Freud on Trial

Freud on Trial

Revisionist scholarship on Freud has become a total assault on his achievement. If it were to succeed, virtually nothing would be left to value in his work. What would remain is a view of his legacy as a poison in our culture that needs to be purged. Two recent publishing events show how far the anti-Freud attack has carried: a featured review of four works of revisionist literature by Frederick Crews in the highbrow New York Review of Books and a cover story in the middlebrow Time that raises the question, “Is Freud Dead?”. ‘ Crews himself was once a distinguished practitioner of psychoanalytic criticism. The ferocity of his attack has all the animus of a resentful renegade, though he offers the reader no account of his own evolution from champion of psychoanalysis to implacable adversary. Freud, the riddle-solver, identified himself with Oedipus. In the eyes of Crews and others, he has become Laius, an invitation to parricide.

Crews devotes a good deal of space to Freud’s alleged unscrupulousness in the cooking of evi- dence (for example, his unreliable reporting of what actually occurred in his therapeutic encounters) and in his manipulation of patients to serve the interests of psychoanalysis. He recounts a story of how Freud induced a patient and protege to divorce his wife and marry one of his own patients, a bank heiress, who would then provide funds for Freud’s psychoanalytic projects. Freud was able to accomplish this feat by persuading the protege that he was a latent homosexual and that the new marriage would somehow keep him from a homosexual fate. “The divorce and re-marriage” resulted “in the deaths of both of the abandoned, devastated spouses,” an early suit for divorce by the newly married woman and repeated attempts at suicide by Freud’s protege. 2

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima