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Sigmund Freud & Arthur Schnitzler: A Doppelgänger Relationship?

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Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens

NW3 5SX

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Dr Marie Kolkenbrock (University of Cambridge)

For Sigmund Freud's 162nd birthday, join us for a talk about his relationship with the writer whom Freud referred to as his literary doppelgänger.

The Austrian doctor-writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) was one of the most central figures of Viennese modernism, living and working in the Habsburg metropolis at the same time as Sigmund Freud. Although his work has inspired Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, David Hare's The Blue Room and Tom Stoppard's Dalliance, he is still relatively unknown in the English-speaking world.

The talk will introduce the audience to the productive, but also extremely ambivalent intellectual and personal relationship between Freud and this literary writer. In a famous letter to Schnitzler, Freud admitted to the so-called ‘doppelganger anxiety’ he felt towards the other man. “I have gained the impression”, Freud wrote, “that you have learnt through intuition – though actually as a result of sensitive introspection – everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons.”

We find in Freud’s texts several references to Schnitzler’s work as literary illustrations for his psychoanalytic theories. A medical doctor himself, Schnitzler remained skeptical about some of the key assumptions of psychoanalysis. However, his literary writings have been read as case studies that subtly illuminate the complex pitfall of human relationships.

We will explore how his work and psychoanalysis intersect and will discuss how literature can become a source of psychoanalytic insight.

This talk coincides with the exhibition Austrian by Training: The Viennese Modernist Arthur Schnitzler During World War I at the National State Archive of Austria in Grillparzerhaus, Vienna, on display until 12 June 2018.


Dr Marie Kolkenbrock is a Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer Department of German and Dutch University of Cambridge.

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Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens

NW3 5SX

United Kingdom

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