£48 – £65

INTRODUCING FREUD: Hysteria

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Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens

NW3 5SX

United Kingdom

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This is the first of five Saturday courses offering a complete introduction to Freud. The course will be accessible to beginners - but is also designed for those already familiar with Freud’s work who wish to acquaint themselves with the results of the latest research and scholarship, and up-date themselves on the recent debates addressing the intellectual issues and controversies surrounding it.

Psychoanalysis emerged from Freud’s work on hysteria: from his determination to develop a method for relieving its symptoms, and from his attempts to formulate a theory to explain the mechanism of their formation. We will explore hysteria as a cultural phenomenon of the late 19th century and as a psychoanalytic concept, analysing in detail Freud’s thinking as it developed up to the moment when he believed he had created a complete theory of the disorder – and beyond this to the abandonment of that first theory, which opened the way for the creation of his final, mature conception of neurosis. We will also study his clinical practice as it gradually evolved into what we now recognise as ‘psychoanalysis’ - and discuss Freud’s personal involvement with the problem of hysteria.

Session 1: Freud took up hysteria as his central scientific problem when he studied under Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere in Paris, and witnessed the master’s demonstrations of the power of hypnosis to remove – and to induce – hysterical symptoms. Charcot – the leading neurologist in Europe at the time – taught his students that, in cases of hysteria, perfectly genuine physical symptoms occurred without any underlying physical cause. This became the starting point for all Freud’s later work. We will carefully re-construct the meaning of ‘hysteria’ in this specific medico-scientific context, and investigate what Freud ‘saw’ at the Salpetriere. We will then follow him back to Vienna, where he began to treat his own patients, and where he began to employ the new ideas about hysteria developed by his senior colleague, Joseph Breuer, as a result of observations made in the case of ‘Anna O.’ It was the collaboration between Freud and Breuer(brought to fruition in the jointly authored‘Studies on Hysteria’(1895)) that lead to the idea that the physical symptoms of hysteria were produced by (unconscious) emotional conflicts.

Session 2: Freud’s own distinctive way of understanding Hysteria – in terms of defence against sexuality – began to emerge in his early case histories, especially ‘Lucy R’ and ‘Elizabeth von R’. We will examine these, tracing the emergence of Freud’s concepts of ‘defence’ and ‘conversion’, and then follow the further development of his thinking as he formulated his first complete theory of hysteria: the famous ‘Seduction Theory’. The Seduction Theory remains highly relevant today – centring as it does on the role of childhood sexual abuse in causing neurosis in adulthood and on the issue of the long-term psychological consequences of such childhood experiences – and we will discuss in detail the on-going controversy over why exactly Freud finally abandoned it.

Session 3: After abandoning the Seduction Theory, Freud’s developed his final theory of the disorder as rooted in fixation to the early stages of infantile sexual development, and we will explore in detail the implications of this theory. He had downplayed the importance of the traumatic factor when he broke with Breuer, over his insistence that the neuroses were exclusively sexual in origin, and again when he abandoned the Seduction Theory, but after WW1 the war neuroses brought the traumatic factor back into prominence. More recently the emergence of PTSD has done the same. We will review the current standing of Freud’s sexual theory of neurosis, and the relation of hysteria to currently used diagnostic categories. We will also look at the fate of hysteria in contemporary psychoanalysis, for example in the Lacanian school. Finally, we will address the important question: was hysteria simply a product of the cultural conditions of the 19th century? In other words, does hysteria still exist today?

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Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens

NW3 5SX

United Kingdom

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Refunds up to 7 days before event

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