to remove the hook. Obviously, we don’t know whether it was Freud himself, or maybe his faithful servant, Paula Fichtl. Or we might imagine something else: maybe what hung on this hook was one of Freud’s famous soft felt hats; and maybe the window was safe from damage until Freud took this hat with him when he had to flee.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, in these examples, which surely could be added to by citing some more, I wanted to show that, in all probability, there is hardly a museum in the world that comes as close to the method of the science it documents in the way it proceeds as the redesigned Sigmund Freud Museum.

Nothing is “understood” there, in the sense of Lacan; nothing is filled in or well-meaningly completed–and this is what makes what we get to see there, and what we don’t get to see, so clear and vivid in such a touching manner.

And this is what I want to thank you for, and, of course, congratulations!

 

[1] See Jacques Lacan: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I: Freud’s Papers on Technique. 1953–1954. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.

[2] See Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, transl. and ed. by James Strachey, 1955 (1900), pp. 347: “Glosses on a dream, or apparently innocent comments on it, often serve to disguise a portion of what has been dreamt in the subtlest fashion, though in fact betraying it. For instance, a dreamer remarked that at one point ‘the dream had been wiped away’; and the analysis led to an infantile recollection of his listening to someone wiping himself after defaecating. Or here is another example which deserves to be recorded in detail. A young man had a very clear dream […] He dreamt that it was evening and that he was in a hotel at a summer resort. He mistook the number of his room and went into one in which an elderly lady and her two daughters were undressing and going to bed. He proceeded: ‘Here there are some gaps in the dream; there’s something missing. Finally there was a man in the room who tried to throw me out, and I had to have a struggle with him.’ He made vain endeavours to recall the gist and drift of the boyish phantasy to which the dream was evidently alluding; until at last the truth emerged that what he was in search of was already in his possession in his remark about the obscure part of the dream. The ‘gaps’ were the genital apertures of the women who were going to bed; and ‘there’s something missing’ described the principal feature of the female genitalia.”

 

When It Gets Dark

Deutsche Version

 

Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna

On the day we found out about the terror attacks carried out against Israel by the Palestinian organization Hamas, our world became even darker. Aghast, our thoughts have been with the victims of these heinous acts of aggression ever since. The ubiquitous visual documentation of dead, burned, and raped victims also cast flashes of memory of our historical failure here in Austria some eighty-five years ago. Faced with the anti-Semitism currently erupting in Europe, a hidden, perhaps hitherto repressed fear of history repeating itself—the slogan “Never again!” to the Shoah and war had only just faded away—has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. Furthermore, with every day that passes, we grow increasingly aware that it is virtually impossible to put an end to the spiral of violence that has been forging ahead in several nations for some time now. The ideals of our civil societies—nourished, strengthened, and unified by global peace movements until two decades ago—are evaporating.

When the foundations of our confidence are destroyed, our social spaces for thought and action shrink: they mutate into cramped prison cells that isolate us and rob us of all perspective. Which is how the state of mourning transforms into melancholia. According to Freud, the former is a general life experience, whereas the “complex of melancholia” draws all of life’s energy to itself and “behaves like an open wound”[1] that does not heal. Ultimately, one’s ego is defeated by this constant inner struggle and is eventually lost: “In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself.”[2]

Freud’s advice that the symptoms of melancholia do not necessarily have to be caused by the loss of people but perhaps instead by lost connections to “some abstractions […] such as one’s country, liberty, and ideal,”[3] makes clear the parallels between the fates of the individual and those of the group: for instance, the development of a community after overwhelming experiences of loss may, via phases of permanent self-abasement, end in utter self-abandonment.   

In these times, another symptom is apparent that affects our current condition and mental state and is paid particular attention in psychoanalysis as a result of severe traumatization (or re-traumatization): a widespread and acute loss of language. A catastrophic danger is inherent in the absolute inability to communicate or listen to one another: a persistent catatonia damned to passivity that renders any manner of (re)constitution impossible.
Yet the opposite also floods our communication channels: outpourings of scathing accusations and compulsive immunization strategies that serve to justify one’s own existence and established mindsets. Both defense mechanisms—roaring silence and a loquacity akin to the Babylonian “confusion of tongues” that obscures everything—seem due to the same cause: the urge to repress our ubiquitous sense of powerlessness and helplessness.

One hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud was invited by what was then the League of Nations—today’s UN—to correspond with Albert Einstein about the question “Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?” In his sociopolitical reflections, the psychoanalyst confirms the physicist’s pacifist arguments while also making the case for implementing a peacekeeping power that would operate internationally, as intended by the League of Nations. It was an attempt, wrote Freud, “to acquire the authority […], which hitherto reposed exclusively on the possession of power, by calling into play certain idealistic attitudes of mind.”[4] Here, Freud held out the hopeful prospect of social cohesion being achieved not just through the use of force but also by another means—by strengthening the emotional ties among the community’s members, by identifying with one another. According to Freud, such ideas can only be meaningful if they are an expression of a deeply rooted sense of unity shared by all. It is therefore necessary to determine the effectiveness of such feelings.

In line with Freud, who believed everything that advanced cultural development (some called it civilization) helped to hinder war,[5] the mutual conditionality of individual and society is the focus of the Sigmund Freud Museum’s activities.[6]Here, the psychoanalytical dialogue format—“the way in which words can affect us, but also the productivity of a conversation that not only reproduces previously considered ideas but is also productive”[7]—provides a valuable guide. As a museum and educational institution as well as a communication platform that is indebted to Freud’s cultural heritage, it is necessary to ascertain whether and which commonalities are inherent in different positions in order to expand our knowledge of and about one another and to find an explanation for the symptoms of our age. Yet it is important to emphasize that neither the discipline of psychoanalysis nor the museum located in its birthplace is qualified to “silence others. On the contrary, it finds nothing more intriguing than what others have to say.”[8]

 

Monika Pessler
Director

Sigmund Freud Museum
Vienna, Oct./Nov. 2023

 

 

[1] Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia” [1915], in: The Standard Edition, vol. XIV, p. 253.

[2] Ibid., p. 246.

[3] Ibid., p. 243.

[4] Sigmund Freud, “Why war? A letter from Freud to Einstein,” The UNESCO Courier, March 1993, https://en.unesco.org/courier/marzo-1993/why-war-letter-freud-einstein (accessed Nov. 16, 2023).

[5] Ibid.

[6] See the article “Frei Sprechen—Speak Freely” on the principle that guided the Sigmund Freud Museum’s program in the years 2021 to 2025: https://www.freud-museum.at/en/blog-posts-details/articles/speak-freely (accessed Nov 16, 2023).

[7] Joachim Küchenhoff, “Das analytische Gespräch auf der Suche nach dem Sinn,” in: Der Sinn im Nein und die Gabe des Gesprächs. Psychoanalytisches Verstehen zwischen Philosophie und Klinik. Verlbrück Wissenschaft, Weilerswist 2013, p. 88.

[8] Dirk Baecker, Schlüsselwerke der Systemtheorie, (2nd ed.) Springer Verlag, 2016, p. 7.

Meet Richard Lane

Since 1999, the Sigmund Freud Foundation and the Austrian Fulbright Commission invite American scientists for a study visit which is combined with a visiting professorship on a university in Vienna. We introduce you to 2023's grantee Richard D. Lane, who arrived in March and took office in Berggasse 19.

What does it mean to you, working at Berggasse 19?

It is a dream come true. Psychoanalysis has been part of my life from an early age, as my father trained to become an analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis when I was a youngster. I grew up exposed to terms like “psychoanalysis” and “psychosomatic medicine” in an environment in which these disciplines were thought to represent the highest levels of intellectual attainment and clinical importance. As I developed my own career as a psychiatrist, psychodynamic psychotherapist and neuroscientist, I have remained fascinated with Freud’s writings and the entire field that he pioneered. For someone with my interests and background, it is hard to imagine working at a place more meaningful than Berggasse 19.

 

We know it is not your first stay in Vienna – what makes this city special to you?

Vienna has been special to me through the years precisely because it is the birthplace of psychoanalysis. Having spent some time here now, I can say that Vienna is brimming with riches of all kinds – art, history, music, architecture, and intellectual pursuits of all kinds. The city has a wonderful transportation system, is teeming with great restaurants and is surprisingly affordable. I have found that in general people here are quite friendly and helpful. It is a joy to live here for a sustained period of time.

 

Why did you apply for the Fulbright-Freud Scholarship?

I was very honored to be invited to apply for this fellowship by the Fulbright program. Although I can’t be sure, I imagine I received this invitation because the intersection of neuroscience and psychoanalysis is one of the areas of special interest for this fellowship and I had a record of contributions in that area. The invitation arrived in 2020 just when our book Neuroscience of Enduring Change: Implications for Psychotherapy was published by Oxford University Press. The opportunity to teach a course based on the book, at the birthplace of psychoanalysis, seemed like such a great opportunity. Moreover, I had begun collaborating with psychoanalytic researchers on the topic of memory reconsolidation, a phenomenon that was first described by Sigmund Freud. The opportunity to develop this line of research further in honor of Sigmund Freud held special appeal.

 

Can you tell us more about the research project you are pursuing during your stay?

The fundamental concept of our model of enduring change is that problematic emotional memories can be updated or reconsolidated by virtue of having new, corrective emotional experiences. We have therefore created a paradigm in which the functional neuroanatomy of this phenomenon can be studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging. A pilot neuroimaging study will be conducted this spring with collaborators at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. We are excited to see whether specific brain areas interact as we predict to implement corrective emotional learning. Freud always dreamed that the mind could be explained by neuroscience. A century after he did his work the tools are now available to help make that dream a reality.

A second set of projects will be executed here at the Medical University of Vienna. A core idea in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy is that expanding the ability to consciously experience emotions is a key mediator of change. This is related to memory reconsolidation in that the new emotional experiences can themselves update the memories if these experiences occur when the memories have been reactivated in psychotherapy. We have at our disposal several completed data sets in which patients have been treated in psychotherapy. With the help of talented colleagues I have developed a coding system for emotional awareness in German that we will apply to inventories obtained before, during and after the psychotherapy treatment to determine the degree to which promoting emotional awareness helps to explain how much people benefit from the psychotherapy.

 

Can you define “enduring change” for us? What does this mean in your work?

In psychotherapy research we evaluate whether people improve as a result of a course of treatment relative to where they were before treatment started. A key question is whether improvement, if it occurs, is lasting or enduring, say for two years or more after treatment has ended. Research shows that many types of psychotherapy treatments bring about improvement by the time treatment ends but relapse occurs at disappointingly high rates. Psychoanalysis is a more intensive treatment that aspires to achieve enduring outcomes, i.e. improvement without relapse. The phenomenon of memory reconsolidation is relevant here as reconsolidation involves changing the problematic memories themselves, as opposed to suppressing them or creating new learning that outcompetes the old learning. The latter two mechanisms leave the old problematic memories intact and thus the vulnerability to relapse remains. Memory reconsolidation, which changes the memories themselves, may be necessary for enduring change. As such, it may be the neural mechanism underlying the enduring change that psychoanalysis has traditionally sought to achieve. The fact that Sigmund Freud was the first person to describe what we now call memory reconsolidation makes this all the more relevant and fascinating.

 

What are the key challenges for mental health, being confronted with economic changes, the ever-faster digitization in all parts of everyday life and the division of the world into political blocks?

These are very stressful times and the interpersonal connections that facilitate relationships and coping capacity are compromised by our increasing reliance on technology. The Covid-19 pandemic also lead to a significant increase in mental health problems, substance use and other maladaptive behaviors. A key organizing concept is that these changes either cause or are caused by significant emotional distress. Finding ways to help people process their distress, avoid becoming bitter and hopeless and helping them to still get the most out of life is probably the key mental health challenge that we face today.

 

What can the current clinical approach on mental health learn from psychoanalysis and vice-versa?

Third party payers are especially interested in brief treatments that are effective in reducing symptoms and bringing people relief. These brief treatments focus on what is maintaining the current problem. They help many people and the treatments can be repeated if symptoms recur. Thus, they have an important place in our armamentarium. Psychoanalysis attempts to get at the cause of the mental distress, as opposed to what maintains it, and thus aspires to more lasting or enduring treatment outcomes. It is therefore important to recognize that briefer treatments can be effective and are often the right choice for many people. By contrast, when symptom-focused treatments don’t work or aren’t a good fit for a given person, treatments that aim for a more definitive result may be preferable.

 

Please let us know more about your general fields of interest as a scholar.

