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departure, he d eclared that the mute 'e' of the second syllable

gave him no sense of security against the intrusion, which he
so much dread ed, of some foreign and contradictory element,
and that he had therefore decided to accent the 'e'. This
explanation (an excellent sample of the obsessional neurotic
style) was, however, clearly inadequate; the most that it could
claim to be was a rationalization. The truth was that 'aber'
was< 1wehr'

[ 'def
the t AND THE ORIGINS OF order

lette1 JOHN FORRESTER s and
had' )duce
the \\"Ord itself, for reasons which will become apparent
immediatel)'.1 For, when he told it me, I could not help
noticing that the word was in fact an anagram of the name
of his lady. H er name contained an 's', and this he had put
last, that is, immediately before the 'amen' at the end. 1Ne
m ay say, therefore, that by this process he had brought his
'Samen· ['semeri'J into contact with the woman he loved ; in
imagination, that is to say, he had masturbated with h er. H e
himself, ho\.vever, had never noticed this very obvious con-
nection; his defensive forces had allowed themselves to be
fooled by the repressed ones. This is also a good example of
the rule that in time the thing which is meant to be warded
off invariably finds its way into the very means which is being
used for \Varding it off.
I ha\'e already asserted that obsessional thoughts have
undergone a distortion similar to that undergone by dream-
thoughts before they become the manifest content of a dream.
T he technique of this distortion may therefore be of interest
1 (The actual word will be found below, p. 280.)
Lan gua ge and the Origin s of Psychoanalysis
Language and the
Origins of

John Forrester

New York Columbia University Press 1980

Copyright 1980 John Forrester

All rights merved.

Printtd in Gr~al Britain

Librar y of Congress Cataloging In Publlcutlon Data

Forrester, J ohn.
Language and the origins of psychoanalysis.

Bibliography: p.
I. Psychoanalysis. 2. Psycholinguistics.
3. Symboijsm (Psychology) 4. Philology. I. T itle.
BFl75.F65 1980 150.19' 5 80- 13755
ISBN 0- 231 - 05136-0
Whal I wanl back is whal I was
Before the bed. before the knife,
Before 1he brooch-pin and the salve.
Fixed me in this parenthesis;
Horses ftueni in the wind,
A place, a 1ime gone o ut of mind.

Sylvia Pla1h, T/,. Eye-mote

since feeling is firs1

who pays any a11en1ion
10 1he syniax of 1hings
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood appro,es,
and kisses arc a better fate
1han wisdom
lady i swear by all Dowers. Don"1 cry
- the bcsl gesture of my brain is less 1han
your eyelids" ftuuer which says

we are fo r each olher: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's no t a paragraph

And dea1h i think is no parenthesis

e. e. cummings
Preface ix

Acknowledgrments xii
Notes 0 1J Tex1s and TrQJ1slatio11s xiv
List of Abbreviations xvi
Aphasia, Hysteria and the Talking Cure I
Hysteria 8
Aphasia 14
The Theory of the Talking-Cure 1.9
2 The Metapsychology of Spcccll 40
Constructing the Machine 40
The Machine Speaks 49
3~boli~ E
Symbolism in Hysteria 66
Symbolism in The /nterpre1ati0t1 of Dreams ( 1900) 70
Universal Symbolism: Approaches to the Problem
( 1905-10) 76
The History of the Oedipus Complex. 1897- 1910 84
Myth and Dream, 1910- 1I 96
Jung's Approach to the Symbol 102
Freud's Theory of Symbolism I 11
The Debate Closes: Jones' Theory of Symbolism 122
4 Grammar 131
Symptom as Talk: Talk as Symptom::Symp1om as
Symptom: Talk as Talk 131
The Propositional Structure of eurosis 141
S Philology 166
Philology in the Nineteenth Century 168
A Question of Nerve: Leonardo, Moses and the Problem
of Tradition 180
The Specimen Theme of Psychoanalysis 188
Who were the Philologists? 193
Conclusion 211
viii Contents
Notts 213
Bib/iogrophy 256
lnd~x 282
There is no doubl thal this work rerers i1selr10. and rcr•rs 10, a number
or "'Orks ID a number or genres or ps)'ChOanalytic Jilcralure. Three
works, each or which has proved or invaluable assistanCC, represent
1brcc or 1bcsc genres: Jones dcfini1ivc biography or Freud,
Ellcnbergcr"s monumcn1al compila1ion Tht Discm..,,ry o/ tht Uncon-
scious. and the exact. me1hodical and cons1an1ly in1eltigcn1 Tht
language of Ps)'ch()Ql1al)'sis or Laplanche and Pon ta Iis. I have rollowed
1hc biographical me1hod only in so far as it seemed 10 me to throw ligb1
on the na1ure or dcvclopmeni or the psychoanalytical work 1ha1 Freud"s
life represen1s. The chronological marking and assiduous amassing or
historical rac1s to be found in Ellcnbcrger"s work has been or enormous
help whenever dctrulcd qucs1ions or historical context have seemed to
make a significant contribulion 10 1hc undcrs1anding of 1he concep1ua l
fo undations or psychoanalysis: this aspecl will be found mosl promi-
ncnlly displayed in Chapter I. T he working manual lha1 The Language
of Psychoanalysis embodies has been a con1inual source or s1imula1ion,
as well as pulling u brake upon overly specula1ive in1erpre1a1ions. In so
far as 1he aim of my work is a concep1ual reading, rather than a
hisloricul uccounl . many or hs 11rgumcn1s should be read in parallel wilh
lbose lo be round in Laplanche and Ponialis' book. I
There also cxis1s a genre of psychoa nalytic wri1ings 1ha1 is unique in
charnctcr: analyses ei1hcr or Freud"s own dreams, slips e1c., o r of those
casc·historics he wrote, undertaken to vindicate. deepe n or criticize the
exemplification of psychoanalysis that F reud's work represents. While
such 'grea1-man' hislory is not an isolated phenomenon, in psychoana-
lytic 1erms many of 1hcse hagiographical works contain arguments or
great theoretical inlcrest and impor1ance. The question of the special
relationship that every analys1 has wi1h Freud, and that every psych<>-
analytic texl bear5 10 those of Freud's, is beyond the scope of ibis
introduction to this thesis. Suffice it to cite the most illuminating
discussion or this topic that I know or. tha1 or Wladimir Granoff in
Fi/ia11ons, pp. 7- 2.S4. who raises the question whc1hcr 1hc relation to
Freud is no1 consti1u1ive or psychoanalysis itsclr.

x Preface
There arc •cry few accounts of psychoanalysis which take as their
starting-point the fact that it is a talking<ur<, and that one might expect
its theory to deal directly with the importance of language in the course
of the cure. The central problem is, as it was for Freud in 1890, to
explain "the power of words". IL will bet beset of answers to this question
that will interest u,.; as we shall see. they have implications that
permeate all of psychoanalytic theory. But this thesis cannot claim to be
without forerunners. There are a number of works thHt have included a
discussion of the exegetical and linguistic character of the science that
Freud developed. For example, SU7;mne Langer wrote:

The great contribution of Freud to the philosophy of mind has been

the realization that human behavior is not only a food-gelling
strutegy, but is also a language; that every mov~ is at the same time a
g'lturt. Symbolization is both an end and an instrument. (Langer,
1948, p. 41 )

Or we may quote Jiirgen Habermas:

lnuially psychoanalysis appears only as a special form of interpret·

ation. IL provides theoretical perspectives and technical rules for the
interpretation of symbolic structures. Freud always pallemed the
interpretation of dreams after the hermeneutic model of philological
research. ( Habermas, 1968, p. 214)

But this is one of the rew works in the English language that lakes as
its central concern the relations of speech and lan11uage with both
psychoanalytic theory and therapy, from the metapsychology to the
1rnnsferencc. 2 Indeed, I have sometimes made the decision to expose
these linguistic elements in Freud's theory at the expense of other
themes that. on the surface, would seem to be of greater importance. Al
1imes. then, this book will appear obsessively single-minded in the
pursuit of its theme. The extent of this obsession, and the concomitant
omission of other clements of psychoanalytic theory. should not lead
my reader to the mistaken conclusion that I believe or would have
others believe that other themes are of minor imponancc. that they can
always be reinterpreted in the light of a 'linguistic' framework, or that
any mention of concepts derived from realms other than the 'linguistic'
is of necessity subject to some new linguistic ver.ion of a transcendental
critique. Bul I cannot renounce the conviction, many times tested in the
course of my auempts 10 find an ·objective' reading of the texts, that
language is the central concern of psychoanalysis.'
Acknowltdgtmtnts xiii
Publishing Corporation, for the extracts from Fi~ ltcturts on Psycho-
Analysis, and Group Psychology; The Hoganh Press Ltd and
W. W. Norton &Company Inc, for lheextrac1S from Out/into/ Psycho-
Analysis, Tht Ego and the Id, and Tht Qutstian of l.Ay Analysis; The
Hogarth PrC5S Ltd and Routledge & Kegan Paul, in conjunction with
Princeton University Press, for the excerpts from Tht Frtud/ J1111g
utters: Th" Correspondence berwten Sigmund Frtud and C. G. Jung,
edited by William McGuire, translated by Ralph Manheim and
R. F. C. Hull (American Bollingen Series XCIV), copyright © 1974 by
Sigmund Freud Copyrights Ltd and Erbengemcinschaft Professor Dr
C. O. Jung; Routledge& Kegan Paul and W. W. Norton & Company
Inc, for the extracts from uonardo do Vinci; the British Psychological
Society, for the extracts from the article ' The Theory of Symbolism' by
Ernest Jones published in British J<Jurnalof Ps)'Chology(l916); Granada
Publishing Lid and Liverigbt Publishing Corporation. for the poem
'since feeling is first' bye. e. cummings; The Hogiirth Press Ltd, on
behalf of Katherine Jones, for the extrac1S from Frtt Associations by
Ernest Jones; Olwyn Hughes on behalf of Ted Hughes. and Alfred A.
Knopf Inc, fo r the extract from 'The Eye-mote' in ~ Colossus and
Otlwr P~ms by Sylvia Plath; lottmational Universities P~ Inc, for
the quotations from the Minutes of Vienna Psycho-analytic Society,
vol• I- JV, translated byN. Nunbcrgandcdited by Herman N. Nunberg
and Ernst Fcdcm; and Warner Bros Music Ltd, fo r the extract from the
song 'Gates of Eden' by Bob Dylan.
Notes on Texts and
I. The English text of Freud 1ha1 I have cited is, of course, the
exemplary and extraordinary Standard Edition of the Complete
Psydwlogleal fVorks of Sigmw1d Frew/, edited by James Strachey in
collaboration with An na Freud. assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan
T yson (1953- 74). My debt lo the erudition, exactitude and unifonncare
displayed on every page or its twenty four volumes is as incalculable as
every other reader of Freud's now is, whether he is read in English,
French or Gcnnan. In a work of the sort I have wnuen. I can safely say
that any fidelity lo Freud's thought owes as much 10 the Editors of the
Standard Ediuon as 10 my own allempts to ma1n1a1n standards of rigour
and scholarship.
2. Where translations of works cited in this book exist and 1 am
aware of their existence - I have given references to the translated
works, rather than 10 the original, except where the reference in
question explicitly cites the original text. If no translation exists. the
translation that I give is my own. I have checked the transla tions or all
passages cited from the Stmul11rcl Edition, using both the Gesommelte
Werk<' und the S111die1u111sgabeedition, which benefits from the accurate
readings of F reud's text established by the Standard Etlitio11. Where 1
have modified the translation, a corresponding note will be found.
Perhaps I s hould mal:.eclearthat. wnere 1 have modified the translation,
1 do 001 necessarily believe that my modified text is a more accurate or
belier 1rnnsla1ion than that to be found in the Standard Editi0t1.
although there arc instances where 1 believe this to be so. In many
pa&\.agcs my modifica1ions are allemativc translations. which are hoped
to give at least as faithful or as treacherous a reading in SE. but which
attcmp1 10 bring out a certain nuance that was no1 quite captured by the
editors. In modifications such as these. 1 have almost certrunly lost
another nuance, this latter often being the reason why the SE
translation was chosen. My modified translations are thus in the service
of n particular reading of Freud to be found in this work . 1 hope that my
List of Abbreviations
SE The Standard Edition oftlte Com11lete l'syc:hofogicaf Work s
of Sigmund Freud
Origins F reud. The Origins of l'sychoa1wly.1is. lettn.1 to IVi/ltelm
F//ess. Drafts and Notes: 1887- 1902 (The reference is
given to SE only. when the passage in question is
reproduced there.)
Minutes Minutes ofthe Vienna l'syc/10011alytic Society. vols I- IV. M .
Nunberg (trans.), Herman Nunberg and Ernst Fedcrn
(eds) (Nev.· York: International Universities Press. 1962-
Jonts Ernest Jones. Sigm1U1d Freud lift and IVIN'k. 3 vols
( London: The Hogarth Press. I 9S3- 7). (I have employed
the second edition or vol. 1, published in 1954; references
10 the second and third volumes arc to the first editions).
SP Abraham. Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis.
CP Abraham, Clinical Papers and EssO)'S on Ps)•rhoanalysis.
c. Ferenc2i, First Conrributions to Psychoanalysis.
F.C. rerenczi. Fur1her Contributions to Psych0<m"lysis.
Fin. Fcrenczi, Final Contributlo11.r l<J Psyc:hot111t1l1sis.
C IV Jung. The Colle<·ted Works of C. G. J1mg.
E Lucan, Ecrits (The lirsl number following E gives page
numbers in t he French edition. the second in the English
translation, Etrits: A Selection.)

1 Aphasia, Hysteria
and the Talking Cure
Al dawn my lover
Comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts
To shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think
There arc no words
But these to tell what's true
And there arc
No truths outside
The gates of Eden
Bob Dylan

Psychoanalysis is the theory of a therapy. The therapy, in its purest and

most 'original' form, consists of a ' talking cure'.' Whal, we may start by
asking. could comprise a therapy in the interchange of words'/ The cure
Freud devised was more than a replacement for lhe unsatisfactory
methods of electrotherapy and hydrotherapy, or the sanatorium cures
of turn of the century novels. (Cf. Steiner, 1964.) He unseated
physicalism' from its pride of place in lhc treatment of nervous illness
and located all therapeutic power in the doctor- patient couple. In order
to understand the relation between therapeutic and theoretical dis-
coum, .,.e must find out bow it became clear to Freud that the
thcrapcuuc situation created the conditions for a cure of a major
disease. and hence how Freud located all the necessary conditions for
this cure in the necessary conditions of language.
In order to construct the theory, Freud located all his explanatory
entities in the psyche; he described a mentul apparatus. which we will
examine in Chapter 2, for which the 'world' is represented by a series of
varying displacements of quantity. Even the transference is the transfer
2 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
from what is peripheral to what is central in that apparatus. 1 But it
would be a mistake to localiu the psyche in a body. to materialize it too
readily. If we take Freud·s favourite science ofarchaeology as the model
through which the psyche can be understood, we sec very clearly the
way in which a science of the psyche can be practised independently o f
definite relations 10 the body. What is required in archaeology is not a
theory of lhe relation of mind to mailer - though we wo uld no t deny
that this would bcvcryuscful- but rather a 1hcoryof1he productions of
signs, a theory of represen tation. h is of great mo ment both for a
philosophy of the human sciences and for a theory of man that the signs
of man·s death - in particulartumuli and burial mo unds - are amongst
the first signs Lo engage the archaeologist. Signs are flrsl and foremost
signs of absence and death. If psychoanalysis is an archaeology of the
living. it is no less true that its central preoccupation is absence and its
signs. now complicated by the dimensio n of time. so 1ha1 no t o nly do
signs witness absence. but also witness the change of such absence over
time - dialectics. The elTccts of talk - such is the cure - and the theory
of talk - such might be cxpcc1ed of the theory of psychoanalysis.
When we speak of language we may be taken in many dilTcrent
senses; here I wish to follow Freud and start wit h the immediate
language of psychoanalysis: t.he monologue of the patient. The first. such
monologue was that of Anna 0 ., Josef Breuer's patient of 1881. who
insisted o n his hearing her out. Breuer, as family physician and personal
friend, followed her lead and began 10 build a set of appropriate
structures for understanding her talk. He began collaborating with his
young friend Freud and togetherthey came to certain conclusions as 10
the nature of the cure which Anna 0 . had created:

each individual hysterical symptom immediately and permanently

disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing clearly to light the
memory of the event by which ii was provoked and in arousing its
aocompanying alTcct, and -..hen lhc patient had dcscnbcd thal event
in the greatest possible detail and had put the alTccl into words.
( Br<ucr and Freud (1893a) SE II 6)

To the t"o pos1tivistic physicians. well schooled in the fervent

reducuonism of the Vienna Medical School•. both master-physiologists
and pathologists'. such a phenomenon as the talking-cure was a great
surprise. They met its mystery with lhe theory-construction of !heir
academic masters: the neurophysiology of the bruin w11s never far from
their minds as they con1empla1ed the miracles their patients were
Aphasia, Hysteria <u1d IM To/king Cure 3
performing upon themselves with a minimum of physical therapeutic
intervention. Freud redefined the picture of the cure somewhat in a
paper of 1894:

The o peration ofBreucr's cathartic method lies in leading back the

excitation in this way from the somatic to the psychical sphere
deliberately. and in then forcibly bringing about a settlement of the
contradiction by means of thought-activity and a discharge of the
excitation by talking. (Freud (1894a) SE Ill SO)

Through t his conflict and resolution of ideas. words replaced the

symptoms or hysteria. Anticipating a later argument, we see the private
language or hysteria translated into the public language or the
innervation or the phar)'flX. The translation proeeSS becomes audible
and visible when the symptom 'joins in the conversation· (Af itsprtthen).

