Freud, of all contemporaries, is the one with the greatest cultural influence on the twentieth century. As psychoanalysts, we are both tremendously privileged and burdened that the founder of our discipline was such a towering figure—privileged, because if he were a lesser spirit, psychoanalysis would hardly be so widespread as it is today, and many of us would not have had the freeing experience of being analyzed; burdened
because psycho-analytic theory and practice are so peculiarly interdependent that to challenge Freud’s tenets ‘has usually been responded to with anxiety, as if a sacrilegious outrage were being perpetrated’ (Sutherland, 1980, p. 842). Pursuing the same line of thought, we quickly come upon the surprising reflection that among contemporary disciplines ‘theology and psychoanalysis are unique…in that their specialists constantly have their originator in mind’ (Patrick Mahony, 1977, p. 57).
Perhaps what I have been groping to explain is that the mystification and overidealization surrounding Freud have been inevitable to some extent. Yet it is Patrick Mahony’s conviction that such overidealization, characterized by endlessly repeated generalizations, has been very stultifying to scholarship on Freud, so that an astonishing amount of research remains to be done, both in correcting old distortions and in discovering new truths, including those about Freud the writer.
A brief look at Freud as a reader might set into relief Patrick Mahony’s proper concern. We can draw large profit from scrutinizing the summaries of texts Freud the reader has given us, since the degree to which those summaries distort original texts tells much about Freud’s own tendentiousness. Hence the reader-critic might procure one of Freud’s primary sources, simply underlining all the passages not accounted for in Freud’s summary, draw up an overall diagnostic picture of those passages, and compare it with Freud’s. Such a logical, sure-fire procedure is evident in the remarkable study of Jensen’s Gradiva by Kofman (1972). Among other things, she pointed up Freud’s neglect of the protagonist’s castration anxiety and she minutely traced in Freud’s resumé the omission of certain revelatory indices, so that Jensen’s novel was made to appear more enigmatic than it really was. Another precious indicator of how Freud read is his marginalia and marking in his private books. 1 Finally, there remains the open consideration of Freud as selfreader, and here we would examine how he summarizes his own previous writings (although to distinguish what he reread of himself and what he wrote from his retentive memory is hardly resolvable, save through his explicit avowal).