The focus of my career has been emotion. It is a fascinating topic that I have been able to pursue in different ways from both clinical and basic science perspectives. I’ve been fortunate to be trained as a clinician and appreciate how important it is to be aware of one’s emotions for the purposes of regulating one’s own emotions and facilitating interpersonal relationships. I’ve also been trained as a neuroscientist and researcher and been fortunate to be able to study emotions and the mechanisms by which they influence mental and physical health in healthy volunteers and clinical groups. This includes studying brain mechanisms and physiological changes in the body. What I’ve particularly enjoyed is the ability to make clinical observations, study the mechanisms involved and bring back what I’ve learned to improve clinical care. This in turn inevitably leads to new observations, raises new and interesting basic science questions and thus the cycle repeats. This dialogue between clinical observations and basic science research is in many ways exemplified by the work I am doing during this fellowship and it is a pleasure to be able to share the knowledge generated with trainees and more senior colleagues alike.

 

Richard D. Lane, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Arizona. A clinical psychiatrist and psychodynamic psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology (systems neuroscience and emotion research), he was among the first researchers to perform functional brain imaging studies of emotion in the 1990s and continues research on emotion, emotional awareness and brain-body interactions to the present. His research on emotion, the brain and heart disease has been funded by several major grants from the National Institutes of Health in the United States and many other sources. He is the author of 200 papers and book chapters and is senior editor of two books including Neuroscience of Enduring Change: Implications for Psychotherapy published by Oxford University Press in 2020. Guiding themes in his research and scholarship have been the importance of integrating systems neuroscience with psychological conceptualizations and the need to bridge basic science and clinical application. Honors include being President of the American Psychosomatic Society in 2006, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Psychoanalysts.

For four months beginning in March 2023 he serves as the Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer of Psychoanalysis during which he teaches the course “Memory, Emotion and the Neuroscience of Enduring Change: Implications for Psychoanalysis” at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of the Medical University of Vienna and does research on memory reconsolidation as a mechanism of enduring change in psychoanalysis.

10x17 - 10 Viennese Museums, 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The Sigmund Freud Museum is participating in the 10x17 initiative jointly initiated by ICOM and OekoBusiness Wien and is thus facing up to its responsibility for sustainability in society and the environment: As one of ten Viennese museums, we are actively working on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

The "17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals" (SDGs) are a global plan to promote sustainable peace and prosperity to protect our planet by 2030. Since 2016, UN member states have been working to fight poverty and reduce inequalities with the help of this plan. Accordingly, it is also important to include the needs and priorities of the most vulnerable population groups and countries. The "how" is to be translated into national development plans.

Each of the participating cultural institutions has set itself two of these goals in order to refer to them in its daily work as well as in its programming and to promote their worldwide implementation. The Sigmund Freud Museum has chosen the following goals:

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

As soon as a project or activity of the Sigmund Freud Museum corresponds to one of the two goals, we provide the announcement and program page with the corresponding logo.

In the coming months, the museum will also present specially developed programs as well as thematically related events and educational projects in order to draw attention to the importance of the Sustainability Goals and to acknowledge the social responsibility of a cultural and scientific institution.

In the future, the Sigmund Freud Museum will use the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to guide its daily work - for this reason, we will also take the other goals into account in our work.


The United Nation's SDGs

These Viennese Museums take part in the project:

 

Meet Ricardo Ainslie

Since 1999, the Sigmund Freud Foundation and the Austrian Fulbright Commission invite American scientists for a study visit which is combined with a visiting professorship on a university in Vienna. We introduce you to this year's grantee Ricardo Ainslie, who arrived in March and took office in Berggasse 19.

What does it mean to you, working at Berggasse 19?

For me this is, of course, sacred space. I am a few meters away from where Sigmund Freud wrote the oeuvre that helped shape the 20th Century, intellectually and culturally. These are also texts that I have studied and turned to throughout my professional life (and once again in the work I am doing while a visiting scholar at the museum!).

 

Since you are here for the first time: How did you expect Vienna to be?

I had a vague impression of Vienna as a European city, but few details. I had read things like Bücher’s Fin-De-Siecle Vienna and for two decades I have had a copy of Edmund Engelman’s Berggasse 19 in my office. But I had very little sense of the city as a modern space, nor of the city’s rich and complex history. What I have discovered is that the city is an amazing, dynamic urban space which every day brings novel experiences which I cherish.

 

Does the city meet your expectations?

The city has exceeded my expectations by a large measure. I am grateful to have the privilege of living here for an extended period.

 

You came here in a very tense situation: the pandemic is still not over, and there is a war raging in Ukraine, which is not too far from Austria. Being an Educational Psychologist, can you imagine the effects the crisis combined with a threat caused by this war inflicts upon young people?

The pandemic, and the radical way in which it has transformed our lives, regardless of age, is a terrifying phenomenon that we have endured. But young people, especially school-aged children, have born the brunt of it. Not in raw deaths, of course, which we know have most affected our elderly citizens, but in terms of experiences that are critical to children’s development such as school and social contact with friends and even with family. And of course the shadow of fear cast by the pandemic is very real to them; for over two years they have lived with the ever present awareness (masks, sanitizers, the avoidance of public spaces, and friends and family who have fallen ill) that their health and the health of loved one’s is in danger.  It has been our modern-day plague.

The war in Ukraine brings a different stress to the lives of young people. Awareness of the war is inescapable in Vienna. Ukrainian refugee children are entering their schools, Ukrainian flags, displayed in solidarity, are ever-present reminders of the crisis, and the news is followed closely. I was taken aback when my wife and I received an email from our children’s school seeking permission to administer iodine pills in the event of an incident involving the Ukrainian nuclear powerplants in the war zone. I understand that this directive came from the Austrian educational authorities. The war, in this sense, feels quite palpable and must infiltrate children’s consciousness in complex ways. Thus, young people have are facing two very substantive threats to their sense that they are safe and that their world is reliably stable.

 

Why did you apply for the Fulbright-Freud Scholarship?

I applied for the Fulbright-Freud Scholarship because for some time I have had a book project in mind focusing on the idea that cities are psychic spaces that shape who we are in both conscious and unconscious ways. The idea is derived from a line in Civilization and its Discontents which has stayed with me since I first read it in graduate school, in which Freud invites the reader to consider Rome as a “psychical entity”. The scholarship is allowing me focused time to research and write, which is critical to advancing this book project.

 

Please let us know more about your general fields of interest as a scholar.

I have always been a rather eclectic scholar/academic. Psychoanalysis, both as a theory and as a clinical practice, is the basis for my work, however, my research is always quite interdisciplinary. My psychoanalytic ethnographies have explored problems of social transformation, race and ethnic conflict, and of violence in communities in Texas and Mexico. These have of necessity brought me into the fields of sociology, cultural studies, and history to find theoretical reference points to help me understand these communities, although my methodology is always descriptive and based on the way in which I approach my patients in the clinical setting: curious, empathic, and intent on creating a space where interesting and unanticipated narratives can emerge.