While we arc working at one ofthcsc symptoms we come across the

interesting and not undesired phenomenon of 'joining in the
conversation". ... The intensity or the symptom (let U$ take for
instance a desire to \'Omit) increases the deeper we penetrate into
one of the relevant pathogenic memories; it reaches its climax
shortly before the patient gives utterance to that memory; and when
he has finished doing so it suddenly diminishes or even vanishes
completely for a time. If. owing to resistance, the patient delays his
telling for a long time, t he tension or the sensation - of the desire to
vomit - becomes un bearable, and if we cannot force him to speak he
actually begins to vomit. (Breuer and Freud (189Sd) SE II 296- 7; cf.
Freud (19 18b) SE XVII 76)

Thus the lhcrapeulic means are verbal. In addition. the theory oft he
neurotic symptom includes language as an essential component. Each
symptom is constructed on the basis of certain ideas. as Freud's first
paper on the neuroses demonstrated (Freud. 1893c). The dilference
between a neurological and a neuro1ic symptom is 1hat the latter's
location in lhe body is determined by the specific structure ofa system of
thoughts, whose expression in the body is often bound up with a verbal
tum of phrase. The peculiarity of the neurotic symptom is twofold:
firstly, the locus of the symptom betrays a false corporeal11y, 10 so far a.s
it is not that organ in its bodily solidit)' tllnt is 'diseased', but the 'idea' of
that organ that is the line of crystallization of the neurosis. Secondly, the
expression of words in the body amounts to a displacement of the
4 language and the Origins of P•>'<'hoanalysis
proper locus of words. We will retum 10 the 1heore1ical oonscquence of
this double peculiarity. For oow, we should note that the tailing-cure
has a symmetry':
a. Worm replace symptoms in the prOC<SS of the cure;
b. ft 1s words that give a specific form 10 the symptoms. We might
wish to subsume this under the more general principle that, in
order to explain the specific character of each symptom. it is
necessary 10 assume that the symptom is equivalent to a verbal
message. (Cf. Szasz, 1962)
Throughout this work I will sometimes be employing the term 'word'
where another might think that 'idea' or ' thought' was more ap-
propriate, and sometimes I will appear 10 make li11lc or no distinction
between 'words' and 'ideas'. Qb,iously, one can distinguish between the
concept of a 'word' and the ooncept of a ·1hough1'. Bui, having made
this distinction, one might be well justified in treating them as
analogous, relying upon cenain crucial similarities. Some justification
of this practice would seem to be in order. lbisjus1ification leans mainly
upon the usage that Freud made of the terms 'idea', ·presentation·.
'word·presentatioo·. 'object-presentatioo' and their fundamental re-
lation 10 the key distinction drawn in psychoanalysis between the
·conscious' and the·uoconscious'. (I rekr the reader to the enlnC$ under
th= headings in Laplanche and Pon1alis (1973). ) Lei us start with the
term 'idea'.
Freud fell free to speak of·unconscious ideas' and, from this, we may
conclude that one aspect of the classical conception or the idea was of
secondary importance in his usage of the word, namely, ' the conno-
tation of the act of subjective presentation of an object 10 consciousness.
For Freud, an idea or presentation is 10 be understood rat her as what
comes from the object and is registered in the "mnemic systems'"
(Laplanchc and Pontalis, 1973, p. 200). Thus, in the Project, the idea,
and the act of thought that denotes the movement of ideas, are
essentially a cuthcxis of mcmory·tracC$, which are. as we shall sec in
Chapter 2. thcmsclvC$ coded into a system akin 10 that provided by a
language. Thus ~ithcr ideas nor memory-tract$ can be thought of as
weak ·copies' of the objects they represent; they have their place in
·1hought·reahty' aoeording to the place that they take up lD a system.
But this system is distinct from that which makes up the system of
word-presentations: in the Project and in later works, Freud spoke of
the processes of thought as distinct from the consciousness that
a11achmcnt 10 word-presentations lends 10 them. Indeed, one could say
Aphasia, Hysteria and the Talking Cur~ 5
1hat the aim of psychoanalysis is 10 go beyond 1he ideas presented 10
consciousness in verbal form, in an a11cmp1 10 reconstruct these
unconscious. pre-verbal thought processes. We 1hus have a model in
which 1hcrc arc two separate systems of prcscn1a1ions. which can be
used in a 1opographical fashion. bu1 whose essential propcnics reside in
the dis1inc1ion between the two sys1cms and in their possible mutual
ar1icufa1ion. We 1hen find that another slrand in Freud's 1hough1 lends
10 subvcrl 1hc systemic model. We mighl call lhis new strand 1he
ins1rumcntalis1 or opera1ionalis1 conccp1ion of the unconscious, which
Freud expressed succinc1ly in a le1tcr 10 G roddeck ( Briefe ilber das Es, p.
38): 'Thus the unconscious is only somc1hing miraculous. a sign for the
lack of bellcr acquaintanceship (knowledge) .. : Or. more clearly, in
A11 0111/ilw of P.<ycl1oa11alysis:

We have discovered technical me1hods of filling up the gaps in the

phcnon1cna of our consciousness. and we make use of 1hose methods
jusl as a physicist makes use of experiment. In this manner we infer a
number of processes which arc in 1hcmscl•cs 'unknowable' and
inlcrpolatc them in those that arc conscious 10 us. And if. for tDStancc.
we say: 'Al this point an unconsetous memory in1crvcncd', what this
means is: 'At this point something occurred of which we arc totally
unable to form a conception, but which. 1f i1 bad entered our
consciousness. could only have been described in such and such a
way.' (Freud (1940a) SE XXlll 196- 7)

Now this is a conception oft he unconscious thnt puts to o ne side the

hypothesis of unoonscious ideas, and places all the emphasis on wha1
conscious translations it is necessary to give of1hcm if some sense is to be
given 10 psychic life - 1ha1 is, it places all 1he emphasis on wha1 verbal
and conscious insertions must be made. h is a oonccp1ion for which the
forge11ing of a word or phrase. its subsequent recovery and the
reconstruction of a second, 'inlersocting' SCI of phrases could be
paradigmatic. The notion of 1wo sys1cms is SCI aside in favour of a
conccpt1on of one system - our conscious. \Crbal discourse - which has
·unaccountable' holes in iL the filling 10 of which amounts to the
recovery of what was unconscious. The notion 1ha1 1hc unconscious is a
pcnnanen1 feature of psychic life could here be expressed by recogniring
1ha1 as one fills in one ·gap' in consciousness. another gap appca~, albci1
in u diffcrcn1 part of Lhesystem. We thus have two different conceptions:
o ne. which is, for 1he mcrapsychology, more dominant, and which calls
o n 1he notion of a system of unconscious ideas, and on un independent
6 language and the Orig/M of PJ)'<hoanalysi.r
system of word·prcscntations, who'"' pcn:cption corresponds to
thought-consciousness. The second conception emphasized that con·
sciousncss is the one ·empiricar point of reference for psychoanalysis.
so that all the empirical evidence of psychoanalysis is rumishcd by the
second system, the word~prcsentations. Any statement about the
second system of "ideas' is purely infer<ntial, a Jaron dt par/tr.
In talking of words as if they were. or as if they were like. unconscious
ideas. 1 will be leaning upon this second conception of the unconscious
as a ·sign of a lack of knowledge', although the first view also gives great
emphasis to word·presentations, which s hare with objcct·prescntations
n fundamental systematic character. When I 111lk of the verbal
1ra11slntion of an unconscious idea as being subject 10 repression, I will
be covering two separate notio ns: the first is the conception that Freud
and Breuer introduced when they conceived of repression as the loss of
the appropriate H'Ords for an idea, these words in some way becoming
converted into the symptom and actually lending the symptom its
specific character. The second notion is actually the more profound. in
that on those occasions when it seems more appropriate to speak of the
repression of an idea, rather than the words which represent it io
consciou.sncss, l can refer my reader to this instrumentalist c.onception
of unconscious ideas, as well as to the notion elaborated by Freud in
1915. that repression consists in depriving ideas of their connection with
word·presentations. We should note that. whichever of the two
conceptions of the unconscious we wo rk with, the primacy of the words
that represent 'ideas' is paramount.
Finally. we might touch upo n an issue that is of wider importance
than the psychoanalytic theory of language: the ultimate relation of
thought to language. This to pic arose as a matter for public discussion in
the last years of the nineteenth century in a number of fields. e.g. in the
Miiller·Galton debate around the question. 'Is thought possible witho ut
language?'; in the experimental psychologists' d ebate on the pheno-
menon of'imageless thought'; and in the psychological critique of the
diagram·makers in aphasia studies. who "'ere accused of not dis·
tinguishing language from thought, of not distinguishing disturbances
of speech from disturbances of thought. Freud's position in this debate
""$ dccid<-dly unclear. He distinguished thought from its verbal
presentation. and discus..~ the dilfcrenccs that arise \\hen the primary
process acts upon word·presentations as well as on thing·prcsentations.
But his discussion of'trains of thought' always gave the impression that
these trains were fully translatable by verbal chains; indeed. one has the
impression that he conceived of these trains as having as a full
Aplrasia, l/ysttria and rM Talking Curt 7
equivalent a verbal chain. speaking often or them as possessing a
grammar and certain propenies proper to language, e.g. double mean-
ing. The processes he conceived or as specific to the dream·••ork -
condensation, displacement - have close affinities with strictly linguis-
tic dc,-iccs (metaphor, metonymy, tropes, etc.). Certainly Freud never
distinguished sharply between those mcch<tni>ms that act only upon
thought and those that act upon language.
In this sense. he never shared the eagerness of other turn of the
century psychologists - Henry Head, Francis Calton. Kulpe - to insist
upon a department of psychology independent of the sphere of
language and its laws, a department that should become the central
concern of psychology. Freud seemed to have assumed that if it were at
all possible to talk of the laws of thought, these would be very much like
the laws of thought as derived from a study of language. In this sense, he
remained very much one of those thinkers who disdained a sharp
division between thought and languagr. Such a position. reinforced by
the pre-eminence or the study of language in those 5eiences dominated
by the philological model. entailed that Freud. along with so many
others. was a Whorfian without kno" ing it. We might e\·en say that be
was a Wborfian in those days before the distinction between language
and thought bad made it possible for Whorr 10 state his extreme
hypothesis. And all our commentary leaves aside the question of
whether it can possibly make sense to talk of thought as in some manner
lying 'behind" words, acting as a ·private' means ol' representing 'the
world' to the 'self '. The fact that there arc other languages does not
nc-ccssurily entail that there is a stable or a privileged set of presen-
tntions that all languages re-present in their own way. As Quine puts it
' it is not clear even in principle that it makes sense to 1hink of words and
syntax as varying from language to language while the content stays
Rxed'. (Quine. 1953, p. 61.)
It would also appear that Freud recognized the dangers of infinite
regress that beset this topic: if language is the re-presentation or
thought. why cannot we say that thought is the rc·prcseotatioo of
something else that lies 'behind'. and so on. Arguing along lines parallel
to those used by Freud 1ojustify the notion or1he unconscious in 1915,
we could reply to this by saying: we should lei ourselves be content with
positing this 'something· that lies 'behind', but we can make very few
cln1ms a.s to i1s true nature. Certainly " 'hnlt:\'tr '-''t $0Y nbout it \\'ill not
ha ve the value of being phenomenally experienced in the way that
Freud posited we have awareness of thought expressed in words. But,
nonetheless. this ·something' has the status of a valid in fcrencc. and one
8 language and the Origins of P$J'Clunmalysis
1ha1 ii is perhaps necessary 10 draw. Bui -.hcncvcr we wan1 10 give an
attounl orwhal this inferred "thoughf is, "'C h3\C 10 gi>e 8 translation
on words. Whether this ·something· is on a par with the Kantian
noumcnon or whether it is really possible to construct its independent
cx1s1cncc and its independent properties was a question upon which. as
we have already seen. Freud wavered.

In this chapter we will be co ncerned primarily wi1h' the first simple

formula1io n of the theo ry of 1J5ychoanalysis. Two hislorical themes will
be considered in I his connee1ion: the theory of the neuroses in 1hc late
nineteenth century' and the relevance of aphasia theory to the first
form ula tio ns or psychoanalytic theory. FirSI WC shall consider the
importance of the talking-cure in the historiCll l contcx1 of the theory of
1he neuroses. Afler all, Janel was 10 argue for 1he whole of his lire tha t
1hc originali1y of 1he Breuer- Freud method was minimal. that the
Charcot .chool of 1hc Salpetrii:re had come 10 similar conclusions.
Whal wa• thc position of the cure for hysteria u11he time that Studies on
Hys1'rio was published?


Two fca1urcs arc of primary im portance: 1he no1ion of func1ional

diseases of the nervous system and the rediscovery of hypnosis, bo th
due to 1he championship o r Cbarco t.' Bui it would be misleading to
think of Freud as advancing along the same road as Chnrcol. building
upon the disiinctions and conccpls thal he had set o ul. Charcot was
pri marily in1ercsied in hys1cria as one parl of the vasl tableau of nervo us
discuses to which he had dedica1ed both his oeuvre and 1hc struc1urc of
1hc Salpeiricrc. (Poni.alis. 1974) 9 Diffcrcn1ia l diagnosis was as impor1-
an1 10 Charcot as to Freud, but for different reasons. Charcot wished 10
clarify the complete range of nervous disea.ses and. in Ihis light. hysteria
ac1ed as an obstacle 10 the exact codification of signs and symptoms.
Hys1eria was a medical work of lhe dovil, a spanner in 1he works that
1hrca1ened to disrupt the strict lines of medical reasoning tha1 connected
srmp1om. lesion and nosology. Charco1 1ook a s1cp 1ha1 1umcd this
devil into an agen1 of order. be changed hys1eria from being the negative
of 1he ·organic" nervous diseases, from being their 'wiheimlich
Doppelgiingtr', to being a posi1ivc, if pro1ean. medical entity. From the
early work or the 1870s on the differen1ial diagnosis of hysteria and
epilepsy, resulting in the constitution ofa new en1i1y. hystero-epilepsy
Aphasia, Hysteria and the Talking Cure 9
(llourmville and Regnard (1876- 7) I 32fT). Charco1 progressed 10 gh·e
an exact description of the stages of hys1ena: lhc four stages of the
anack. the spatial localization of 1he hys1erogen1c zones. etc. (Charcot
(188Sb)). Even given i1s protean unprcdictab1hty. under Cbarcors
nosological guiding hand hysteria could be made to conform to a
general spatial and temporal schema, even if it was by noting 1he
absence of a specific sign or symptom in any given case.
With Lhc introduction of hypnosis and the concept of sugges1-
ibili1y10. a new explana1ion of the fickleness of hyslcria and its
deviation frotn the clinical norm could be given. Thus, wilh the bizarre
play of magnets ('amams') and lhe concept of' I• trtmsfert' (of symploms
from one part oft he body to another). the proteus of hysteria oould be
given a new. psychological dimension, wi1hou1 a n essential alteration of
the clinical schema laid down by Charcot (Barrucand ( 1967) p. 169;
Babinski (1886): \Vallon (1882/3)). This schema - which made hysteria
a positive disease of the nervous system, despite any psychological
accretions, such as its determination by ideas. or its panoply of
ps)"Chieally-induced variations - ensured rhe generality of symptoms.
their 1ranscendcocc of the individual pa1icnt and thus their necessary
anachmen1 to the concept of disease, in contradistinction to the later
Breuer- Freud theory, which found in each symptom an individuality
founded in a personal history.
The notion of a traumatic cause for hysteria - crystallized and
elaborated in the 1870s and early 1880s" referred explicitly to general
theories of t he nervous system. Much could be made of the Jacksonian
principles of 1he dissolution of the nervous system , which. applied first
and most explicitly to epilepsy. could be brought into service to aid the
explanation of traumatic ·shocks'. With his ' discovery' of hypnosis.
Charcot could supplement the traumatic cause with an ideational cause,
no1 wit bout r-ecognizing that this was a lon,g familiar idea (Reynolds
(1869): sec Ellenberger (1970) pp. 90fT and Veith ( 1965)). But a
neurological foundation was s1ill preser\'ed, in the no1ion of a special
stare of the nervous system peculiar to bo1h hysteri3 and hypnosis. The
stages of hypnosis (lelhargy..:eatal<psy- somnambulism) replicated
and enriched the order of hysteria, and thus reinforced the neurological
characreriiation of hysteria. 12
E'en with a firmly neurological characterizauon of hyl>lcria and
hypnosis, Charcot fo und an essential place for psychological elements
in hysteria. But the 'psychological' clement was restricted to what in
Inter Freudian theory would be called predisposing and precipi1a1ing
cause>. With rcspecl 10 predisposing causes, a concept of hereditary
I0 language a11d tk Origins of Psyrh()(Jno/ysls
psychic wcalcness - thc incapacity for synt.hcsis of Janet ( 1889). the
degeneration of Magnan (1885) and Seglas (1892. 1894) - opened up a
field of psychological elements without specifying the character of these
clements. The precipitating cause was more specific, but was restricted
to those ideas that could generate affective shock, affect being
considered as a specific state of excitation of the nervous system. But,
even here, the weight of explanation docs not fall upon the character of
the psychic clement: it appears at the horizon of the field of explanation.
as the term that imroduces the specifically hysterical state of the nervous
system, but having no beari ng upon the further description of that state.
The nature of the hysterical symptom remained unspecified in both
psychological and linguistic terms.
But there is another feature of Charcot's work that we should
consider. His theory of hysteria may have remained indubitably
neurological but his therapy was another affair. To consider this. we will
look at a lecture he gave in 1885, entitled ·oe l'isolcment dans le
traitement de l'hystcric' (Charcot. 188Sa). Charcot argued that the
isolation of )Oung people was the necessary condition, and ofiro a
sufficient condition, for the cure of even the most complex hysterical
symptoms. He illustrated its efficacy with a brief history of a case of
anortxia nercosa . The father of the patient. a 13 year-old girl, wrote
from his residence in the provinces to Charcot, who replied:

A visit is unnecessary, I replied to him; I can, without seeing the

patient, give you the appropriate advice: bring the child to Paris,
place her in one or other hydropathic clinic, abandon her, or at least
let her believe that you have left the capital, inform me and I will do
the rest. No reply 10 my letter was forthcoming. (Ibid., p. 162)

Via the family doctor, Cbarcot learned that the girl had been placed in
a Parisian establishment, as he had recommended. but the parents were
resolved not to be parted from her. In consequence. they were afraid to
inform Ch:ucot. even though the girl did not have long to live. Cbarcot
became angry: the sine qua non of his advice had been ignored. •Jc
dechna1s toutc rcsponsibilitc dans cctte malheureusc a/Taire:
Nevertheless. be allowed himself to be ~rsuaded by the family doelor
to visit the estabhshment where the girl was wasting away. saw the poor
girl, 1ook the parents aside and informed them how angry he was. The
only chance of success lay in lheir departure back to Angouleme
immediately, •aying to the girl that Dr Charcot was forcing them to
leave. But it was difficult to obtain the parents' consent to 1his plan;
Aphasia, Hysteria and 1he Talking Cure 11
ondced. 11 needed all ofCharcoi's anima1edconvic11on and eloquence 10
persuade first the mother and then the fathtr to leave.
Thal anemoon. after they bad depaned, the girl cried for an hour.
Then she slaned 10 caL Within finccn days she was sitting up. and by the
end of two months she was almost comple1ely cured. Then Cbarcot
in1erroga1ed the girl. who entrusted to him the followin,g confidence:

As long as papa and mama didn't leave me, in other terms, as long as
you hadn't triumphed - because I knew that you wanted to confine
me - I believed !hat my illness wasn·1serious, and, as I had a horror of
eating, I didn't cat. When I saK11ha1you )\1ere tl1e 111t1J'ter, J '"·as aj'raid,
and, despite my loathing, I tried 10 eat, and. linlc by little, ii became
possible.' I thanked the child for her confession, which, as you see,
contains a complete education. ( Ibid., p. 163)

Cenainly an education for a doctor. But what is the lesson to be

drawn from this case? On this. Charcot remained silent. allowing only
his 'fNtitr hi.Jtoire' speak. We mighl compare this silence with 1be lack of
consequence that Cbarcol could draw from the ronfoleMe he cnlrustcd
10 the young Freud. that in the neuroses it was always a question of
s<ercts of the bedchamber(Freud (1914<1) SE XIV 14). Whether it was a
question of such s<ercts, or of the dialectic of mastery and fear exposed
in the therapy of isolation. Charco1 would iay no more.
Now. this cure by isolation is undoubtedly a psychological cure. h
plays upon the fear of1he patient, the doctor's ·mastery' and the delicate
familial sentiments in play between child and parent. Bui Charcol drew
no thcore1ical consequence. The 1heoretic-0I picture of neurosis left a
space fo r the influence of suggestion and then of uu1osugges1ion upon
the nervous system. " What impressed the girl, what elicited a change in
the balance of affects, was t hcprest11tt of the doctor. a presence that was
articulated upon thcabscnccofhcr parents. Bui the name fortbecure -
isolation - belied the prcseooe of the doctor. ahhougb it implied the
'medicalization' or institutionalization of the patient . What"'' notioe,
by its absence. is any recognition on Charcot's part that:

1, the cu re by suggestion could be accomplished without hypnosis,

i.e. without a specific 'hypnotic' state of1he nervous s·ystem being
lhc object of the masterly control of the doctor.
ii. the power of a discursive relation as well as that of affect is of
paramount importance in both 1hc formation of the symptom and
ils cure.
12 languagt and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
It is of grea1in1erest,1hen, 1hat we find Freud in 1890 placing al/ 1be
therapcu1ie tmphasis upon words. Tht expcrienct of hypnosis 1hus
found a difTtrcn1 in1crpre1ation. To Charcol. it was lhe hypnotic
condi1ion that was of paramounl importance, a notion that Breuer was
to build in10 his theory wi1b lhcconoept of the hypnoid stale. To Freud.
it was the command. and its 'vorbal' con~uences, that was the key.
Rather 1han the doctor's command being conccplualiz.ed as a 'will·
power' from outside 1hat, thanks to the hypno1ic stale, could find a
direct and unmcdiatcd access 10 the nervous sys1cm. Freud laid all the
emphasis on the 'power of words'. As Freud wro1c in an arlicle for a
medic:1l textbook in 1890:

Words arc 1hc essential 1001 of menial 1rea1men1. A layman will no

doub1 find it hard 10 understand how pathological disorders of the
body and the mind can be eliminated by ·mere' words. He will feel
tha1 he is being asked to believe in magic. And he "'ill 1101 be so very
wrong. for lhc words which we use in our everyday speech arc nothing
other 1han watered-down magic. But we shall have to follow a
roundabout path in order to explain how scicnct sets abou1 restoring
to words a part al least of their form<r magical power. (Freud
(1890a) SE VII 283)

This slarting-poinl marked his theory as different from Cbarco1's: the

stnrting-poin1 was words, rather than the properties of 1he nervous
system. And the roundabout path Freud was to follow passed via the
whole edifice of psychoanalytic lheory.
But there arc other case-histories from the period which mighl help
pul into relief Freud's argument. Take, for example, S<:hrcnck
Notzing's cure by hypnosis of a ease of se•ual in\'crsion in 1889. The
young man fell• horror of women and had occasiona l sexual rcla1ions
wi1h men. Through repealed bypno1ic insistence. this order was
inverted, and a clause forbidding masturba1ion added 10 the sci of
commands. Afier spectacular success for SC\'Cral months. 1he patient
relapsed. He confessed this ·with his usual frankness' and a series of
energetic remonstrances under hypnosis brough1 him to repent it and
foci horror at his slip.

Finally. to put to tbe test the equilibrium that was being increasingly
rees1ablished. the patient bad sexual intercourse wi1b a woman of his
own choosing and in 1hc presence of his [male]seduccr, with whom he
then broke immediately. (Schrenck-Notzing (1889) p. 321)
Aphasia, Hysteria ond the Talking Cure 13
Afltr strengthening his normal heterosexuality with more hypnosis,
the doctor r«iei"ed a card from the young man, announcing his
betrothal to a 'childhood sweethean' (un• ami• de1eunesse). Obviously,
the treatment was completely succcssfol, but Schrenck Notzing noted
that runher relapses were always possible, in which case hypnosis
should be used again.
This case appears to be typical or a genre or hypnotic practices of the
period. What is striking is the dramatic quality or the measures that are
necessary for the cure: the production of guilt and horror, the
installation of aversion to his inversion and its final testing in what can
only be described as a melodramatic fashion. The test. the proof,
sunctioned and almost certainly prescribed by the doctor. amounts to
the realization of a fantasy, without the recognition tha t the fantasy
runctions in any significant way, either in the aetiology or the sexual
condition or in the efficacy oft he cure. The relation between doctor and
patient remains a theoretical simple, subsumed within the on~
dimensional concept or suggestion. What functions as cure. is. again, as
with Charcot. a ·psycho-drama' in which the doctor's presence is totally
obscured. More to the point. this is not a 111Jking-curc. even though its
medium appears to be words. The symptom is not approached to
invesugate its discursive rune1ion: nor is the talk or the patient seen as
anything beyond an in<lex of his condition.
But we should not obscure the issue by arguing that no relation is
formed between doctor and patient. Quite the opposite: it is the ' human
interest' that the doctor displays in his patient that gives the case the
impression of being psychological in character. But what is present in
Freud's early cases, and absent in these others, is a sense that the
neurosis and its cure is determined by the patient's system of ideas, as
expressed in words, in which the doctor becomes unavoidably en-
meshed. The early e-0ncept of transference as being Rrst and foremost a
resistance marked Freud's recognition of the importance of the doctor
ronhe patient, but it also points up that it is the patient's responsibility,
his activity and mastery, that is the focus or the cure. And this is not a
moral responsibility - though the moral dimension or neurosis and its
relation to social norms is present very early in Freud's theory, and
onen found adjacent to the concept of rC$ponsibility; rather, it is the
patient's responsibility as speaker, as producer or signs, that is in
question. The eurcdcpcnds on his getting his words in the ' right place:
into sound, rather than allowing them to become caught up in his body.
It is with the metaphor of the ' right place' that Freud began to depart
from Chan:ot's neurology. As long as the causes of hysteria were
14 language and the Origins of Ps>"Choanalysis
thought or in terms of shoe!<., atTcet or suggestion, a correlation with the
ncr. ous system was cooceptually feasible, ifnot exactly rigorous. But as
soon as the words of the patient were caught up in his disease, the
nervous system became insufficient as a locus for these 1<ords. h was at
this poin1. with the question of the rela1ion bc1wecn 1he locus of words
and 1he siructure of the nervous system. lhal Freud's work on aphasia
assumed its importance. My argument is the following: Freud's work on
aphasia - his fl rs1 book. apart from translations - is the .1i11e qua non of
lhc birth of psychoanalytical theory as we can now distinguish it from
01 her con1cmporary theories of neurosis: a 1hcory of the power of wo rds
in 1hc formation of symptoms. To appreciate Freud's work o n aphasia,
we must turn to the history of tha1 subject in lhc nineteenth cen·


Aphasia has formed the meeting-point of a set of seientilic disciplines

since lhc late nineteenth century. Freud's work on aphasia was one of
1hc 6rst essays to appreciate the fuU scope of the problem of aphasia.
Since he wrote !hat work. in 1891. there have appeared more explicit
recogn111ons of the profound importance of the 1opic. notably from
Bergson (1896). Cassirer (1953-57) and Jakobson ( Jakobson 1941,
1956, 1971). Aphasia 1heory is the poinl al which fou r separate
disciplines meet: medicine, philosophy, psychology and linguis1ics. The
recogni1ion thal 1his is so, that one must take ae<:ount or all fo ur. 1ha1
o ne must integrate concepts from all four, was only explicitly recognized
by Cassirer. Jakobson's essays recognized the necessity for a unity of
discourse. drawing upon the epistemological unilies of sl rucl uralism to
unify palhology. psychology and linguistics. Appropriately enough, it
was a psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan . who in1roduced the explicit
extension of Jakobsoo's coocepts into ·psychology' and philosophy
(Lacan, 1957). His union of linguistics, pathology. 'psychology' and
philosophy mirrors 1he attempt or the early Freud. from which the
conceptual foundations of ps)'Choanalysis were established. To the
ex1cn1 1hat 1his conceplual nexus is crucial 10 the founda1ion of
ps)'Choanalytic theory. Lacan's 'return 10 Freud' represents something
more 1han ju>I another rhetorical nourish, concealing jusl another
psychoanalytical heresy.
Much of 1he following discussion will be devo1ed 10 discerning the
importance of Freud's work o n aphasia for 1hc developmenl of
Aphasia, Iiysttria Olld rhe Talking Cur~ 15
psychoanalysi.s. lo order to do this, 1 wish to sketch a brief history of
aphasia, which docs not pretend to be comprehensive. but which will
pick out the major conceptual shifts of the nineteenth century. 1 • Two
themes were of dominant importance in the late nineteenth century: the
theory of cerebral localization and the doctrine of the association of
ideas. In the historical literature th<re is one date that has assumed
overwhelming importance in the rise of aphasia theory to the pre-
eminent position it enjoyed: 1861, the date of Paul Broca's paper to the
Sodctc d'Anthropologie." Broca demonstrate-0 that a severe loss of
speech had a definite correlative lesion in the middle part of the frontal
lobe of the left cerebral hemisphere, the third frontal convolution.
Although Broca's method - the union of post mortem analysis and a
clinical observation - determined the form of aphasia studies for thirty
years. it was itself only a part of a wider medical context. Sirrular
aucmpts 10 localize the function of speech in a specific pan of the brain
had been made earlier. notably by the phrenological school founded by
Gull(Gall.1835V.pp. 7- S:Tcmkin, 1947: Young. 1970, pp. I l- 53, 136-
41 ). These attcmpis bad been ignored or combaned by all 1hose
opposed to the biological reductionism of phrenology. such opponents
a11cmpting to reduce the debate to a series oflocal squabbles in the Paris
hospi1als. The ruling doctrine of scientific medicine of the early period,
the doctrine of functional equivalence of Flourcns (1824), ruled out of
court any attempt 10 localize functions within the brain. The doctrine.
firmly based on experimental physiology as it was, thus became opposed
to the biologism of Gall and his followers.
Brocu, and the invcstigJttors who followed him. circumvented this
opposition between biologism and ' physiologism' by avoiding both.
BrOCll'> met hod was a c~nical method, joining clinical description to
pathological anatomy. Physiology was reduced ton minimum in the
acwunts of aphasia given in the late nineteenth century. •• It was only
with the work of Jackson and Freud that physiology and the overriding
importance of function began to reassert itself. The first generation of
aphasia students. from. say. 1860 to 1890, were ·experimental clini-
cians'. It was the revival of rcspcaable clinical medicine that enabled the
issue of aphasia to assume the centre of the neurological stage: a revival
that os ~t represented by the French clinical school of Trousseau and
Charcot. The rcburgconing of the clinical uad1t1on also allowed the
insertion of psychology into medicine by the second generation of
clinicians: Freud, Jackson, Bleuler, Janet. For Freud and Jackson, the
point of insertion was aphasia.
A flood of papers immediately followed Broca's. using the methodol-
16 language and tire Origiru of Ps)'dwanal)'sis
ogy so effectively and simply applied to the localization of the spccc.h
function. Parallel to this clinical method came the anatomical develop-
ments which supplied the language in which 10 describe localization.
The 1860s saw the growth of the observational science of brain
anatomy: detailed morphological studies established the archilccturcof
the brain. the pre-requisite for clinical anempts at the localization of
'function". Hand in hand with the anatomical work. an ahemative
approach to the problem of brain function was formulated: a chemical
approach, perhaps deriving strength from the chemical successes of the
Bernard school of physiology. From this perspective, the arterial system
of the b~Jin was seen as the centre of function: the process of nutrition
was heralded as Lhe banner under which a scientific psychology could
progress (Mcynert, 1885; Mortimer, 1878-9).
Bui the anack on the problem of brain function. which found its
clearest formulation in the study of aphasia, consisted in the correlation
of specific clinical descriptions with the 1echnical linguistic structure
mapped out by the anatomists of the brain: the notion of a I: I
projection of sensory function onto cerebral location was taught by
Meynen and Munk . The centre of interest, where the programme of
localization of function would stand or fall. remained aphasia theory,
right up 10 the review of the state of1'5ychia1ry wrinen by Adolf Meyer
Wemicke ( 1874) followed Broca's locali2a1ion of the function of
speech articulation in the second and third temporal convolutions of the
left hemisphere, by correlating a distinct clinical en1i1y with a distinctly
different cerebral location. He then set out the 1win categories of
sensory and motor aphasia. With his work, the nexl logical step in the
clinical approach was taken: the diagram. The diagram represented the
spatial relation of anatomical centres, with the relations of function
superimposed upon it. Naturally this arr•ngemcn1 reversed the true
direction of argument within the science: from clinical entity to
anatomical location. But once an identity between these two bad been
established, the direction of argument could be reversed. The identity
was located within a court theory of linguistic function. modelled upon
the reflex theory of the nervous system, which was uself subtly parasitic
upon the doctrine of the association of ideas. The relotions of concq>ts
within the science was thus as illustrated in the scheme. The identity
established between a clinical entity and an anatomical location was
thus founded upon covert assumptions as 10 the physiology of speech.
il5elf founded upon a psychology of ideas. II was in this manner that a
location ofa centre for words in the brain failed 10 trouble a generation
Aphi1.iia, Hysteria and the Ta/kj,1g Cure 17

