Kicking off on 23 March, a special exhibition at the Sigmund Freud Museum explores the relationship between Sigmund Freud and the writers of the Young Vienna circle: PARALLEL ACTIONS. Freud and the Writers of Young Vienna reveals the influence of psychoanalysis on the work of the writers Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Felix Salten.
The relationships between psychoanalysis and literature in turn-of-the-century Vienna can be interpreted as a kind of “parallel action”: although the neurologist Sigmund Freud and the “neurotic artists” of Young Vienna with their explorations of the human soul pursued similar goals, there is barely any evidence of official alliances, with personal relationships remaining the exception. As the exhibition demonstrates, drawing on selected writings, works and letters, however, Freud’s theory had a major influence on the writers.
Freud was also a keen observer of his contemporaries’ work, if only from afar: In a letter of 1922, he told Arthur Schnitzler – one of the earliest readers of the Interpretation of Dreams, who also kept records of his dreams all his life – of his long hesitation in contacting him personally, explaining this hesitance with a “fear of finding my own double”. Karl Kraus, in turn, went down in the history of psychoanalysis as one of Freud’s fiercest opponents. In fact, the Fackel publisher’s statements and aphorisms reflect a profound understanding and long-standing appreciation of Freud’s theory, before his critical examination turned into polemic and criticism. Hugo von Hofmannsthal shared Freud’s fascination with the ancient world and mythological figures: his adaptations of the Oedipus and Electra themes can be interpreted as an examination of psychoanalysis. Felix Salten, the author of the anonymous Josefine Mutzenbacher and Bambi, whose articles for the Neue Freie Presse Sigmund Freud would read regularly, shared central themes with the protagonists of psychoanalysis ranging from adolescence to female sexuality. Living in the direct vicinity of Freud, it is likely that Salten and Freud knew each other before their first recorded meetings in 1926.
Historical wardrobes as exhibition displays
Obtained specially for this purpose, historical wardrobes that could also have furnished the authors’ private rooms and studies serve as exhibition displays: a Louis Seize cabinet, for example, is dedicated to Hugo von Hofmannsthal as the owner of 18th century furnishings. Each author is assigned his own item of furniture, in keeping with his sense of style, to present biographical details, documents and audiovisual content.
The special exhibition runs until the end of the year and is a coproduction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography as part of the “Young Vienna. Nature plus X” series of exhibitions involving various institutions from Vienna and Salzburg between March 2018 and April 2019.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a booklet.