 

You are working as a filmmaker, photographer and as an author: What are the upcoming projects in these fields?

Historically, I have alternated between film/documentary projects and book projects. When I finish my current City and Psyche book, I know a new project will emerge to become the object of my obsession. I have faith in that process, and the truth is that many of my projects have begun with an incident in a city or community that draws my interest and which I begin to explore – an exploration that often as not eventuates in a focus that I had not anticipated. As I begin to do the work in that setting, the way(s) in which I might represent the narratives also becomes clear. It may be a journal article, or a book, or a documentary film, or a photographic exhibit or, not uncommonly, a combination of these ways of narrating what I have encountered. It is hard to predict!

 

Ricardo Ainslie

In his books, documentary films, and photographic exhibits, Ricardo Ainslie engages social and cultural topics through a psychoanalytic lens. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and a recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency, among other awards. In addition to publishing regularly in academic journals, his books include The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War (University of Texas Press, 2013), and Long Dark Road: The story of Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas, (University of Texas Press, 2004). His most recent documentary is The Mark of War (2018), a film about the lives of seven men who served in the Vietnam War.

Ricardo Ainslie holds the M.K. Hage Centennial Professorship in Education at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Educational Psychology, serves as director of research and education for AMPATH Mexico at Dell Medical School, and is director of the LLILAS Benson Mexico Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

As the 2022 Fulbright-Freud Visiting Scholar, he is working on a book manuscript titled “City and Psyche”. He will also give a public lecture at the University of Vienna (“Individual and collective anxieties: A psychoanalytic reflection on the psychological impact of immigration and social transformation”), and three seminars on “Psychoanalysis beyond the consulting room: Understanding, intervention, and methodology” at the Research Unit ‘Psychoanalysis and Education’ at the Department of Education of the University Vienna.

 

Visit Ricardo Ainslie's lecture "City and Psyche: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Architecture and Subjectivity" on June 30, 2022 at the Sigmund Freud Museum!

The Spanish flu, Covid-19 and Sigmund Freud

What can we learn from history?

 
Jeanne Wolff Bernstein, chairwoman of the advisory board of the Sigmund Freud Foundation
 

"If we say we are fighting the virus, we will defeat it, we are speaking in war metaphors that actually do not apply to the virus. This shows how abstract the situation is. We don't even have an appropriate language for it.” (Annemarie Pieper, 2020)

What would be an appropriate language and how can we find one in times of Corona, when there is so much human misery and death during global pandemic? Are we not confronting again “a crisis of the imagination” (see Tom Friedman, New York Times, 2001) as on September 11, 2001, when we could not find any suitable words at first to describe the collapse of the “Twin Towers” in New York after a plane flew into both towers and caused them to collapse? Nowadays we are not faced with a brutal terrorist, a politically motivated act that leaves us speechless, but we are faced with an invisible virus that has infected millions of people and claimed tens of thousands of lives worldwide in a devastating and unexpectedly rapid manner.


 

In order to find a language, a symbolic system, to grasp linguistically the Real and to integrate the current catastrophe, I became interested in the question of how Sigmund Freud himself, at the beginning of the last century, might have reacted to the then extremely devastating pandemic of the Spanish flu, and how he might have integrated it into his own writings. The only thing I knew was that Sophie Halberstadt-Freud, his favorite daughter, his "Sunday Child", died on January 25, 1920 of this virus infection and that her death, as well as that of her youngest son, Heinerle, three years later evoked a deep sadness and despair in Freud, which was only later to be recognized. He announced the death of Sophie to his mother Amalia on January 26, 1920 with the following words:

Dear Mother,
I have some sad news for you today. Yesterday morning our dear lovely Sophie died from galloping influenza and pneumonia. We learned of it at noon from a telephone conversation with Minna in Reichenhall. Oli and Ernst have left Berlin to be with Max. Robert and Mathilde are leaving on the twenty-ninth to try and assist the poor bereaved man. Martha is too upset; one couldn’t let her undertake the journey, and in any case she wouldn’t have found Sophie alive.
She is the first of our children we have to outlive. What Max will do, what will happen to the children, we of course don’t know as yet.
I hope you will take it calmly; tragedy after all has to be accepted. But to mourn this splendid, vital girl who was so happy with her husband and children is of course permissible.
 
II greet you fondly.
Your Sigm
 
(Ernst Freud, 1960, pp. 326, 327)
 
 
One day later, Freud writes to Oskar Pfister, his friend, the Swiss pastor:
 
Dear Doctor,
(…) That afternoon we received the news that our sweet Sophie in Hamburg had been snatched away by influential pneumonia, snatched away in the midst of a glowing health, from a full and active life as a competent mother and loving wife, all in four or five days, as though she had never existed. Although we have been worried about her for a couple of days, we had nevertheless been hopeful; it is so difficult to judge from a distance. And this distance must remain distance, we were not able to travel at once, as we had intended, after the first alarming news; there was no train, not even for an emergency. The undisguised brutality of our time is weighing heavily upon us. Tomorrow she is being cremated, our poor Sunday Child! Our daughter Mathilde and her husband are leaving for Hamburg the day after tomorrow, thanks to an unexpected connection with an Entente train; at least our son-in-law was not alone; two of our sons who were in Berlin are already with him, and our friend Eitingon has gone with them.
Sophie leaves two sons, one of six, the other thirteen months, and an inconsolable husband who will have to pay dearly for the happiness of these seven years. The happiness existed exclusively within them; outwardly there was war, conscription, wounds, the depletion of their resources, but they had remained courageous and gay.
I work as much as I can, and am thankful for the diversion. The loss of a child seems to be a serious narcissistic injury; what is known as mourning will probably follow only later.
 
(Ernst Freud, 1960, pp. 327, 328)
 
 
And a few days later, on February 4, 1920, Freud writes to Sandor Ferenczi:
 
Dear Friend
Please don’t worry about me. Apart from feeling rather more tired I am the same. The death, painful as it is, does not affect my attitude toward life. For years I was prepared for the loss of our sons; now it is our daughter; as a confirmed unbeliever I have no one to accuse and realize that there is no place where I could lodge a complaint. (…) Deep down I sense a bitter, irreparable narcissistic injury. My wife and Annerl are profoundly affected in a more human way.”
 
(Ernst Freud, 1960, p. 328)
 

The mourning came later, but what did not come was a look back at the effects of the Spanish influenza upon his own work and the traces that the Spanish pandemic had left on the other family members. Thanks to the correspondence with Karl Abraham, however, we can learn that Freud's wife Martha had already contracted "flu pneumonia" in May 1919. "My wife now has a real flu pneumonia, but it seems to be going well, we are advised not to worry" (Freud/Abraham, 2009, p. 620). However, through a footnote by Ernst Falzeder and Ludger Hermanns, we learn that “Martha Freud was not to recover from this flu for months. From 1918 to 1919 the so-called Spanish flu raged, which killed more people than during the First World War, including Freud's daughter Sophie (died January 25, 1920)” (Freud / Abraham, 2009, p. 621). After her recovery, Martha decides to go to a sanatorium in Parsch, near Salzburg and Freud and his sister-in-law Minna drive to a somewhat more expensive sanatorium in Bad Gastein, which prompted him to write the following words to Karl Abraham on July 6, 1919:

My wife is, I can say, completely recovered. She travels to the Parsch sanatorium near Salzburg on the 15th of the month, at the same time as I drive with my sister-in-law to Gastein. Her doctor insists on trying a high-altitude climate with a very calm life. My daughter is trying to enter Bavaria near Reichenhall together with a friend (Margarete Rie, note JWB). Do not be surprised that we choose such expensive stays during these times. Everything near Vienna is even more expensive, almost unaffordable, most summer holidays are blocked, everything related to traveling abroad is still unbearable drudgery. And you don't want to completely miss out on refreshment while it's warm. Who knows how many of us will survive the next winter, from which evil can be expected. Also, the security of material doom as a result of our state situation does not encourage any thrift economy. (ibid., p. 624, emphasis JWB)

In addition to the nonchalance with which Freud informs his colleague Abraham that he is going to the more expensive sanatorium with Minna instead of with his wife Martha to Parsch near Salzburg, we also learn elsewhere that three more Freud children had been suffering from the influenza, they were: Anna, Ernst and Mathilde. There is hardly any mention of their illnesses, because Freud keeps a low profile towards his friends and colleagues with regard to these illnesses. In addition, Freud's concern for his son Martin, who is still in captivity at the end of the war, hovers also rather silently in the background. On December 2, 1918, Freud writes to his friend Abraham that his son Martin had not yet returned, "(...) all information indicates that his entire troop was captured without a fight, so that would not be the worst thing; no news about his personal fate since October 25th. Ernst is in Munich, Oli, unrobed at home. The restrictions are bad with us, the uncertainties are large, practice is of course marginal.” (ibid, p. 604, emphasis JWB) Two weeks later, Freud still does not know where Martin is being held, and “this contributes to the depressed mood of these times.” (ibid., p. 607) It was only on January 19, 1919, three months after the first information about his arrest, that Freud learns that Martin had been arrested in Genoa. In July, at the time when Martha, Minna and Freud were going to separate sanatoriums, Martin was released from captivity and returned to Vienna.

In contrast to today's Covid-19 pandemic, Freud seems to have viewed the Spanish influenza as a difficult, but less prominent “side-show” (Nebenschauplatz) in light of all the other hardships and fatalities he had had to endure. By reading his various letters at a time when he had also written such major texts as, "The Taboo of Virginity" (1918), "The Uncanny" (1919) and "A Child is Being Beaten" (1919), we gain a picture of Freud as a man who was faced almost daily with food and heating costs as well as other economic restrictions of all kinds. "The restrictions are bad for us, the uncertainties are great, clinical practice is of course low" and "it is bitterly cold in the room", he writes to Abraham on December 2, 1918 and then again on February 9, 1919 (ibid., p. 604, p. 610).

The Spanish flu - called "Spanish" because Spain had no press restrictions and could thus freely report about the spread of the disease worldwide – thus, the so-called "Spanish" viruses, were actually brought along from the USA (Haskell County, Kansas State) from the American soldiers who had entered Europe to help its allies in World War I. The Spanish flu was thus intricately linked with the war in Europe, because it actually arrived with the invasion of the US soldiers on French soil who thereby unknowingly brought with themselves an even bigger "killer" to Europe. What was seen as support and assistance from the Allies later turned out to be the more violent, deadly factor.

There are innumerable parallels between the Spanish influenza and today's pandemic, starting with the symptoms (dry cough, high fever, chills, pneumonia) and the course of the disease (if the inflammation did not get better, death usually occurred after nine to ten days, the survivors complained of severe fatigue and subsequent depression); to the first rumors about the origins of the virus - "fake news" - about the course and spread of the disease (the flu was imported from Spain by canned food and these were in turn poisoned by the Germans); to being totally overwhelmed by the large number of deaths - despite quarantine measures taken, the number of dead rose from 2,800 in August, 1919 to 12,000 in September of the same year in the United States alone.

And yet the historian Elisabeth Dietrich-Daum, from the University of Innsbruck, warns not to compare haphazardly the two epidemics. She takes the view that the world war and the aims of the war always remained in the foreground of the world scene: “Soldiers were bundled up and shipped in trains and ships, and if one of them fell ill, he infected the entire force. The quarantine and isolation measures that governments across Europe have taken to contain the corona pandemic were not possible in the First World War.” (Dietrich-Daum, 2020).

A look back into the past may help us to evaluate better the current Covid-19 pandemic and to (re-)integrate it eventually into a symbolic system. It seems likely that we will have to prepare ourselves for several stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Spanish flu also lasted two years, from 1918 to 1920, and reverberated through three successive waves worldwide. We can also learn a lot from the differences between these two pandemics, which are almost a hundred years apart. In contrast to Covid-19, mainly young people (20-40-year-old) died of the Spanish flu and through the First World War the influenza spread again and in the end claimed almost 50 million fatalities, another 500 million were infected. In contrast to the “lung plague” at the time, we have no major wars to fight outside the African continent. At the same time, Europe does not even consider itself able to help the few thousands of refugees who have to remain in Greek refugee camps to flee the Syrian war. We are not fighting famine (yet), our chances of survival are far higher than in the 1920’s thanks to newly acquired safety measures and to newly found medicines and vaccinations which may be on their way in the coming year.

However, the question of why Sigmund Freud hardly mentions the Spanish influenza in his writings is probably due to his close involvement with the "everyday" war events that the First World War brought about. The enormous difference between the number of war victims and those of Spanish influenza only became known in retrospect due to the information and news situation, so that during Freud's lifetime the difference between those who died in the pandemic and those who died in the war could hardly be distinguished. In addition, human-staged death - like a war that could be avoided - would require a more complex analysis of human lust/unwillingness to use violence, in contrast to the consequences of an invisible pandemic, which renders one relatively helpless and frightenend by the unknown.