Clinical en1hv
<;=> Ant1tomicll IQQ1ion
l110l.ltJon of fur'IC'llon•
in ptoduc1li0n of tll)t«h

.... ,. . theofy bl!Md

l.IPCM'l lheOrV of •.oNlion of id.s

unused 10 !he slric\Ul"C$ sci forth in. say. Ryle's Th~ Con~pt of 1\find.
Now we can revise the judgement 1ha1 aphasia theory was founded
upon 1hc separation of physiology from chmcal pathology. Rather.
physiology functioned covenly as the foundation of the method that
created idenutics between anatomical location andclinkal entity. From
the 1870s on, there was only one way to think the function of the
nervous system: lhe reflex arc. Argument ceased about !he mode of
function oflhe ner\'OUS system. With a reflex physiology as !he implicit
foundation of the discipline. !he very terms ·sensory' and ·motor'
sanctioned a sliding between two distinct areas: from the physiology of
the reflex arc to the clinical entities observed in practice. The Joss of
ability 10 ' hear' words corresponded to the 'lesion of a sensory centre in
the brain. Similarly. motor centres of the brain could be identified with
·motor functions· employed in speech. The clenr simples of universally
accepted physiology thus became the characterizing descriptions of the
clinic: inubility to speuk, corrcl:ned with ability to understand. as
detected by tests of un informal kind. lr•nsformed simply into the
notion of a di•ordcr of the motor centre of language. When this simple
·sensory·molor' dualistic accot1nt of the speech process proved in·
suilicicnt. Lichthcim ( 1885) in1roduc1.'<l the notion of a centre for'idcas'.
All aphasias were due to the interruption by a lesion of the linear
progression from scn~ory to motor nerves. via the t'A'o centres, the
conduction pathways. and the ideas centre.
Other clinicians developed these ideas. Centres proliferated. The
clinical signs of speech defects became more finely differentiated:
writing defects were either compared or contrasted with speech defects.
Pltilosophical battles came to be fought over the interpretation or
clinical descriptions. In France. where the Cnnesian tradition, as
exhibited early in the century by Flourens. had emphasised the unity of
perception, the unity of the m oi in the perception or matter, these
themes of unity and synthesis were resurrected in !he debate over
18 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
In 1hesc facts . as in idiocy •... 1he cerebral lesions isola1e. as ii were.
the different conical region: and instead of all being in harmony and
forming a solidari1y, we see the strange spectre of individuals. wi1h
special aptiludes perfectly developed but isolated, and conlrasting
\ividly with their sterility as regards other intellectual powers.
appropria1ely deserving the name of wise idiots. (Magnan, 1878- 9,
p. 119)

The notion of unity and synthesis" bound the s1udy of aphasia to the
ruling doc1rioe of the degeneracy of the nervous system. which formed
the basis of neurology in France. Wi1h the psychological venion of this
docirinc, developed by Janel in the 1890s and aner. the synthetic unity
of the /lff>OIW/ity guaranteed 1hc normal functioning of the individual.
But in certuin psychological versions of aphasia theory developed in 1be
1890s and 1900s, including Freud's, a crucial rupture occurred: a unity
was established. but at the level of language, no1 of personality. No hin1
of the uni1y of 1he subject was impressed upon 1he conceptual structure
of aphasia theory. Unity was in1roduced in the associative field of
language: the unity of the word. not the /ch. 11
One of the firs1 attacks on the diagram-makers. as Head christened
1hem. came from a union of philosophical and psychological argumen1s
in the work of the English neurologist, John Hugblings Jackson.,.
Jackson was concerned to stop the sliding between psychological and
physiological terms that be perceived dogging aphasia theory in
particular and neurology in general. His doctrine of concomitances - a
hard nosed argument for lhe strict parallelism and separation of psychic
and physic11 l processes - both secured neurology ugainst a creeping
psychologism and opened the door to a fully fledged psychology of
aphasia. The issue of centres of funclion seemed 10 lapse silcnl ly wi1hin
Jackson's overly complicated syntax; but the psychology of aphasia
came inlo its own in the detailed attention he paid to the individual
u11cranccs of aphasics. He asked a ques1ion whkh be1raycd the grea1
gulf 1ha1 separated him from bis contemporaries; why this utterance
rather than any other? His answer recombined 1he psychology of tbe
indhi dual and the physiology of the organism. He posited that aphasics
suffer a lesion at a particular moment in time: they suffer an auack
analogous to epilepsy. The 'nervous arrangemen1s' 1ha1 had been about
10 discharge. innervating the series of motor nerves. arc caught in the
act, as it were, and retain their high level of undisc.barged energy in a
now pcrmanen1ly closed and permanently ac1ivatcd circuit. separated
off from the olher nervous elemenls, which, under the impact of the
Aphasia, Hysteria mid tire Talking Cure 19
lesion. reven to a lower order of function; the ·arrangements" arc fixated
upon the moment of the attack. The recurrent utterances of the aphasic
thus com:spond to what he was about to say at the moment of the
attack: 'utteran= not .. now making... but nearly, if indeed not quite,
"'ready made up"'.' ( Jackson, 1878- 80, p. 169.)
For the aphasic, his recurrent utterance bas three characteristics: he
has /1, he has no other, and 'he cannot gel rid of it.' (Ibid., p. 191.) The
lesion led to a dissolution of the nervous system to a lower level of
function. that is, lo a more highly organized state. For Jackson, higher
levels of the nervous system, corresponding 10 'propositional conscious-
ness', were characterized by the voluntary, non-automatic nature of
their processes. Jackson's theory assumed two axes, one running from
org!lnized to unorganized, the other running from conscious to
au1oma1ic. Whal is iotriguing in this theory is 1ha1 the dissolution oft be
nervous system consequent upon a lesion or a functional disturbance
entails a regression to a more highly organaed state: a high level of
organiz,a1ion is the mark of a lower level of sophistication of nervous
functioning. In this sense, consciousness corresponds to a less struc.
turtd "freedom· of the relations be1"·ccn nervous arrangements,
whereas automatic functioning involves highly StnJClured and therefore
inOexible activity of the nervous system. Hence. when the about-to-be-
uuered utterance was caught in the catastrophe consequent upon the
disrup1h·e lesion, it remained as a highly organized unit "trapped'
within the now automatic functioning of the system. The notion of
organization meshed with the concept of levels or the nervous system:
dissolution led the nervous system back 10 older and more primilive
levels or organization, possibly back 10 the original levels of speech,
where language was 'ready made up·.
We can see the shape the psychological critique of the diagram
makers was lo take: 1he anatomical identity dropped out, 10 be replaced
by a putative general functional identity of 1.he "state of lhe nervous
system• and the 'clinical description• of the uncranccs(or lack of them).
Aside from the replacement ofana1omy by functional concepts (which
would appear to be physiological in a general sense). the levels of
awareness of the linguistic problems of anal)-sing aphasics began 10
surface v.i1h Jack.son. He distinguished 1he live unerances of the
normal. which were voluntary and had meaning. were true pro-
positions., were living structures, from the dead recurrent unerance, tbe
vestigial trace of the higher levels of organization that had been
destroyed. In contrast with the diagram makers. who retained a strictly
ntomistic and nominalistic conception of longuuge, Jackson's notion
20 langllO(Je and rhe Origins of Psyt:hoonalysls
was far more sophisticated. He argued that the basic units oflanguag<
wtrc propositions, not words. That is, a strUClurc, a syntax. is necessary
to language.
The proposition llad meaning insofar as clements in it were subject to
substitution. i.e. words only had meaning insofar as they were
dispensable. and a structure was only linguistic insofar as it was placed
in opposition to the elements that constituted it. This 'structuralist'
clement in Jackson's thought bore fruit in the work of Pick (1913) on
aphasiu and the writings of Jakobson in the 1940s and 19SOs. What the
theory of the proposition entailed was a structural distinction between
'meaningful' and ' meaningless' utterances: aphasic ullerunces might
appear to have meaning, but this meaning had o nly been inherent in
them at Che origin, at one particular moment when dynamic proposition
formation had suffered its demise in consequence of the lesion. Insofar
as the phrase was ' ready made up' it was meaningless, precisely because,
being 'ready made up', it was not suited to the other ocx:asions on which
it came to be uttered. ln other v.·ords, failure of the phrase to obey the
condition that its clements be subject to substitution entailed that it
would be meaningless when it came to be repeated.
It is exactly this distinction that Freud carried over from aphasia
theory to hysteria. in the form of the opposition between symptom and
speech . The chronic hysterical symptom bore remarkable similarities to
the aphnsic's recurrent utterance: it was a piece of language that had
once hod meaning but which, by becoming cut off from the dynamic
structure of contingent elements - for different reasons in the two
conditions - had lost its meaning, and, for reasons to do with the
systemic relations of the nervous system ('conversion' and 'somatic
compliance'), was doomed to repetition. Of course, there was a tension
between this conception of the symptom as meaningless in contrast to
speech, and the conception that 1hese same symptoms have a meaning,
insofar as they are equivalent to a verbal phrase or thought. We will
consider this at greater length in Chapter 4 ·Grammar'. What Freud
took from aphasia theory was the notion that a symptom's apparent
meaninglessness could be illuminated-by placing it in a very specific,
'traumatic' past context, when it did have meaning. The h}sterical
symptom. in contrast to 1he aphasic recuncnt utlcrancc. needed an
additional operation to restore its meaning - namely translation into
the verbal phrase of which it was the recurrent e•prcssion - before one
could place it in its proper past context. ' 0 In Freud's psychoanalytic
practice. the 1wo procedures - finding the verbal translation and finding
the point in time to which this translation belonged - were never
Aphasia, Hysteria and tire Talking Cure 21
scpara1cd. being in1cgral parts of one method of in"csligation. Bui, in
psychoanalysis. as in aphasia studies, pa1ienu came to be known by
their 'recurrent uuerances", for examp~. Broca"s Tan, Trousseau's
Sapon" and Freud's Wolfman.
Jac.kson concluded that words only have a meaning when 1hcy form
part of a symbolic syslem which represenu an ordered and inlemally
dynamic series of inner slates. But there were 01hcr elements of
'language' thal were put into question by lhc phenomena of aphasia.
Was the language los1 by the aphasic the memory of lhe language signs
or 1hc capacily 10 produce signs? Bas1ian (1887) surmounted 1his
problem on 1he psychological level: he dis1inguished bel ween recollec-
1ion and memory. Again, as so oflen in the discussion of aphasia, an
exact mirroring of brain ana1omy and philosophy of language was
preserved. The distinction between memory and recollection cor-
responded to that between neurones and the associa1ion fibres connect-
ing them. Losing the power of recollec1ion mean1 losing the power 10
connecL Bui Bastian no longer required 1ha1 lhe units - whether they be
neurones or words - be localiied: they were like Jackson's 'nervous
arrangements' in that they existed in an undefined phys1ological space,
independent of the brain. The change in the character of the space in
which such units were located was expressed by Freud in 1893 as
I, on the contrary, assert that the lesion in hysterical paralyses must
be completely independent of 1he anatomy of the nervous
system ... (Freud (1893c) SE I 169)
And he took the argument 10 i1s conclusi,on by usserting that, in
hys1eria, ii is an idea that suffers from a lesion ('/l!sio11', 'Verletzu11g').
The construction of such a 'physiological' space in which the structures
of language were located was to be one of the cornerstones of Freud's
1heory of1be mind. The extent 10 which that space was physiological can
be gauged from the basic categories of 1he Pro}~cl for a Scien1ific
Psychology he wrote in 1895. There, 1he unit of the ' mind' is the
neurone. The extent to which the ana1omy of1his space had recap1ured
its essential metaphorical topography. can be gauged by the virtual
idcntily of neurone and idea in the theoretical structure. And in Tlw
ln1trprc101io11 of Dreams. we find 1ha1 the space of psychic action has
become assimilated 10 the purely ideal geometric space of op1ics, in
which the material support is strictly incidenlal to considerations of
spatial order and function (Freud (1900a) SE V 536-7; see Lacan,
1975a, pp. 891T and Lacan, 1978, p. 146).
22 Languag• and the Origins af Ps~haa11alysu
Freud's own inCt'Cased auentivencss 10 the conlenu of lhe articulaled
language !hat formed lhe objec1 of the Sludy - both in aphasia and
hys1cria - was parl of a growing 'psycbologiz.aiion' of ihe problems of
aphasia in the last decade of the nine1een1h century. The newer
generation ofalienisu, psychologisu. neurologisu, etc.. entered 1he lists
in lhe Sludy of aphasia; their names are familiar from other contCJ<ts:

Bleuler, Bergson, Liepmann, Goldstein, Abraham, Jones. Wilh the new
psychological awareness came a critique of 1hc diagrams of the earlier
gcncraiion. They did not criticize the nolion of the localization of
unerances in space: rather, they criticized the iden1ificntion of centres of
verbal activity with locations in 1he brain. Beyond 1his, a further critique
of psychological and linguistic atomism was mooted. Goldstein,
Bergson aod.Cassirer broughl their weigh! 10 bear against atomistic
associaiionism, while it was from such an associniionism that many
imporlant critiques of the brain centre/linguis1ic unil identity thesis
were to emerge. We find an ambiguity between a1omis1ic associationism
and fonnalism in Freud's aphasia theory.
Freud's monograph on aphasia was firs1 and forcmos1 a critique of
1he diagram·makers. In it be crossed swords wilh Wemicke's no1ions of
sensory and motor aphasia n, took much time and trouble demolishing
Lich1hcim's diagram. and ·even scratched the high and migh1y idol
Meynen."' Later writers acknowledged their indebtedness 10 his
mas1erly critique. In Goldstein's eyes, be had opened up the study of
aphasia for a psycho-philosophical approach (Golds1cin, 19 10). Bui, as
Goldslein no1cd wilh disapproval, Freud wamed 10 place a lheory of the
association of ideas al the centre of aphasia theory, in order to replace
1he identity of pathological with anaiomical uni1s. It was 1hrough a
subtle confusion of levels that Freud used a.~sociutionism lo demolish
1he concept of a centre. Jn laying emphasis on association rnther than
func1ion, Freud did not al firsl shifl 1he argument 10 a purely
psychological level. The ana1omical (or physiological) correlate of
'associaiion' was 'connection fibre'. Freud used an array of anatomical
facu 10 show 1ha1 it was such connection fibres 1ha1 were of primary
importance in cerebral functioning. Such an argumenl also impijed the
functional 'anonymi1y' of these fib..,.. The model 1hus invoked was a
homogeneous field of connection fibres. an abst111Cted physiology that
could now be converted into a purely psychological SPllCc. Any allempt
to segment the field of language was vigorously rcsis1ed: al the level of
1he brain, what one found were connective fibres: a1 the level of
psychological space. one found a hierarchy ofinierdependent functions
of associa1ion.
Aphasia. Hysteria and the Talking Cure 23
A ssociationism dominated this schema in a way that dismayed
Goldstein. II was true that Freud had demolished the putative spatial
unity pro,,jded by the brain of the diagram·makcl'$." But be im-
mediately replaced it with an homogeneous associative field of language,
which could not aid Goldstein in his broader psychological aims, which
were more directed towards the use of categories analogous to the
K antian categories of experience. Goldstein's categories were intended
to embody the necessary preconditions for the possibility of ordered
perception. To this end he used the perception of space as his model for
the construction o f meaning in aphasia. T his Kantian trend. paralleling
the 'synthetic unity' of the French school, received its fullest account in
Cussircr's The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. In philosophical terms, it
allcmpled lo insert the subject of aphasic discourse at u level above, but
necessary 10 , the Jaws of th e association of ideas. A transcendental
unitary subject thus played the same role as the ' brain' of the brain
mythologists. the individual categories corresponding 10 the individual
centres. inferred from the location of lesions.
N ow ii is >ignifican1 that Mcyncrt had propounded a well known
theory 1ha1 had guaranteed a unitary subject of perception .;a the
notion o f the ego being a projection of 1he body onto the brain. By
tracing the anatomical connections between the periphery and the
conex. be demonstrated that a ·reality ego' provided a faithful
reproduction of the body, which could be immediately appcrceivcd by
C·Onsciousness ( Meynert. 1871. 1885). Freud was most severe on this
model in On Aphasia for reasons that now appear clear. H e was firmly
opposed lo any hint ofa transcendental subject, whether it be 1he q uasi-
anatomical lesion/centre of the d iagram-makers, or the physio logical
subject of Meynerfs fi bre-1rac1 and reflex model. T he overrid ing
consideration for Freud was to establish a s•IJ-sujjic'ie111 unity al the level
of the ·speech apparatus', since any other principle of unity would
reopen the possibility of a reduction of the problem of aphasia away
from its proper linguistic/psychological level. Language had its own
principles of organization and combination which reductionism alwa}'S
obscured. Hence, even the notion of·cortical synthesis', to be found in
twenllelh century work on tho body·schoma (Corrue, 1973; Schilder,
1935), might be misleading, since it might elide the ontological
distinction bttwcen thing and roprcscn1a1ion. Freud thus replaced
Mcynert"s I: I ·projection' of peripheral sense-data onto the cortex with
a series of levels of ·representations' ( Vorottllungrn).
Freud's argument against Meynert's projection theory had 1wo
24 Language omJ the Origins of Psychoanalysis
a. By showing tba1 1he distinction be1ween a perttplion and ils
associalion was bolh less marked and more complex 1han Meynert
had 1hough1. he dismissed 1be ·mirroring' model of represen-
b. If even 1he 'body-schema' is a combina1ory represen1a1ion. ralher
than an imagic presentation (a mirroring, a rcRcction, a veridical
projcc1ion), 1bcn, once we lum 10 lhe specific phenomena of
aphasia, we must acccpl 1ha1!he order of language mus ! have an
even grcalcr order of combination and organii.ation.
Freud argued !his Jailer point in a mos! in1eres1ing manner:
We can only presume 1ba1 1he fibre 1rac1s. which reach 1hc cerebral
cor1ex af1er their passage lhrough 01her grey masses. have main-
1aincd some relationship to 1he periphery of1hc body. but no longer
rcnec1 a lopographically exact image of ii. They conLain the body
periphery m the same wayas - 1oborrowan example from 1be subject
wi1h which we are concerned here - a poem con1ains 1he alphabet. i.e.
1n a complelely different arrangemenl serving 01her purposes. in
manifold associalioos of 1he individual elements, whereby some may
be represen1ed several limes. others no1 a1 all. (Freud. 1891b, p. 19)

What 1his mos1 sophistica1ed meiaphor supports 1s an emphasis on

1he combina1o•y charac1cr of perceptual da1a: all perception is coded
in10 a sys1em in which the individual ekmenis count for very linle, since
ii is the 'muoifold associalions' 1hat hold 1hc neural information. Thus,
no1 only is lhis an associa1ionism thal goes beyond u1omism 1owards a
formalism o r s1ructuralism but ii amo un1s 10 holding 1ha1 all represen-
1a1ions arc coded as !fl hey were a language. But another passage should
give us pause for 1hough1, and help us recognize 1ha1 lhc reference 10
language might 001 be essential 10 1he argumenl: we find lhesame line of
1hought and conclusion in 1he Project of IS95, where Freud argued in
de1ail how a given quanti1y Q can come 10 be rcpresen1cd by a sel of
facili1a1ions bc1v.een homogeneous neural elcmems (Freud (1950a) SE I
314-S). In both tbc arguments, wba1 is of impor1ance is 1he coding of
·neural input' in10 a s1tucture, a sys1em of rela1ions. This associalionism
is clearly disianced from 1he classieal associationis11radilion, in 1ha1 ii
immcdia1cly reduces 1he primacy of perccpiual elcmcnis, placing all !he
weight upon a slructuration of arbitrary clements (arbitrary. no1
because of any inlrinsic lack of diffcrcn1ia1ion. bul because each
clement only has value as 'information' through being defined by its
relations 10 o ther clcmcnls). The argument nlso displays 1he un-
ApluuUi, Hysteria and t~ Ta/Jcing Curt 25
compromising dualism that Freud retained throughout bis life, includ-
ing 1hosc years Crom 1900 10 the First World War when utopic monism
was aU the rage (Gasman (1971); Ringer (1969)). As be put it in 1912:

If the prcsen1 spcal::e< had to choose among the views of the

philosophers. he could characterize himself as a dualist. No monism
succeeds in doing away with the distinction between ideas and 1he
objects they represent. ( Minutes IV (11 Dec 1912) p. 11)"

Bui, as is clear from the bis1ory of materialism in 1he nineteenlh

century, dualism does not always entail 1he sort of posi1ion thal Freud
1ook up. For inslance, Hu>tley's epiphenomenalism gran1ed lbe au10-
nomy of consciou5lless while removing all its functions and privileges
(Huxley, 1874). Bergson, in bis study on aphasia, sci out 1heahernatives
in the following manner:

Materialists and dualists are fundamcntally agreed oo this poioL

They consider certain molecular movements of the cerebral matte<
apart: then, some see in our conscious perception a phosphorescence
which foUows these movements and illuminates their track: for
others, our pe<eeptions succeed each other like an unwinding scroll in
a coosciousoess which expresses con1inuously. in its own way, the
molecular vibrations of the cortical substance: in the one case. as io
the other, our perception is supposed to translate or 10 picture the
stales of our nervous system. (Bergson, 1896, p. I I)

Freud chose 1be dualistic mode, 1he mode of 1rnnsla1ion. But, by

translating all perceptions into its own ' language', a language that
seemed to have very littJe to do with the nervous system's 'own way',
Freud's system discarded any notion of a ccn1re, even a1 the level of the
psychology of language, let alone at the level of analomy. A free space
of language was opened up, which became known as the 'zone of
language' in the aphasia literature. The concept or. woe of language
came to be regarded as Freud's major contribution to aphasia studies:
Ladame( 1900). Dejerine (1906), Pick ( 1894, 1900) and Goldstein (1910)
were among those who tool< Freud's concept as one or the major
clements in the ' psychologizatioo' of aphasia studies. And, despite bis
use or what was to bea>me an increasingly outmoded language of
'images', Freud steered aphasia studies away from the specificity or
'ccmrcing' that the concept of images seemed 10 imply. As Ombredane
has noted with respect to Freud's work:
26 /.,anguag' and the Origins of P.rychoanalysis
The essential feature of aphasia will not be somuc-h the loss of this or
that order of images so much as the difficulty of evocation of an image
of an order determined by other itMges. (Ombrcdaoe, 1951, p. 107)

The reference 10 a system that determines the clements in question is

the death knell of a centre-based and contenl$-based theory of aphasia.
Freud had managed 10 construct a homogeneous :tone of language
without invoking a transcendental subject.
Freud's work on aphasia included a number of separate critiques. At
one level, he surveyed the clinical facts derived from a large number of
published = and demonstrated their susceptibility to various,
equally juS1ifiable, in1crpre1a1ions. Hence one would be jUS1.ified in
choosing one's interpretation on oiher, non-anatomoclinical, grounds.
These grounds were based upon the logical priority now accorded to
psychology in the study of the aphasias. As I have argued, Freud made
single-minded USC of the doctrine of the association of ideas in order lo
destroy the concept of a centre for psychologically defmed cnlites.
Having emphasized that $peech is a function, he argued that one can not
satisfactorily separate the association of images from their individual
revival - the covert distinction upon which the notion of a centre
depended. The outcome of this argument is the conclusion that all
aphasias are disorders of association. Even in this respect, Freud wished
to limit the importance of 1he lesion in producing the observed defects.
The lesion acted by limiting the general functionio,g of the speech
apparatus, rather than by eliminating certain separate functions: the
unity of the speech apparatus is implicit at all times. Malfunction is
simply due to the apparatus being forced 10 operate at a different, but
still unified, functional level.
Freud introduced Jackson's notion of functional regression to
explain the failure of speech function in certain forms of aphasia.
Different aphasias represent different Slages in the process of learning to

Tbus the aphasias simply reproduce a Slate wbicb existed in the

course ofthe normal process of learning 10 speak . .. . when learning,
we arc restricted by the hierarchy of the centres which started
functioning at different limes; the sensory-auditory first, then the
motor, later the visual and lastly the graphic. (Freud, 1891b, p. 42)

When one of the functions that was learned later fails, an earlier,
more intrencbcd function comes into play:
Aphruia, Hysteria OJ1d the Talking Cure 27
It can be assumed that the various speech activities continue to be
performed by way of the same associations by which we learned them.
Abbreviations and substitutions may be employed, but their nature is
not always easy to recognize. Their significance is still further reduced
by the consideration that in cases of org;inic lesion the speech
apparatus as a whole probably sulTers some damage and is forced into
a return towards tbc primary and secure, though more cumbersome
modes of association. ( Ibid .• pp. 76- 7)

A speech function may be said to be overdetermined when there are

two pathways or functions that give rise to a given image. This can be
iUustrated by:

We learn to speak by associating a ' word sound image' with an

'impression of word innervation·. When we have spoken we arc in
possession of a ' kinaesthetic word image', i.e. of the sen.s ory
impressions from the organs of speech. The motor aspect of ·word' is
therefore doubly determined. (Ibid .. p. 73)

We are safe in assuming that Freud followed Jackson's evolutionary

doctrine to the point of believing that the two different determinations
of the motor aspect of the 'word' were also learned at dilTcrent.stages of
development. Therefore. one of the func tions - that is. the 'higher' one
that was learned later - can be lost and still leave functional activity
Freud shifted the nosology of aphasia from anatomy to psychology.
But it was a traditional psychology he used. Wernicke's schema united
anatomy, physiology a.n d psychology, hiding an implic'it identity of
psyche and physis. Freud shified the identity, indeed rejected it, by
dissociating anatomy from psychology. As he himself recognized, this
was a conceptual rather than an empirical shifi. stemming from his
refusal to separate the association from the perception of presentations.
But such a shifi had empirical consequences. The perceived afferent and
efferent pathways of the speech centre dissolved before the anatomists'
eyes into a uniform mass of association-fibres. Having demolished
Wernickes categories. Freud rebuilt the distinctions. starting from the
psychology of language: 'The "word" is the functional unit of speech; it
is a complex presentation constituted of auditory, visual and kinaes-
thetic clements.' (Ibid.. p. 73.) His whole discussion led up to the
following diagram. which displayed the relationship between the object-
presentation and the word-presentation:
28 Language and the Origins of PS)'Choana/ysis
In thn psychaiogit:al
tchema of the •«d
praenlatioos. the lat·
ttt app:ar as a caoscd
('(Wftpit~ of imago. 1hr
obJ«t prnenta11on as
an oPen one-. Tbc: v.·otd
prac:nta11on 1.s llnked
to the pttSCcntatt0n of
OBJECT ASSOCIATIONSl'>--- 0, tht ob,cct ...i.a chc:
auch1orv sound image alone.
Amona the object as.·
the \isual
one plays a p.41t1 similar
10 th.al played by 1he
wono PRESENTATION sound fmetgt among
the word a.ssociacions.
1'hc word then i5 a
cornplicatcd prc!itn·
llilion buil1 up from
\rMtlOU.J impressions..
Vifutll~ corresponds to
1 e.. 11
for tCl'l l)I an intricate: proxss
or twOCil.lJOd entered
into by dcmtnts of vi$->
!Jal. llCOUl-tk and km-
aothc:ot on19ns. (lbtd .
p. lJ~

In Freud's accoun1.1be sound image is thecen1ral aspect ofLhe word:

1hc primary meaning of lbe word is that meaning which was originally
anached to it. when words were learnt from hearing them spoken.
Similarly, the visual aspect of the object is the most important of lbe
object associations. Using this model. Freud now redefined Wemicke's
aphasias. T he laners symmetrical categories of sensory nnd motor
aphasia bc<:11111e the asymmetrical verbal and asymbolic aphasias:
(I) verbal aphasia. in which only the associations between the single
clements of lbe word presentation are disturbed; and
(2) asymt>olic aphasia, in which tbe associations between word
presentation and object presentation are disturbed. (Ibid., p. 78.)
Freud then proceeded to correlate his new categories with clinical and
pathological cases. The shape of aphasia studies had dramatically
changed. In place of a brain anatomy providing the possible categories
from which the clinician could choose his combination oflesion sites. we
ha"e the psychologist of language positing the objects of coocem from
which the clinician could draw out his diagnosis. Freud did not deny the
relevance of brain anatomy to aphasia studies. On the contrary, most of
his arguments were drawn from the detailed examination of lesion sites.
Ruther, he was pointing out the complexity of localizing defects of a
Apha.Jia, Hysteria and the Talking Cure 29
complex mental acti,•ity, emphasizing that psychological regulative
principles are more imponant than physiological ones, as soon as one
recognizes that the disorders are functional as well as organic. He drew
on the English functional evolutionism ofJ ackson and thcassociationist
psychology of J. S. Mill in order 10 supplant the organic reductionism of
the brain pathology of German medicine.
Let us look more closely at the consequences of the word pre-
sentat.ion/object association schema. The schema places a word/object
dualism at the centre both of aphasia studies and of a theory of the
psyche. It is this dualism that necessitates the asymmetry in nosology,
since the model is now hierarchical and irreversible, in contrast with the
diagram-makers' reftex model.

Svstem of word1)fesenr.atlons

(Level 2)
/ cent<e \
System of objec-1·bs:sociallons ILM!f I) Sensory Motor
~nllt lor centre for
words words

~ t
Baaic 'Dlegram'

What is notewonhy is that aphasia is now due to distu rbances within

or between self-sufficient systems of represenlations. II has been
pointed out that the 'speech apparatus' is an earlier version of the
'psychic apparatus' of Chapter VII of The Interpretation of Dreams.
We see now in what sense this is true: both ·apparatuses' are self-
suflicient systems of representation.,. The system of word-
presentations kept its place as a significant sub-system in this later
apparatus: it was later called the system of verbal residues - in the
Project, The Interpretation of Dreams, The Ego cmd the Id, An O utline of
Psychoanalysis- to name only those texts in wbich the system played an
important role in Freud's metapsychological argument. Having noted
this theoretical continuity which Freud owed to the model from On
Aphasia, we should now return 10 the theme of this chapter: the theory
of the talking-cure.


011 Aphasia made available to Freud a psychology of representations

independent of the structure of the nervous system , consisting in two
30 Language aJ1d tile Origin.<of Psyd1oa11a/ysis
systems of representations: word-presentations and object-associ-
ations. Both these systems had an order. a code or combination
that was independent of a system of relations either of the 'body" or the
"world". Jn what did aphasic symptoms consist? Aphasia was the
consequence of the altered general functioning of the systems, oc-
casionedby a cerebral lesion. Jn 1893. when he wished to proclaim the in-
dep<ndcncc of the hysterical lesion with respect lo the anatomy or the
nervous system. Freud had already aehie•ed this independence for the
study of aphasia, in which there was a visible and obvious lesion. In
showing that, even where there is an organic lesion, the explanation of
aphasic phenomena must be understood independently of the location
of the lesion. Freud paved the way for the understanding of hysteria as
the lesion of an idea. In both hysteria and aphasia it is the two systems of
presentations that suffer lesions.
But in hysteria it is a s,w<ifi< idea that suffers. The hysterical lesion
affects the relations of the two systems, but in a specific manner: it is
selective. On what basis docs it select? On the basis of an experience that
is psychically traumatic. Now. the term 'trauma' carries a number of
t. the sense given it in the theory of neuroses derived from Charcot
a.n d Jackson: an excessive excitation (but, in Freud's theory, now
freed from n specific locntion in the nervous system);
11 . an experience that is not ·worked over associatively'. 27

Jn Freud's earlier theories of hysteria, it is such traumatic incidents that

give rise to 1/wug/11s. The subjc-ct turns away from these thoughts (Freud
(1894a) SE Ill 52 3) and they fail to Rnd verbal expression. T hey then
reappear as symptoms. T he ta lking-cure then consists io re-evoking the
memory of the trauma and putt ing the affect associated with the
memory inco "''Ords:

... if he sees things before him with all their original actuality. we
shall observe that he is completely dominated by some affect. And if
we then compel him 10 put this affect into words, we shall find that, at
the same time as he is producing this violent affect. the phenomenon
of his pains emerges very markedly once again and that thencefor-
ward the symptom. in its chronic character. dtsappcars.... It could
only be supposed that the psycb.ic trauma docs in fact continue to
operate in the subject and maintains the hysterical phenomenon. and
that it comes to an end as soon as the patient bas spoken about it.
(Freud ( 1893h) SE Ill 35)"
Aphasia, Hysteria and 1he Talking Cure 31
Sometimes Freud wrote as if the visual memory itself was being
dissolved when it was put into words:

Once a picture has emerged from the patient's memory, we may hear
him say 1hat i1 becomes fragmentary and obscure as he proceeds with
his description of it. 111e patient ls, as it ~·ere, getting rid oj'it by tur11ing
it into words. ( Breuer and Freud (1895d) SE II 280)

What is being turned imo words is an affect and a memory that had
become converted into a symptom. The symptom itself was the
expression of these ' Jost' words. 29 On 1he model of the word/object
systems, what has happened is that a relation between thespetijic word
presentation and the specific object association has been refused - a
similar mechanism to that which Freud called asymbolic aphasia. As a
consequence of this refusaJ, lov.•er, earlier-learnt functions arc brought
into play: the words find their material locus in the body, rather than in
sound: they become gestures.'" Jackson had argued that something
similar takes place in aphasia: the recurrent utterances of the aphasic are
thoughts that are frozen, repeated, ready made up, and hence not true
speech . They are insistent and outside of the subject's control, in the
same way as hysterical symptoms are. To find out why these u11erances
and no others are found, one must look to the history of the course of
the aphasic syndrome, often finding a specific event or affec.t as the
explanation. Similarly, the talking cure had as its means an historical
enquiry, in search of a point in time when the relationship between the
two systems had suffered some 'perturbation'. But, with the dimension
of time, the theory became more complex.
Jn studying hysterics, Freud was not led back to any memory in the
unconscious.~ these memories themselves possessed an added dimen·
sion: their position in time. Symptoms Y.'Cre formed wht-n a prcc-ipitating
cause - usually a strong afTect - resonated with a repressed memory 1

say, from adolescence, which itself was associated with a similarly

repressed memory of an infantile sexual experience. The contemporary
idea joined the ideas associated with the repressed memories in the
unconscious and so lost touch with the moderating influences of verbal
consciousness. Hysteria was due to an inability to transfer these ideas
into verbal consciousness. Now this ability was appropriate only to that
period in a person's life when they could not translate any ideas into
verbal c.onsciousness: the years up to the age of four. One of Freud's
early hypotheses was that sexuality in some way extended the period
when such translation was not possible, up to the age of four, which,
32 La11g11age and the Origins of Psycltoonalysi.r
from lhe evidence of his cases. seemed to be a crucial age.

