Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Interpretation of Dreams 3

That Freud was a scholar and widely read no one can dispute. The Interpretation of Dreams opens with an amazingly comprehensive review of the then current literature on the subject.  One could have expected no less from the brilliant erudite Freud.  His original bibliography runs to some 78 books on the subject of dreams from various philosophers, professors, psychologists and doctors - Aristotle, Schopenhauer and Schleiermacher to name but some of the scholars on the philosophical front to the early great psychologist Wilhelm Wundt.  He also quotes three titles from the pen of Henry Havelock Ellis ( 1859 - 1939) who was a British doctor, sexual psychologist and social reformer.  Needless to say he lists one of the books by the famous pioneering British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley (1835–1918), namely The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (Macmillan, 2nd edition, 1868) - after whom the very famous and internationally renowned hospital is called.  Freud's sources were mainly in the German, French and English languages with even three in the Italian.  With typical and almost obsessive erudition, Freud added a postscript to his bibliography where he points out that as he was correcting the final proofs of this book that he learned of a further book recently published on dreams (cf., The Interpretation of Dreams, Oxford World's Classics, OUP, 1999, pp. 413-416).

Beginning the book with a fairly long review of current literature was a brilliant ploy.  It showed that its author was no idle or lazy speculator, but rather a serious scholar who had read all the available material on dreams.  He realised, as he wrote to Wilhelm Fliess, that this introductory chapter stood as a "shield in front of the rest" and the leisurely "walk through the dark forest of authors in this chapter served to exhibit the essential poverty of existing theories on dreams." ( Gay, Peter, Freud: A Life For Our Time, Max, London, 2006, 106)  While many of these authors had caught a glimpse of the truth behind dreams, that is all they had managed to catch for their theories were largely unconvincing.  Freud argued that it was necessary to begin again with him - with his own magisterial understanding of the truth behind dreams.

Me in Ionad an Bhlascaoid, Dún Chaoin - fior-áit na na mbrionglóidi!

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