Nevertheless, we should keep reminding ourselves of the words of Sigmund Freud, which reach us today like an echo from a distance:

"Si vis vitam, para mortem - If you want to endure life, prepare yourself for death." (Freud, 1915, p. 355).
 
As already indicated, Freud could only surrender to his deep grief when his young grandson Heinerle, Sophie's youngest son, (the younger brother of Ernst who provided him with the key to the structure of language through his “Fort/Da” game) died on June 19, 1923. Three years later, on October 15, 1926, Freud wrote the following lines to Ludwig Binswanger:

“This child has taken the place of all of my other children and grandchildren for me, and since then, since Heinele's death, I no longer take care of my other grandchildren and no longer feel any desire to live. That is also the secret of my indifference - what has been called courage - considering the threat to my own life."

And in 1929 he answered Ludwig Binswanger on April 12 (which would have been his daughter Sophie's 36th birthday):

“Although you know that after such a loss the acute state of mourning will subside, we also know we shall remain inconsolable and never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.. And actually this is how it should be. It's the only way of perpetuating that love which we don't want to relinquish. (...) (Ernst Freud, 1960, p. 386).

These are amazing words from a man who speaks in his theoretical writings as in "Mourning and Melancholia" (1915/1917) that mourning is a limited process that, when accomplished, allows new love to be linked to new objects, and who claims that any ongoing mourning is a sign of melancholy in which the subject incorporates the lost object, which then turns against the ego and overwhelms it with complaints and reproaches which allows him never to give up the lost object. "We see with him (the melancholic, JWB) how one part of the ego sets itself over against the other, judges it critically, and as it were, takes it as its object." (Freud, 1915/1917, p. 247)

The idea that a loss leaves an ongoing, open wound that cannot be replaced by a new object and that this could be the proof of an existing and lasting love can no longer be found in his later theoretical work. However, Freud's late realization of an inconsolable love and an ongoing mourning process may indicate that an initially "abstract situation" (Annemarie Pieper) or impossible situation, as Lacan describes the Real in Seminar XI, may be translated into a symbolic, affective language, because even in a traumatic event like the Covid-19 pandemic "it is about an appointment to which we are always called with a real that eludes us." (Lacan, 1973/1981, p. 53)

What can initially only be captured with numbers, statistics, graphs and "facts” - since the facts are overwhelming and unimaginable - may only be able to find a hold in a changed language afterwards, which not only registers, informs and excites, but also offers one a symbolic space in which the emotional losses can take shape and resonate.
 
 
Jeanne Wolff Bernstein is chairwoman of the advisory board of the Sigmund Freud Foundation. She lives as a psychoanalyst in Vienna and New York.

_____

Literature:

Dietrich-Daum, Elisabeth (2020), "Not comparable with historical epidemics", available online at: https://www.uibk.ac.at/newsroom/nicht-mit-historischen-seuchen-vergleichbar.html.de

Freud, Sigmund (1915/1917), “Mourning and Melancholia”, SE XIV, 237-260

Freud, Sigmund (1915), “Thoughts for the Times of War and Death”, SE, Volume XIV, 273-302

Freud, Ernst (1960), Letters of Sigmund Freud, selected and edited by Ernst Freud 1873-1939, New York, Dover Publications

Sigmund Freud / Karl Abraham, Briefwechsel 1907-1925, Complete Edition, Edited by Ernst Falzeder & Lidger M. Hermanns, 2009, Turia and Kant

Sigmund Freud / Sandor Ferenczi correspondence, edited by Ernst Falzeder & Eva, 1996, Böhlau, Vienna

Lacan, Jacques, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Seminar XI, (1973), translated by Alan Sheridan, W.W. Norton Company, New York, 1981

Lohl, Jan, (2016) "But mourning is a great mystery to psychologists." Reflections on Freud's theories of mourning and its social context, lecture, SFU University, October 2016, Vienna

Pieper, Annemarie, (2020), Interview with Annemarie Pieper, Tagblatt, March 25

Spanish flu on Wikipedia

 


 

Frei Sprechen - Speak Freely

Haim Steinbach, AHA!, 1997

 

Monika Pessler, Director

The activities of the Sigmund Freud Museum will explore the leitmotif SPEAK FREELY in the years 2021–2025. Inherent in the ambiguity of this topic are two aspects that are just as relevant to modern discourse as they were to the early historical development of psychoanalysis: On the one hand, it recalls Josef Breuer’s “cathartic method,” which preceded psychoanalysis and was intended to allow patients to SPEAK FREELY, to free themselves of their (unconscious) concerns (for which reason the future women’s rights activist Bertha Pappenheim also spoke of “chimney-sweeping”). On the other hand, the call to SPEAK FREELY forms the foundation and the objective of every psychotherapeutic dialogue. Jointly developed by Freud and his patients, the aim of this “talking cure” was and is to identify the causes of the symptoms and behaviors that complicate or even endanger individual or social existence. Only on the basis of insights gained through constant communication and in-depth analysis can as yet unknown ways to deal with crises be discovered and tested.

Another reason for looking at the tasks, projects, and series of talks at the Sigmund Freud Museum from the perspective of the leitmotif SPEAK FREELY can be found in psychoanalytic cultural theory. In numerous texts,[1] Freud focused on topics that still shape our society (or societies) today: the issue of identity and freedom, which is becoming ever more volatile due to social and economic divides, the propensity for paranoia and denial, which have been intensified by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as aggressions and defense mechanisms motivated by religion, racism, sexism, or homophobia.

The importance of long-established value systems—as formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and ratified by 171 member states of the United Nations in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993—seems to be diminishing. Contrary to the teachings we once tried to learn from history, not only are the debasement and violation of fundamental human rights as a result of national and/or pan-European exclusion policies increasing but the demand for authoritarian systems of government is also growing louder.

In an attempt to find, revise, and work toward constructive responses to these virulent issues of our age, another factor that has always been intrinsic to psychoanalytical communication strategies proves helpful: its inter- or rather transdisciplinarity. Since its very beginnings, psychoanalysis has been an inherently interdisciplinary enterprise, as Freud said: “Any estimate of psycho-analysis would be incomplete if it failed to make clear that, alone among the medical disciplines, it has the most extensive relations with the mental sciences, and that it is in a position to play a part of the same importance in the studies of religious and cultural history and in the sciences of mythology and literature as it is in psychiatry.”[2]

Just as other disciplines avail themselves of psychoanalytical explanatory models, so too does psychoanalysis continue to benefit from the expertise of various branches of knowledge and integrates approaches and hypotheses from the natural and social sciences and the humanities in its own research agenda. Simply think of Freud’s use of “archeological metaphors” whose “architectural dimension” also helped Freud to arrive at the “representative form of psychic reality,” the topography of the “psychic apparatus.”[3]

Therefore, in both theory and practice the psychological dialogue calls for a continuous change in perspective to which inestimable importance is attached for the success of reality reconstruction and its interpretation—as not least the phenomenon of “transference and countertransference” so impressively proves.

From a psychoanalytical viewpoint, the correlating relationship between the individual and the collective psyche is also based primarily on a change in perspective, because the “contrast” between individual and social psychology only seems significant at first glance, writes Freud as early as 1921, and “loses a great deal of its sharpness when it is examined more closely,” as “[i]n the individual’s mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent; and so from the very first individual psychology, in its extended but entirely justifiable sense of the words, is at the same time social psychology as well.”[4]

Consequently, psychoanalytical concepts can also soon be found in social science analyses and descriptions: in the reformative social pedagogy of the 1920s or contemporary art movements like Dadaism and Surrealism.

The subsequent developments in the second half of the twentieth century may have been encouraged by Freud himself as a result of his description of the relationship and interaction between the analysist and analysand in his late work as a process of “transformation”—an assessment that calls to mind more recent disciplines in the history of psychosocial sciences.

In numerous disciplines, methodically engaging in dialogue and the act of transformation it launches and accompanies evolves into a preferred procedural step: from the mid-1940s in group dynamics, for example, for which Kurt Lewin had already created the foundations with his experimental social psychology in the 1930s.

From the 1950s Ruth Cohn, the daughter of an assimilated Jewish family in Germany who emigrated from Switzerland to the USA as a student in 1941, went from psychoanalysis to theme-centered interaction[5]: "I became a psychoanalyst at a time when humane values fell victim to a ‘philosophy of exclusivity.’ What resulted from this has happened again and again in the course of history and is still happening today,” writes Cohn in the foreword to her collection of texts in 1975. She responds to the past and contemporary developments she describes with an extended process of psychodynamic dialogue, which focuses on a balanced and "deepened understanding of the individual, group, and thematic task and their mutual relationships.”[6]

In the late 1960s Gregory Bateson’s and Heinz von Foerster’s considerations led to a broader questioning of self-organized, biological, and social systems—which can mean both the human system and a system animated by people, like an organization.[7]

Foerster bases his epistemological and communication theoretical analyses on, among other things, the observational method and calls for a “second-order observation” in addition to conventional observation: the observation of the observer. As every way of seeing and explaining depends on the perceiver, their experiences and prejudices, the understanding of the cybernetician and the constructivist, just like the psychoanalyst, is based on there being no “objective reality.” Yet in a dialogue on the observed and the observer, the factors can at least be voiced that underlie their respective assessments and analyses—the construction of the status quo.

Dirk Baecker, a sociologist and cultural theorist, says of second-order observers that in our society it is predominantly “intellectuals, critics, psychoanalysts, and now increasingly artists who are surprised by what others find self-evident […].”[8]

In recent decades, the growing technologization and globalization of financial and commercial markets have given rise to ever-more complex labor and production conditions, which could not fail to have an impact on the structures of their systems. Therefore, from the 1990s the increase in resilience has become vacant not only in the realm of private living conditions but also for operational systems. It is futhermore necessary to research the “nature” of operational structures in professionalized management, to observe and strengthen their communication skills and responsiveness.

If Niklas Luhmann takes another, closer look at Foerster’s cybernetics in reference to the work of the neurobiologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and describes systems as strictly separate units defined by the distinction between system and environment alone, then in line with transdisciplinarity SPEAK FREELY keeps in sight the evidence of the mutual conditionality of individual and society above all.

For this reason, the attempt will once more be made at Vienna’s Berggasse 19 to establish a connection between the historical and current significance of this place and to recall those aspects that have proven to be “history in a fruitful sense” (Ernst Bloch).

Instead of conceiving of the symptoms of our society as merely “adjustment disorders,” they will be granted “individual knowledge, almost a character”[9] and the “other” (Jacques Lacan) will be given a voice in order to establish a meaningful and shared narrative.

In the SPEAK FREELY format, the criteria that characterize the psychoanalytical dialogue according to Joachim Küchenhoff can be taken into consideration alongside "the way that words can move us, but also the productivity of a conversation, which not only reproduces previous considerations but is also productive.”[10]

Just as the provision of such a “speaking space” is one of the most important tasks of psychoanalysis according to André Michels and Claus Dieter Roth, so too is it essential in the educational work of the Sigmund Freud Museum: here the content likewise shapes the form—and vice versa.

Not as an exclusive community of psychoanalysts but with them and with others, SPEAK FREELY additionally promotes the multiple perspectives cultivated in the arts in support of a system-wide dialogue. Because what applies to systems theory has long applied to psychoanalysis and the museum housed in its birthplace: It “does not lend itself to forbidding others from speaking. In contrast, there is nothing about which it is more curious than hearing others speak.”[11]

 

Literature:

[1] Sigmund Freud, “On Narcissism” (1914); Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921); Civilization and Its Discontents (1930); and his correspondence with Albert Einstein Why War? (1933).

[2] Sigmund Freud, "Two Encyclopaedia Articles (1923 [1922]): (A) Psycho-Analysis," in The Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18, edited and translated by J. Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, (1955) 2001, 235–254.

[3] Karl Stockreiter, “Am Rand der Aufklärungsmetapher. Korrespondenzen zwischen Archäologie und Psychoanalyse,” in: Lydia Marinelli / Sigmund Freud Museum (eds.): “Meine alten und dreckigen Götter” – Aus Sigmund Freuds Sammlung. Frankfurt am Main: Stromfeld Verlag 1998, 81–93, 81 ff.

[4] Sigmund Freud, "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” in The Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18, edited and translated by J. Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, (1955) 2001, 69–144.

[5] Ruth Cohn, Von der Psychoanalyse zur Themenzentrierten Interaktion (1st ed. 1975), Klett-Cotta, 2009.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cf. Heinz von Foerster, “On Self-Organizing Systems and Their Environments,” in: M. C. Yovits and S. Cameron (eds.), Self-Organizing Systems, Pergamon Press, London 1960. Heinz von Foerster, “On Constructing a Reality,” in: F. E. Preiser (ed.), Environmental Design Research, vol. 2, Stroudberg: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross 1973.