The period (up lo 4) possesses the character of being untranslaled

[into Vttbal images); so that the awakening of a sexual scene (from this
period) leads. not to psychical consequences, bu1 10 realizations (i.e.,
physical conscqucoccs) to conversion. The surplus of sexuality
prevents lranslatioo [into verbal images) .. . In o~iooal neurosis
the scenes occur during the period [up to 8) and can be translated in10
words. When they are awakened [either after age 14 or laler),
psychical ob~ional symptoms arise. (Freud ( l9SOa) SE I 1 75~)

Hysterical ideas always stemmed from a sexual experience of the

early period." Incapacity for translating such experience into words
was the pre-disposing condition for the hysterical disposi1ion,jus1 as the
capacity for lranslating the memory of the experience into words was
the necessary condition for the aUevia1ion of 1he hys1erical condition.
To 1hc exteot thal he placed such imponaDCC on an event that needed
10 be put into words. Freud was beginning 10 present problems for his
empirical argument. The evcnl was pa1hogmic because it was im·
possible 10 connect it with word presentalions at the time of its
occurrcoce. But if it wasn'1 these words that were forgoncn. what
exactly was it? The process of construction and remembering in analysis
indica1es this problem. Patients accept the cons1ruc1ions of the analyst.
while exclaiming 1ha1 they cannot remember them:

Are we 10 disregard Ibis withholding of rccogni1ion on lhe part of

palicnts, when, now lhat 1hc work is finished, there is no longer any
motive for their doing so? Or are we 10 suppose that we arc really
dealing with thoughts which never ca me about, which merely had a
possibility of existing, so thal the lrca1mcn1 would lie in the
accomplishmenl of a ps)'Cbica.l act which did not lake place al the
lime? (Breuer and Freud (1895d) SE II 300)"

Hcoce a gap in the chain of argurnenis has appeared. On the one

band, lhe signification of a symplom and the set of memories aligned
wi1h il is taken to stem from the signification 1ha1 was given to an event
in childhood. But now we discover that this event did not ta.kc place. or.
more exactly. the signification anached to this evem was never formed.
due to the lack al that time or the necessary condilions for such
significa1ion . These 'thoughts' only had a possibility of exis1ing: the
words had never been formed. Bui the symptoms themselves seemed to
Ap/uuia, Hysreria and IM Talk ing Cure 33
bear witness to some clement of verbal transformation. performed on
significations that had existed 'before'.
In the language that Freud was beginning to use in this period. some
ancmpt at resolving the paradox might be found in the idea that an
infantile memory only undergoes a single registration. in contrast with
the multiple registration that is received by ' ordinary' memories. The
' primal' memories, those that occur in early childhood , are those that
could not receive the multiple registration that allows conscious
memory lo take place. They were laid down before the system of speech
ca me into being. Do they exist at all? Or did they on ly have a possibility
of existing?
Freud deOoc:1cd the emphasis away from the question of the existence
of the events to which the memory or constru~1ion pointed by stressing
two other features: the primacy of memory and the systematic character
of experience. A first critical question, casting doubt on the existence of
events actually recounted by the patient, might be: ' What proof do you
have that these events, to which you accord such enonnous importance.
took place?' Freud replied that it wasn't the (material) reality of these
events that wasofimportanc.:, but rather the fact that they had a psychic
rxistcnce.JJ Reprcs.sioo acts on memori~s. not on perceptions, and if a
memory of an event has come into existence that is a sufficient cause for
repression. whether or not the event had ever actually taken place.••
Memory was the crucial concept, whether it was a question of the
memory of phantasies or of actual events .
The second critical position was implied by the fact that Freud
discussed in the quotation given above: patients cannot recollect the
event that all the evidence of analysis led him - nnd them - to posit as
having occurred. This event, of course, could be either a ' real' event or a
phontasy; but if no recollection could ever be elicited, what status must
the analys1 accord to this event? Freud surmised that a psychical act
hadn't taken place when it should have; the treatment consists in making
good this lack. But be bad a rertaio array of reasons. derived from other
parts of his theory, which made this lack more comprehensible. That is,
he had a SCI of reasons explaining why rertain experiences were
' unthinkable' and thus could not be expcclcd 10 have lcO anything but a
' lack' in the texture of experiences systematized into the contents ofthc
The first of these reasons was that the psyche lacked the intellectual
materials with which to think such a though1. Linle Hans failed to come
lo a conclusion as 10 the nature of sexual intercourse because of the
'intcllectuaJ difficulty' of the problem . Bui, as we will sec in our
34 Language and the Origins of Psychoonal}'sis
discussion of this case at the end of Chapter S, at the <ntl of the analysis,
Hans managed to construct a pbantasy that was equivalent to such
knowledge (the ' plumber pbantaSY. sec p. 201).
Secondly. certain subjects proved to be intrinsically recalcitrant for
the processes of thought. Sexuality was the most important subject that
came into this category. Throughout Freud's writings we find that
sexuality evokes a certain sluggishness in the mental apparatus, an
absence of thought. (Though we should also be clear that this
mysterious recalcitrance was also the occasion for the greatest intcl ·
lectual efforts of which the psyche was capable; the problems posed by
the recalcitrance of sexuality arc the roots of intellectual activity.)
But the third reason stemmed from the notion that Freud a1temp1ed
to place at the centre of his early theory of the neuroses: the notion that a
certain intellectual incapaciry (logically prior to the provision of the
materials upon which to exercise such a capacity) entailed that the
psychical act could not take place. And he aSS<lciated this intellectual
incapacuy very directly with the pre-verbal period: certain events bad
not been thought because the verbal residues were not available with
which to think them. More gcner•lly, he assumed that a failure
of tr•nscription into the systt:m of speech residues was what was
Thus one important theme that is broached here is that analysis
allows a person lo think the unthinkable: childhood experience. Tbe
more extreme version of this thinking the unthinkable comes 10 mind:
the «~experiencing of lhe act or birth. the allcmpt 10 think of dcalh as
something beyond mere absence (cf. Jones. 1927 and 1929). Such
experiences were unthinkable precisely because they arc experienced
without language. And. even 1hough Freud modifled his early emphasis
on the luck oflanguage, by introducing the 01her reasons accounting for
why one could not think such an event, the notion or a failure of the
function of language remained an essentia I feature of his account of
Freud finally made explicit in 1915 the notion that ii is a lack of
1ransla1ion into words that characterius a ~presentation as uncon·
scious. Ideas that for one reason or anothc:r could not be expressed in
words - for instance. the ·mystery connected " ith the genitals"' - v.·ere
likely 10 form the core oftbe rcprc~d unconscious. But thJS theory bad
bttn earlier tied to a chronological determinant of neurosis. the notion
that the initial predisposing experience for the disposition to neurosis.
the predisposing experience. the first trauma. had to occur before the
age n1 which ideas could be put into words.
Aphasia, Hysteria and the Talking Cure 35
Freud discarded the clear-cut relationship between the development
of verbal thought and the disposition for neurosis by 1897. But he never
stopped looking for a temporal determinant of this 'intellectual' order.
We find alternative hypotheses being put forward well into the 1920s.
The concept of the developmental stages of the sexual instincts was one
of his later answers to tbis problem. But in 1897. as a result of bis self
analysis. he proposed another such temporal cause:

Only one idea of general value has occurred to me. I have found love
of the mother and jealousy of the father in my own case. and now
believe it to be a general phenomenon of early childhood , even if it
docs not always occur so early as in children who have been
made hysterics. (Freud (1950a) SE I 265)

Behind this formulation of the notion of Oedipal desires lay the need
to lint. the development of the instinctual life with the intellectual
development of tbc speccb function. Freud was searching for a
chronological determinant for the causation of neurosis. And it still
lay in a temporally determined lack of synchronization of desire and its
integration into 'experience'. Throughout Freud's writings there will
remain a conception that there is something about the sexual that is
beyond the capacity of the mind to assign. Again. we can refer to the
resistance to signification that the loss of the penis awakens in both
sexes. a resistance that forms the rock bottom of all neuroses (cf. Freud
(1937c) SE XXIll 250- 3; also Freud (1909b) SE X 142 and (1905d) SE
VII 240 I). Arter the first entbusiastic hypotheses of the 1890s Freud
began to be more circumspect, while still finding the sume problematic
at the heart of neurosis. Of Little Hans Freud wrote:

It is hard to say what the inftuen"" was which ... led to the sudden
change in Hans... . Wheth<r the scales were tumed by the child's
lnrtlltttual inability to solve the difficult problem of the b<:getliog of
children and to cope with tbe aggressive impulses that were lib<:rated
by his approaching the solution. or whether the effect was produced
by a somatic incapacity ... (F reud (1909b) SEX 136)

Or the emphasis could be placed on sexual prematurity:

Such cases [of obsessional neurosisi unlike those of hysteria.

invariably possess the characteristic of premature sexual activity.
(Freud (1909d) SEX 165)
36 Language and rhe Origins of Ps,.choanalysis
But. whichever option Freud worked with at a given time, what was at
issue was the lack or coordination between the sexual and verbal
We can forge a link between this 'inadequation • and the disturbance
or the word and object systems outlined in On Aphasia. The inter-
mediate 1erm is the cisuo.1 men'IOFJ, trac,, In On Dream.r. Freud argued
that visual memories from childhood fonn the core around which the
clements of the dream crystallize (Freud (1901a) SEY 659; er Freud
(1900a) SE Y 546). In other texts. it is precisely such elements that
represent ' unreconstructed' elemenL• of the primary process." Visual
elcmenL~, the clements of the hysterical trauma, sexual experience: all
these urc 'object associations' that have not been integrated into the
system of word-presentations.
We have followed the language or the systems that were first set out in
On Aphasia in order to indicate the continuity of Freud's arguments
with respect to aphasia and hysteria. What is distinctive in tbe theory of
hysteria sull remains: the spccilicity or the words that arc both
causative and curati,·e or the symptoms. But what is general and
common to both aphasia and hysteria is the attempt to find the general
conditions involved in the mall'unction or the speech apparatus. What
Freud recognized as the distinctive feature of hr,ncria was a smrantic
clement. an element of meaning. How this element of meaning came to
be found in such an unexpected place as a physical symptom could be
discussed using the systems of representation laid out in On Aphasia. In
essence, Freud laid out a continuum, stretching from aphasia to hysteria
by symbolization, in which a common feature united all the clements
along I he continuum: all involved a disturbance of the relations between
object association and word presentation. In order to cure hysteria by
symbolization one needs to establish a symbolfc connection that was
never made in childhood .

. . . we remove the symptom by bringing about, during the repro-

duction of the traumatic scene, a subsequent correction {eine
naelrtriigli<ht Korrtktur] of the psychical events which took place at
the time. (Freud (1896c) SE HI 193)

The disturbance of the relationship between word and object

presentation i.s corrected subsequently: the talking that fills analysis. lo
Freud's view in the 1890s, this talking did not even have to take place
within the special relationship of doctor and patient. Any verbal
discharge could correct the disturbance. With regard to Katherina, one
of the studies in hysteria, Freud noted:
Aphasia, Hysteria and the Talking Cure 37
... wha1 "e "ere dealing with was a hys1ena which had 10 a
considerable extent been abreac1ed. And in fact she bad reported her
disco•ery to her aunt soon afler i1 happened. (Breuer and Freud
(I 89Sd) SE II 132)

Any verbal approach 10 the object that has become ' lost' to 1hesystem
of word presen1111ions is likely to be efficacioU$. Indeed, Freud's
remarks on the general functions of speech bear out the impression that
any uilking. even if it is language a1 i1s most unspecitic - oaths - will
e1Tec1 the stale of psychical heahh thal the hysteric has given up by
rcrusmg 10 speak:

Let us suppose that a man is insuhed. is given a blow or something of

the kind. This psychical trauma is linked wi1h an increase in the sum
of excitation of his nervous system. There 1hen inslinctively arises an
inclina1ion to diminish 1his increased exci1ation immedia1ely. He hits
back. and then feclscasicr; hcmay perhaps have reacted udcquatcly-
thal is. he may ha,·e got rid of as much as had been introduced inlo
him....The most adequate reaction ... is always a deed. But, as an
English " ritcr has wittily remarked. the man who first Oung a word of
abuse a1 bis enemy instead of a spear was 1he founder of civilization.
Thus words arc substitutes for deeds, and in some circumstances (e.g.
in Confession) the only substitutes .... An insult that bas been
repaid. even if only in words, is recollected quite differently from one
tha t has had to be accepted; and linguistic usage characteristically
descrihes nn insult that bas been suffered in silence as a ' mortification'
(Kr//11k1mg). (Freud ( 1893h) SE Ill 36)

What makes the patient ill is silence. But this long passage indicates a
subtle fusion of the two elements we have carefully separated so far.
'Talk' is conceived both as lying in the dimension of meaning, of truth,
of spcci6ci1y; and it is also conceived of as a mechanism for the
discharge of a tension. an excess of excita1ion that, al 1his date ( 1893). is
still conceived of as analogous to the excitation of the nervous system
(cf. Andersson. ( 1962)). We might well call this lancr element the
ca1hani<: dimension and the former the semantic dimension.'' What is
most interdting is that the aphasia monograph was almO>t exclusively
concerned with the conditions necessary for the understanding of the
semantic dimension. even though the dis1inc1i•e characteristic of the
semantic, specificity, was lacking in aphasia . It elaborated a syntax of
systems into which the distinctively Freudian concept of hysteria as a
38 Language and tk Origins of Ps)'choonal)'S~
·semantic" disorder could be placed. With the demise of the cathanic
method and cure,JI all the therapeutic weight came to rest on the
semantic clement.
This is not to deny that the quantitative clement was not still bound
up in the terminology that Freud developed. But it is important to
recognize that these terms- for example, resistance and transference-
camc to refer primarily to clements ofsignification: resistance is first and
foremost resistance 10 signification; transference refers primarily 10 the
signification of the analyst in the psychic economy, rather than the
displacement of quantity onto this new object.
As a consequence, it is at the level of theory, rather than of therapy,
that we find the q uanlitative mode put most in evidence. It was in the
Project that Freud a11emp1ed to combine 1he idea of psychic systems
developed in On Aphasia with a derivation from firsl principles of the
quantitative functioning of these systems. We will not be able 10 analyse
this a11cmp1 in detail. What must concern us is the exact position given
to the ·speech apparatus' in that abortive work. We will find the
clements we have already encountered emerge more clearly, namely, the
fundamental importance of the relations betwccn the object assoc;.
a1ions (traces) and word prcscn1a1ions (verbal residues). and the
civilizing function oflanguage, which underpins the therapy ofhyslcria.
But. before we tum to the Project and then 10 1hc ,later theory of
language in Freud"s work, we should finally try and measure the
originality oft he talking cure, when con1ras1ed wi1h Charcot"s theories
ofhyslcria, hypnosis and aphasia. h has been argued mosl in1crcstingly
by Major( l974, 1977) that the !urning poin1 in Freud's 1herapy was the
momenl when he allached grcalcr impor1ancc to 1he hyslcrics' words
1han 10 her drama1ic gcs1ures. The talking cure 1urns away from the
dn1ma1ic rela1ion between doctor and pa1ien1 10 lhe words of 1he
hys1eric, the doctor's gaze is shined away from the body of 1he patient,
thus crca1ing the presence of a master. filling the field of consciousness
oft he hysteric and allowing her to become the plaything of1 he masters
desire. i.e. to 'satisfy' her desire. Major links Ibis with a shift of the
doc1or-pa1icnt relationship that Freud brought about by assigning such
dominance to the acoustic element of language:

Freud. in 1891. brought to bear a decisive quarter-tum to the radiant

occupied by the visual image by placing the acoustic image in a
dominanl position. The correlative technique is nothing less than the
invention of 1he analytic situation, whose place had thus already been
assigned 10 it by theory. (Major, 1977, p. 22)
Aphasia. Hys teria and the Talking Cure 39
This argument, though very attractive in i1s radical simplici1y, does
not seem to hold up under further scrutiny. Firstly. the primacy assigned
to the acoustic representation of the word cannot be regarded as
peculiar to Freud's theory of aphasia. That Charcot 's theory of aphasia
did not give such pre-eminence to the acous1ic clement is true ( Ross
1887, pp. 87fT; Miraille, 1896: Ombredanc, 1951, pp. 102- 6); but
neither did his theory pririltge the visual clement of the word (i t would
be diffkuh 10 imagine a theory that did). Secondly, ii would seem to ask
too much of the historical evidence to relate so directly the therapy of
1he neuroses and the theory oflanguage found in aphasia studies. The
chain of argument between Freud's emphasis on 1he acoustic impres-
sion and 1hc 1hcrapeu1ic listening of the doctor is not clear in any of bis
wri1ings, nor does it seem plausible 10 recons1ruct such a link."
Out we are still left with a fertile opposi1ion: lhat between the
dramatic visuality ofCharcot's therapy, in which 1he doctor's presence
as master. as we have seen, seems preeminent. and the literary aurality
of Freud's talking cure. T o link this opposition with Freud's theory of
aphasia would se<:m to be a plausible hypothesis. But beyond its a priori
plausibility there appears little evidence in favour of it. unless we can
bring ourselves to convert in10 a major theoretical statement such
remarks as Charcot's 'Jc oe suis qu'un visucl' (Enlralgo, 1969, p. 139), a
remark 1hat may have definite links with his theory or·sensory character
types' and his theory of aphasia. but does not seem to advance very far
into the complex relations of the 1heory and therapy of the neuroses.
Whal we can argue, I believe, is 1he following: the transition from the
.:ure by dramatic presence 10 lhe cure by the magical power of words
was supported at the theoretical level by the possibili1ies offered by
Freud 's theory of language, elaborated with rcspoc110 aphasia. as to the
psychological mechanisms oft he cure through words. In 1he Project, to
which we now 1uro. we find that the speech system receives an
inordinate emphasis in its relations with the 0 1hcr Jtyslcms. and
particularly wi1h respect to consciousness. Indeed. the importance of
the ·speech apparatus' is such that the same theory. set out first in the
Projtrr. can be found repeated and remoulded in some of Freud's most
important metapsychological writings: Chapter VII of The lnrerpre1-
a11"on of Drtanis. ·on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning', The
Ego and the Id, 'The Unconscious' and A" Ourlmr of Psych{J(Jna/ysls.••
2 The Metapsychology
of Speech
postcard; .. I live in silence here
a wet winter the baby's well
I give her bear's names Ursula
Mischa Pola Living alone makes
anyone crazy, especially with children"

I li•·e in silence here

x is the condition of my silence
s/ be

the tongue as a swan's neck

full and bea\'y in the mouth

speech as a sexed thing

the speaking Limb is stilled

De11lse Riley

The Project for a Scientific Ps}·chology of 1895 represented an anempt to

fuse a sophisticated theory of the psychic apparatus with the concepts
needed to explain the struct ure and aetiology of hysterical symptoms. In
the first section of this chapter we will be oonc:emed with the precise
function of the 'zone of language' in ·a machine that in a moment would
run of itself'. (Freud (1950a) Origins, (20 Oct 1895) p. 129). A general
account of the Projtct. impenetrable as it will remain. is necessary. 1


The construction of the systems of neurones that make up the psychic

app<1ratus proceeds. as so often with Freud, through binary distinctions.
Tht Mttapsychology of S{Nt<h 41
Fi11tly. we must distinguish system ef> and system .;. respectively
corresponding to a system for the r=ption of external stimuli and a
system that records the passage of stimuli. System .;. on the 'interior and
shielded by ef> from the 'outside', r=ivcs continuous endogenous stimuli
from the 'interior'. The natural tendency of neuro nes to discharge
themselves of any accumulated quantity (Q) is offset by the necessity to
have Q available in order to control the direction and form of discharge.
The nucleus of t/t, wbich receives its cathexis - or 'charge' of Q' - from
within, retains a constant level of Q, and thus is able to control overhasty
discharge by inhibiting the flow of Q. This nucleus. the ego. performs its
inhibitory function by changing the relative value of 'facilitations' (or
resistances of the walls of the neurones), thus preventing Q from flowi11g
away to motor neurones, whose activation will signal the initiation of
The level of facilitations in "1 corresponds to the memory·system: when
Q passes from ef> to.; facilitations along its path change their value, thus
representing a record of the Q that has passed. If an inner state of
need - that is, high cathcxi.s of;. neurones- arises, a 'specific action' that
allows satisfactory motor discharge of this cathexis will create facili-
tations between the ioternaUy catbected neurone and the perceptions
that accompanied the ·experience of satisfaction'. Freud took as bis
example the state of hunger in a newborn infant. The experience of
satisfaction consists in sucking milk at the breast: the accompanying
perceptions reaching t/t via ef> - the visual image o f the breast and the
report of the muscular movements involved in sucking- pass from ef> to "1
and create facilitations between the 'hunger' neurone cathccted from
within and the neurones corresponding to these two perceptions. When
the need arises again, Q ftows this time from the ' hunger' neurone 10 the
imnge of the breast and the motor image of sucking. nnd is discharged
into ~ - that is. the baby hallucinates the breast and mimes the movement
of sucking.
But this repetition of the experience of SGtisfaction docs not lead
to 'real' satisfaction: it docs not arrest the build-up of endogen-
ous stimuli from within. The level of unpleasure in the psychic
apparatus increases. A second altempt to bring about the experience of
satisfaction now follows: the pathway of internal change, by which the
'expression of the emotions' is produced.' These seemingly random
innervations of the muscular system, which include screaming, are all
aimed at discharging the accumulated Q through motor pathways. But
again. the experience of satisfaction eludes the subject, unless help is
altracted by these motor discharges, particularly by the scream, and the
42 lmrguag~ and tire Origins of Psychoanalysis
helper 1hen carries out the specific ac1ion for the infanL The scream 1bus
lays the foundation for an understanding between lhe helpless infant and
other human beings: the infant's helplessness lays the foundation for all
This accidentally suoccssful achievemcnl of the experience of satisfac·
tion, ahbougb ii lays !he foundation for an understanding with others
that will provide the means for attaining sa1isfaction, docs no1 avoid a
large nmounl of unpleasure. Wha1 is needed is bolh a means of keeping
unpleasure to a minimum and a means of conirolling 1he body so
as 10 fncili1a1e the attainmeot of a situa1ion in which mo1or inner·
va1ion - discharge - will achieve its goal in rcali1y, as well as in the
perceptual field. The system of the ego allains 1he first goal by inhibiting
all large now of quantity, and hence of discharge, until 'indications of
rcali1y' are received by .p, informing ii 1ha1 1he ca1hec1ed neurones in
\(! - i.e. 1he image of 1he object that is wished for- coincide with 1he
perceptions received from the exterior. When a 'pcrceplual identily' of
1his son has been achieved, the ego relaxes 1hc inhibilion, and discharge,
not only of the 'hunger' neurone, but also to some extent of the ego itself.
takes place: 1he experience of satisfaction is repealed m rcalily.
The control of the body necessary in order to bring perceptions to
identity with the wished-for idea is attained 'ia a process of thought.
taking os its object the random movements of the body that were
associated in the pasl wi1h the experience of sa1isfac1ion. The ego. while
inhibiting the movemenls of large Qin .p, allows small Q to relrace the
facili1a1ions 1ha1 a reconnecled wi1h 1he represen1a1ion of1he wished-for
object, lhc breast, and t he represen1a1ion of lhe wished-for ac1ion.
sucking. In this way, the ego fi nds a set of facilita1ions that correspond 10
n se1 of representations of actions, whose performance will result in
percepiunl identity being allained. Having successfully conducted Ibis
process of thought. which results in lhough1-iden1i1y. the ego releases the
pa1hways 1ha1 1hough1 has found to lead 10 1he memory of 1he experience
of sa1isfae1ion: bolh a preparatory set of actions and lhe specific action
i1sclf arc carried out.
Bui this account of the process of though1 raises a problem. In 1he
process of relracing the facitiUltions laid down by pasl expericn<C, a
certain at.thcxis of neurones corresponding 10 perceptions takes
place - indeed. this cathcxis. accompanied by an inhibi1ion of discharge
and the flow of large Q, is lhe process of 1hough1. How can the ego
dis1inguish between !he cathexes resulting from 1he ftow of Qfrom</> 10 l{I
and ca1hexes owing 10 its own though1-ac1ivi1y? The first answer Freud
gave 10 this problem depended upon 1he propenies of a third sySlcm of
The M etapsychol<>gy of Sp€tch 43
neurones that he posited in order to explain the existence of conscious-
ness. The primary attribu1e of consciousness, according to F reud, is that
it possesses quality, whereas the systems</> and ;. deal only in the passage
of Q.
Quality is most manifest in perception; thus the third sptem, W or ru,
is responsive to rcc:cpiion of stimuli by </>, but not dircclly responsive to
the processes of marking in.;. Quality itself is a periodic property of Q
received from 'outside', completely independent of the level of Q in both
</> and .;. Thus the system "' only registers the quality derived from
external stimuli reaching </>, and passing through I/!. Registration of
quality in w thus corresponds to conscious perception.
Freud then posited that the w neurones discharge when they are
excited by perceptual stimuli, and a report of this discharge is received by
l/J. 'II is this report of a discharge coming from w that constitutucs an
indication of quality or reality to I/I : • (Freud ( I950a) SE I 325.)
Perceptions are thus distinguished from the memories cathccted during
the process oflhought (ideas) by the signals supplied by these ind ications
of reality (Rtalitiitszeichen).
Little by little, in F rcud"s account. the emphasis shills first from the
relations between I/I and </> to the relations bet,.ecn ;. and w (the
perceptual neurones). and 1hen to the relations between r(f and the
indications of discharge (quality-reality) corning from mo tor neurones
attached to the system "'· In order to consolidate the interest that.; takes
in perceptual discharges, owing to the constant recurrence, if not
constant presence, of cathccted wishful ideas in o/I, Freud pos1ula1cd a
mechanism of attention, in which the ego uses its o wn Q 10 ca1hec1 those
perceptual neurones that have become excited.
But, so far, this mechanism of anenlion and the allribute of
consciousness only apply to perceptions. Thought, the means by which
the 'information· derived from perceptions can be converted into the
'planning' of an action designed to relieve.; (the ego) of the build-up of
endogenous stimuli. seems to be losing o ut. None of these mechanisms
facilitate the processes of thought. What Freud then introduced was a
'sub-system' that guaranteed both that ancntion could be given to
thought and that thought could become conscious. This sub-system was
the spetch associations.
The S'pccch associations prO\idc a circumscribed and cx<:Jusi\t S)"Stcm
of perceptual (auditory image) and mo tor (verbal iDlllge) neurones. If,
during the process of thought. those memories that are ca1hected
because of their proximi1y to the wished-for idea and to the simul-
laneously ca1hected perceptual neuro nes themselves allow a ' branch-
44 Languagt and the Origins of Psych{)(Jfla/ysis
s1ream' of Q lo pass lo lhe speech associalions. I hen 1hc consequent
discharges of the speech associa1ions cons1i1u1c a new order of
indicalions of quali1y. Thus lhoughl can now have a11en1ion dirccled 10
ii. JuJI as 11 is biologically advanlllgcow for I/I 10 prepare for possible
impor1an1 perceptions by 'pre<athccting' perccp1ual neurones. so ii is
equally advantageous for the ego to pre-c:a1hec1 1he verbal images so as
10 create ·a mechanism for directing the l/l-ca1hexis to the memories
which emerge during 1he passage of Q. Here we have conscious.
observnni 1hough1'. (Freud (1950a) SE I 365)
II is ns if. without the sustaining system of speech, thought will come to
a siandstill for lack of guidance as lo what memories to cathect and for
lack of Q with which 10 overcome the large number of resistances
(facilitations) involved in long and complex trains of thought. The
Jndica1ions of quality provided by speech allow 1he ego to send Q to
those neurones in t/t which are needed for though1-processes. It is in this
sense tha1 Freud stales that speecb-associa1ions ·make cognition
possible". (Ibid)
Bui no1 only does speech make cogni1ion possible. i1 makes i1 possible
10 rtcord thought, 10 trcal thought as 1hough i1 v.erc experiencc.
Thought consists in small ftows of Qin;. directed by the ego. If this is so,
then th= passages wiU create facilitations. How is the ego to distinguish
the resul1s of perception from results of thought processes. since both
consist in changed facilitations in ,Y? The indica1ions of quality from lhc
perceptual neurones inform the ego of what is a memory and what is a
perception here and now; but they do not distinguish between memories
of perceptions and memories of 1hought. At this point Freud's argument
became conrused; l quote:

Now t/t has no means of dis1inguishing [1he results or thought-

proccsscs) from the results of perceptual processes. It may be possible
to rccognitc and reproduce perccptual processes 1hrough their being
associated with discharges or perception; but the facilitations pro-
duced by 1hou9h1 leave only their result behind 1hem and not a
memory. A thought-facilitation may have arisen equally v.cU from a
single intcnsi\'e process or from ten less impressive ones. Now the
indications of discharge by way of speech help to make good this lack.
They pul thought-processes on a level with perceptual proocsscs; they
lend them reality and make it possible to r•m•mber th•m. (I bid. SE I

Surely. we might ask, a memory consist> in a facilitation'/ l rthis is so,

The /.fetaps)•chology of Speec/1 45
lhcn 1he resuh of 1hought-processcs is a facilitation in no way different
from a memory. Did nol Freud demons1ra1e, al lhe beginning of 1he
Projec1, 1ha1 'memory is represen1cd bylhe facilira1ions exis1ing be1ween
1he ~-neurones' (Ibid, SE I 300)? What perhaps led hom to a confusion at
this poinl was lhe introduction of the terminology of 'memory-images'
when he came to discuss the experience of pain. 1hus tempting him to
mnke a distinction between a facilitauon and olher sorls of memory
based upon a notion of a duplication of a perceplual image. But this
hypo1hesis apart, we can sec the problem 10 which Freud addressed
himself: how to distinguish between facilitalions following upon the
flow of Q from <f> to "1 (i.e. the memory of u perception) and the facili-
lal ions following upon the How of Q within o{I, as rcgulalcd by the
cenlral inhibitory agency, the ego. and provoked by the difference
be1ween the wishful idea, itself activalcd by 1he accumulation of
endogenous stimuli. and the indica1ions of quality proceeding from w
(i.e. 1he memory of a lhougbt).' When clarified. Freud's argument then
amounts to this: a memory of a pcrocp1ion consists not only of the
facilitalions lefl behind by 1be passage of Q from <f> inlo I/I and its
dissipation. but also of a record of 1he indica1ions of qualily tha1 came
from w when 1his pcn;ep1ion was made. Similarly. the indications of
speech give rise to a record of a signal of qU3lily when Q Dows in ~ - i.e.
when though• lakes place. Thus:

Memory of a pcrceplion ~ o/J facili1a1ions + indica1ions of qU31ily

from w
Memo ry of a 1hough1 ~ o{I facililations + indica1ions of qualily
from speech.