[8] Dirk Baecker, Form der Kultur [Form of Culture], https://www.spacetime-publishing.de/luhmann/FormDerKultur2003.pdf, S.7

[9] Moritz Senarclens de Grancy: Claus Dieter Rath, Der Rede Wert. Psychoanalyse als Kulturarbeit (Turia + Kant, Wien 2013), Rezension, in: Psyche – Z Psychoanal 69, 2015, 293-294.

[10] Joachim Küchenhoff, “Das analytische Gespräch auf der Suche nach dem Sinn,” in: Der Sinn im Nein und die Gabe des Gesprächs. Psychoanalytisches Verstehen zwischen Philosophie und Klinik, Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft 2013, 88.

[11] Dirk Baecker, Schlüsselwerke der Systemtheorie (2nd ed.), Springer Verlag 2016, 7.

Meet Jennifer Friedlander

Since 1999, the Sigmund Freud Foundation and the Austrian Fulbright Commission invite American scientists for a study visit which is combined with a visiting professorship on a university in Vienna. We introduce you to this year's grantee Jennifer Friedlander, who arrived in March and took office in Berggasse 19. Upon arrival, we asked her some questions:

 

 
 
What does it mean to you, working at Berggasse 19?
 
Even though I arrived with already high anticipation of how it might feel to work at this most special address, I must admit that I was surprised by how deeply moved I was to actually inhabit the space.  I was struck by a palpable, almost overwhelming, presence of lack. The space is profoundly evocative of the richness of both Freud's life and work, but it also resonates as a monument of excruciating loss. A piercing emptiness is left by Freud's escape and the building's testiment to the names of subsequent inhabitants who lost their lives under Nazism. The space, in an almost Freudian sense, seems to call fittingly upon its vistors to thus produce - to "construct."
 
 
We know it is not your first stay in Vienna – what makes this city special to you?
 
I have been very fortunate to be able to consider Vienna an ocassional home of sorts for the last ten years, due to the wonderful friends and intellectual connections that I have made here. I could (and often do) go on at lengths extolling the wonders of this extraorodinary city--especially the eclectic and vibrant intermingling of Vienna's classical and contemporary culture and art, the way history lives in, among, and through the present. And this is not to mention the urban parks, Cafe houses, and fantastic public transportation system (which, having lived in Southern California for almost the last twenty years, occupies a top spot on my long Things-I-Love-about-Vienna list).  But for me what is most special is somehow the more quotidian dimensions of Vienna daily life - something about the rhythms of the city.  There is something distinctive about the way the creative sphere penetrates the mundane - the sense of possibility that I feel, for instance, when encountering a temporary art installation or pop-up music festival on my way to the laundromat or grocery store - is like nowhere else.
 
 
Why did you apply for the Fulbright-Freud Scholarship?
 
The possibility of spending my sabbatical working at the Freud Museum drew me immediately to apply for the Fulbright. My interest was further piqued by learning that I would also have the opportunity to teach a seminar on my research project. Throughout my career at my home institution, Pomona College, I have learned how valuable it is to cultivate a dynamic relationship between research and teaching.
 
 
How do you feel about teaching at the University in this very special (pandemic) situation?
 
I am very much looking forward to the start of teaching next week and the opportunity to work through texts related to my research with Master’s students at the Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft (TFM) at Universität Wien, who I expect will push my thinking in unexpected and necessary ways.  Even though we will be holding classes via Zoom, the faculty and staff at TFM have already created a strong sense of community and have made me feel very welcomed.   
 
 
Can you tell us more about the research project you are pursuing during your stay?
 
My research project, “Powers of Pleasure: The Psychopolitics of Enjoyment,” aims to disrupt a key premise of racist logic: that external obstacles (often embodied by the figure of the immigrant/other) are responsible for socio-cultural disharmony.  This racist logic depends upon a fantasy of society as an ideal totality, marred only by unwelcome intrusion from outside - a fantasy that works by protecting subjects from encounters with the threatening enjoyment (jouissance) of the Other. Through psychoanalytic accounts of examples from contemporary art, film, and politics, I explore possibilities for stripping back symbolic resources for regulating one’s proximity to jouissance, thereby exposing that the social order is inherently—not contingently - lacking. I wager that such encounters may pose both a challenge to racist structures and an opportunity for subjects to experience freedom “beyond the pleasure principle.“ 
 
 
Please let us know more about your general fields of interest as a scholar.
 
My scholarly interests are heavily informed by Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, critical theory, and the work of Roland Barthes. I have recently thought a lot about contemporary forms of "realist" art and media that play with different modes of deception. This project, which culminated in my book, Real Deceptions: The Contemporary Reinvention of Realism, tries to develop an approach to a radical aesthetic politics by arguing that rather than aiming to see beyond deceptions that distort reality, we should take seriously the reality that lies within the deceptions themselves. Before that, I worked in the area of feminist film theory. This project, Feminine Look: Sexuation, Spectatorship, Subversion, sought to intervene in traditional Film Studies accounts of female spectatorship, tracing a different path through the work of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan upon which scholarship in this area has developed.  By contrast with dominant strands of feminist film theory scholarship, which tend to ask how spectatorship is influenced by sexual difference, I explored the question of how particular spectatorial encounters may facilitate different “sexuated” responses.My current project on pleasure builds in some ways upon these previous interests. It extends my thinking in the area of feminist film theory in attempting to resuscitate the category of pleasure, which has played an often villianous role in traditional scholarship in this area.  Rather than see pleasure as the lure for abiding hegemonic narratives, I look for pleasure’s transgressive potential. In this sense, I aim to subject pleasure to a procedure similar to my earlier treatment of realism by investigating its potential for both undermine damaging systems of power and for consolidating communal social bonds. 
 
 
Jennifer Friedlander is the Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies at Pomona College in Claremont, California. She is the author of Moving Pictures: Where the Police, the Press, and the Art Image Meet (Sheffield Hallam University Press, 1998); Feminine Look: Sexuation, Spectatorship, and Subversion (State University of New York Press, 2008); and Real Deceptions: The Contemporary Reinvention of Realism (Oxford University Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture; CiNéMAS: Journal of Film Studies; Subjectivity; (Re)-turn: A Journal of Lacanian Studies; Journal for Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society; Subjectivity; and International Journal of Žižek Studies and in several edited volumes. She is a founding and central committee member of LACK, an organization devoted to the promotion and development of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory.  As the 2021 Fulbright-Freud Visiting Scholar, she will work on a new monograph, “Powers of Pleasure: The Psychopolitics of Enjoyment in Media and Popular Culture” and will teach a Master’s seminar in the Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft at Universität Wien on this research topic. 

The Writing of Dr. Indra