A further qucs1ion might now be asked: how docs the ego dislinguish
between indications of quali1y from wand indica1ions of qualily from
Freud gave no direc1answer10 this qucs1ion , bu1 we may be able to
piece one together from the elements of his 1hcory. To do so. we muse
rc1urn 101wo passages: the firsi in On Aphasia. where hese1sout the 1wo
srs1cms of word-presentations and objcct-assocoa11ons (Chapter I. p.
28). and lhc second when be in1roduccd 1he sys1em of speecb-
associat1ons ro Pan Ill of the Projecr. In both passages he s1a1ed tbatthe
sys1em of word-prcsenlations is 'closed' (geseh/ossen). In On Aphasia,
he explicitly contrasted it wi1h the ·open' sys1em of objec1-associa1ions.
In addi1ion, in the Projeer, he stated tha1:
46 language (llld the Origins of Psychoanalysis
Speech associations consists in the linking of I/I neurones with
neurones which serve sound-presentations and themselves have the
closest association with motor speech-images. These associations
have an advantage of two characteristics over the others: they are
limited (ge.schlasstn) (few in number) and exclusive. ( Ibid. SE I 36.S)

What significance could this difference have1 The closed system of

word-presentations - the limited number of sounds that go to make up
the elements of a natural language - becomes instantly recognizable as
such, precisely because of the finite- indeed small - number of elemen-
tary units that could possibly be included in any given perceptua l
sequence (or registration of perceptual sequence). It is quite probably
this feature of the word-system that allows one both to distinguish
quickly between a component of a word and any other noise, and also to
screen out other noises, by some process of selective attention.• With
the 'open· system of object-associations, on the other hand, the
continual novelty and the necessity for paying attention to such
novelties, in order to discover whether they arc significant novelties
(both in an absolute sense and in a sense relative to the needs of practical
thought). entails an ever-growing difference in the order of magnitude
of the number of elementary units of object-associations as compared
with word-presentations (whether the former be based on a stable
species of unit , or, as is more likely, they are continually being
reooded). Such a distinction in the behaviour of the two systems,
although not an absolute one - since we must not forget that, as Freud's
poem/alphabet metaphor suggests, we are dealing with arbitrary
representations at both the level of object-associations and the level of
word-presentations - could form the foundation for a means for
distinguishing the two registers of psychical quality. Hence the thought·
processes arc now put on a par with pc.rccption, through the assistance
of the speech associations; but only at the cost of an opacity that Freud
passed over: a means for recording indications of quality.
But this opacity is partially illuminated by a further argument. What
is recorded arc the indications of discharge - the kinaesthetic images of
On Apluuia that is, reports of the subject's own motor activity. This
means of recording also gives speech another important task. Freud
outlined the development of the speec.h function from the path of
internal change mentioned above (p. 41). the blind safety-valve that did
not lead to the experience of satisfaction. but which now t.a kes on a very
great importance.
The Metapsychology of S~tch 47
There arc ... objects (perceptions) which make one scream beca=
they ca= pain; and it is an immensely significant fact that this
association of a sound (which also gives rise 10 motor images of the
subject"sown movements) with a perception 1hat is already a complex
one emphasizes the hostile character of the object and serves to draw
anention to 1bc perception. Whereas otherwise. owing to the pain,
one would have received no clear indications of q uality from the
object, the report of one's own scream serves to characterize the
object. This association is 1hus a means of making conscious
memories that cause unpleasure and of bringing anention 10 bear
upon them: the first class of conscious memories has been created. It is
a short step from here to the invention of speech. (Ibid. SE 1366-7)
Thus speech - or its genetic precursor, 1he scream - introduces the
possibility ofthinkin.g about a pain<ausing object without evoking the
pain associated with that object. Instead of institu1ing 1hc primary
defence - ·a repulsion, a disinclina1ion to keep 1hc hostile memory-image
cathectcd' (Ibid. SE I 367)- whenC\-er 1hough1 comes close to such a
memory. mhibition of that v-pathV1ay can be maintained while a
'representation' of that memory, a word, can lllke its place in the
thought-process. Thus speech makes possible cognithe or theoretical
1hinking; thought that can survey any pa1hway in 1/1, regardless of the
pleasure or unpleasure associa1ed with the a11hexis of a memory of a
pereep1ion 1ha1 originally caused pain.
The ·opacity' is now clarified by a simple expedient or observation:
sp«<:h associations themselves give rise 10 cxtcrnul perceptions. In this
way, though1 finds what Freud later called a 'special sensory surface':
thought finds a way 10 become perception.
There arc objects of a second kind which arc 1bernselves constantly
giving vent to certain noises - objects, tha1 is, in whose perceptual
complex a sound plays a part. In consequence of the impulse to
imitai. which emerges during the process or judging (as lo what is
similar or dilferenl from the subject), i1 is possible to find a report ofa
movement (of one·s own) attaching to this sound-image. So that this
class of memories loo can now become conscious. It remains to
associate tklilNratdy produced sounds .,...;th perceptions. When this is
done. 1he memories that arise when one obs<rves indications of
discharges by way of sound becom< conscious like perceptions and
can be t-a1hccted from o/t • ••• It is well known 1hn1 what is known as
.. comcious" thought is accompanied by a slight rno1or expenditure.
(Ibid. SE I 367)
48 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
This 'double' account of the beginnings of speech thus highlights 1wo
dilTerenl though! acthilics:
i. lhougbl oonceming a painful memory
ii. memories of thoughl·proocsscs as distinct from memories of
h is clear 1ha1 in the second case. when one deliberately produces
sounds oneself, one is making possible conscious 1hough1 about an
object l hat is not present. But ii is also true that speech derived from the
scream associated with a pain-giving object makes possible conscious
thought in the effective absence of the represcntnlion of that object,
since the evocation oft he latter. both at the level of consciousness and al
the level of normal o/t-processes. is prevented by the action of primary
defence, that is, the avoidance of any pathway leading to a calhexis of
the pain-giving object's representation. Thus speech pathways act as a
·neutral' alternative set of pathways for thought oonceming a painful
memory: they provide a second code for the processes of cognitive
thought. Thought can now be maintained for an indefinite period of
time in the absence of the object; spctch seems to be intimately bound
up with the absence of the rcprcstntation of the object.
Spcech allows the .; system to suspend both imperatives of the
pleasure principle; it allows thought concerning pain-producing objects
10 take place as easily as with relatively neutral memories, and it ensures
that thought does not get 'stuck' pursuing immediate pleasure. Speech
·ensures the impartiality of the course of association.' (I bid. SE I 373-
4). Only one device can secure chought from either 1he avoidance of
unpleasure or an excessive auention 10 wishful ideas and purposive
association: the indications of quality aroused by speech. Speech
residues arc not purposive ideas and thus can never h.indcr association.
Speech gains its importance from its uselessness. from !he fact that it is
not a specific action ..,.
Bui Freud was equivocal about the absolute importance of these
speech residues. Practical !bought can be conducted wilhout !hem,
allhough there. as in cognitive thought. "indications of quality ensure
and fax the course of association'. (Ibid. SE l 378) Or. again. Freud
assencd that 'the reproducibility of thought-processes extends far
beyond their indications of quality; they can be made conscious
subsequently ... ' ( Ibid. SE I 380). What these equivocations amount
to is this: Freud took it as given that thought could take place withour
the indications of quality derived from speech residues being involved,
i.e. he assumed that thought "ithout words wus possible. Bui, aside
The Mttapsyclwlogy of Sp<'eclt 49
from 1he system of word associations. he had no approprialc mechan-
ism ci1her for dis1inguishing this wordle$S tboughl from perception or
for assigning to wordless though! 1be rcalily and importance it
obviously did have over and again5l pcrceplion. Having achieved bolh
of 1hcse Ian er tasks with the system of word associa1ions. 1hesc seemed
10 put 1hc mechanism of thought into a decidedly secondary position.
The protcsl of Freud's own 'common sense' or ' belier judgement'
againsl the logic of his owrt concep1ual machinery was 10 remain in Ibis
cau1ionary and equivocating mode throughout 1hc mclapsychological
wrilings of l he ncxl forty years.•
Bui lel us summarize 1he three main claims the Project made as lo !he
func1ion of speech associations:
i. Spcc<:h makes possible a second realily, on a level with the reali1y
accorded 10 pcrcep1ion; 1his is thought· or psychic-reality.
ii. speech makes possible conscious memories. by giving lhe system
of m<morics access to a sys1em wh05C cathcxis and discharge is
perceptual in character. wi1bou1 coming from ·ouuidc'.
iii. spcc<:h allows both pleasure and unplcasure 10 be avoided, so that
all pans of 1be mental apparalus are atcCSSible 10 though!·
processes al all lilms.


But. somehow, 1his machine refused 10 run. Wedo nol knowexac1 ly why
Freud discarded 1he Project: in the lcllcrs lo Flicss he simply exclaimed:
' I no longer understand 1hc s1a1c of mind in which I concocted the
psychology ... ii seems to me to have been a le.ind of abcrra1ion.' (Freud
(19500) Origins (29 Nov. 1895) p. 134). Five weeks arier wriling 1his he
was bock 1inkering wi1h the model, schema1ically indica1ing ·a comple1e
revision of all my <Po/Jw 1heories'. (Ibid. (l Jan. 1896), p. 141 ). The most
subs1an1ial change was a more clearcul dcmarca1ion betwec.n o/J, on the
o ne hand, aod <P and won the other. No Q actually flowed from <P and l/f;
rather. a record of ,P's reception of stimuli w.is achieved as a sidc-dTect,
1hrough a son of induction or excitalion of !/I by w. Thus w b«:amc bo1h
more cen1ral to 1he recording of exicrnal e"entS in !/I. while tfl b«:ame
more 1ndepcndcn1 of bolh <P and w. I/I was now 1hc scat of unconscious
processes which could, as before, only 'subsequcnlly acquire a secondary,
anifidal consciousness by being linked wilh processes of discharge and
pcrcx:plion (wilh speech-associations)'. (Ibid.) Percepiual processes, on
1hc o ther hand, automalically involved consciousness.
The Metapsycholog}' of SJNech 51
and the revisions of the following months did not impro,·e it. We might
well ask: whydoesn't theprocessofcognitive thought. made possible by
spccch. in which auention can be directed to any ;--pathway, anticipate
the change in condition of the memory of the pre-sexual experience
consequent upon puberty, and thus anticipate the release of unplcasure
from a related post-pubertal experience? Is it that there is something
inherently recalcitrant in sexual experience which makes it difficult to
think about or to put into words? Such a solution to the problem of
repression was to be entertained by Freud in later years, but it obviously
lcn more questions unanswered than it solved . In fact. Freud always
found this problem recalcitrant, returning to it frequently. One answe.r
he gave, in the paper on 'Repression', postulated a primary repression
which fixed a certain relationship between an idea (memory) and a
(sexua l) instinct: such an answer still did not approach the question
'why?'. Bui , from the Project on, ii would seem that Freud became
sensitive to the sort ofconsiderations we ha ve raised concerning the use
of speech associations to work over a memory whose condition bas
changed since its original registration.
In essence Freud's idea was this: repression was due to a lack of
synchronization between the inhibitory activity of the ego, further
regulated by the speech associations, and the internal excitations due to
the sexual processes. The argument in the Project had relied solely upon
a tempo ral discontinuity in the level of sexual excitations introduced by
the threshold of puberty. Since, as we noted, this explanation seemed to
be open to objections arising from the properties of the •q,ijlru', why
not look to the other side of the process, the mechanisms of inhibition,
for the foctor predisposing to repression? In other words, why not look
to the stages of the development of thought, o r, following Ferenczi , the
stages in the development of a sense of reality. for the discontinuities
that give occasion for the specific vulnerability of the mental apparatus
to which repression wiU1esses? 10 It was true that rttis angle of approach
would not explain why it seemed to be s~xua/ experiences and only
sexual experiences which were the initial occasion fo r repression. But
Freud recognized that bis attempt to find the sufficient condition for
repression in the amplifying factor of puberty had not supplied a very
satisfactory explanation; and in the years 1895- 98 be bad little clear
idea or additional factors specific to the develo pment or sexual
excitations that would provide a sufficient condition for repression. So it
was probable that factors on both sides of the equation would prove
necessary: one factor, on the side of sexuality, in order to explain why
the traumatic experience was always sexual ; and another factor, on the
The Metapsycholog}' of SJNech 51
and the revisions of the following months did not impro,·e it. We might
well ask: whydoesn't theprocessofcognitive thought. made possible by
spccch. in which auention can be directed to any ;--pathway, anticipate
the change in condition of the memory of the pre-sexual experience
consequent upon puberty, and thus anticipate the release of unplcasure
from a related post-pubertal experience? Is it that there is something
inherently recalcitrant in sexual experience which makes it difficult to
think about or to put into words? Such a solution to the problem of
repression was to be entertained by Freud in later years, but it obviously
lcn more questions unanswered than it solved . In fact. Freud always
found this problem recalcitrant, returning to it frequently. One answe.r
he gave, in the paper on 'Repression', postulated a primary repression
which fixed a certain relationship between an idea (memory) and a
(sexua l) instinct: such an answer still did not approach the question
'why?'. Bui , from the Project on, ii would seem that Freud became
sensitive to the sort ofconsiderations we ha ve raised concerning the use
of speech associations to work over a memory whose condition bas
changed since its original registration.
In essence Freud's idea was this: repression was due to a lack of
synchronization between the inhibitory activity of the ego, further
regulated by the speech associations, and the internal excitations due to
the sexual processes. The argument in the Project had relied solely upon
a tempo ral discontinuity in the level of sexual excitations introduced by
the threshold of puberty. Since, as we noted, this explanation seemed to
be open to objections arising from the properties of the •q,ijlru', why
not look to the other side of the process, the mechanisms of inhibition,
for the foctor predisposing to repression? In other words, why not look
to the stages of the development of thought, o r, following Ferenczi , the
stages in the development of a sense of reality. for the discontinuities
that give occasion for the specific vulnerability of the mental apparatus
to which repression wiU1esses? 10 It was true that rttis angle of approach
would not explain why it seemed to be s~xua/ experiences and only
sexual experiences which were the initial occasion fo r repression. But
Freud recognized that bis attempt to find the sufficient condition for
repression in the amplifying factor of puberty had not supplied a very
satisfactory explanation; and in the years 1895- 98 be bad little clear
idea or additional factors specific to the develo pment or sexual
excitations that would provide a sufficient condition for repression. So it
was probable that factors on both sides of the equation would prove
necessary: one factor, on the side of sexuality, in order to explain why
the traumatic experience was always sexual ; and another factor, on the
52 l.Anguag• and the Origins of Psyc:hoanalysls
side of the development of thought, in order to explain why such a
sexual experience could be a trauma.
But, for a time after be bad scribbled o ut the Project, and probably as
a result of us persistent interest for him, Freud continued to tinker with
the ' thought' side of the equation. And, since sp«ch was such an
important part of the apparatus for inhibiting unplcasure and produc-
ing conscious (as opposed to repr=edl ideas, the chronology of the
development of language seemed a likely place to look fo r the con-
ditions under which repression might occur. Thus it was not o nly the
clinicnl data - the traumas that kept being pushed back earlier and
e:arlier, rhat were buried deeper and deeper - thar led Freud into the
prehistoric past; ii was also !he search for conditions indicating a certain
vulnembility of the psychic apparatus thar led him to the early years of
experience - led him, that is, to a period that wo uld always be as much
pro-verbal as it was to be pre-Ocdipal. 1 1
At the end or 1896, Freud tried out a new schema.

Thus what is essentially new in my rhcory is the rhesis that memory is

present not ooce but several times over, that it is registered in various
species of 'signs'. ( I postulated a similar rcaminacrnent some time
ago. in my study of aphasia, fo r the paths leading from the periphery.
(See C hapter I. p. 24)) ... I ha'"e illusrrared rhis in the following
schcmaric picture ...

a m
Pcp1, Uc.
Pc:p1,1 Con te,
)( x-x )( x x- x )(
x x x x x x

Prpt. are neurones in which perceptions appear and to which

consciousness is attached but which in themselves rcrain no trace of
whal happc,ns. For consciousnus and memory art nrutuall)' t'.x clusive.
Pcpt.-s. is the first registration of the pcroeptions; it is quite incapable
of being conscious and is aminged according to associations or
Uc. (unconsciousness) is a second registration, or transcrip-
tion, .... Uc. traces may correspond to conceptual memories;
they loo are inaccessible to consciousness.
Pc. (prcconsciousness) is the third transcription, attached to verbal
images and corrcspondin,g to the official ego. The cat hexes proceed-
The ,l,feiapsycllology of Spttch 53
ing from this Pc. become conscious in accordance with certain rules.
This secondary .. thought-consciousness.. is subsequent in time and
probably connected with the hallucinatory activation of verbal
images; so that the neurones of consciousness would once again be
perceptual neurones and in themselves devoid of memory.
. . . . I must emphasize the fact that the successive transcripLS
represent the psychical achievement of successive epochs of life. At
che frontier between any two such epochs a translation of the
psychical material must take place. I explain che peculiarity of the
psychoneuroses by supposing chat the translation of some of the
material has not occurred.... A failure of translation is what we
know clinically as "repression'. ( Ibid. (2 Nov. 1896) SE I 233- 5)

The pi~ture of repression is quite simple: failure of a memory lo be

translated into words (or into the system Uc.) allows che memory to
'prolife.r atc'according 10 adiJTerenc set of psychical laws that govern the
earlier psychical epoch, thus giving rise to the strange symptomatic
formations of neurosis. The process of becoming conscious. ·as regards
memories, consists for the most pan in the appropriate verbal
consciousness - that is. in access lo the associated verbal images.' In
hysteria 'the (sexual] scenes occur during the first period of childhood
(up 10 4), in which memory traces cannot be translated into verbal
images.' ( Ibid. 30 May 1896, SE I 230- 2). As a consequence, the
symptoms of the neurosis are physical rather than psychical.
Now we sec clearly how this mixture of clinical hypotheses and
hypothetical models of the psychical apparatus revolved around the
concept of a failure of translation, both in terms of the specific
symptoms that were analysed in che consulting-room. and in a failure of
'lranslacion• in the theoretical model. The system of verbal images
provided the link between the practice of analysis, where the pulling
into words was both the explanatory and curative procedure, and the
1heoryof1hc relations between the unconscious and the conscious. Very
linle of the details found in these hypotheses was to survive into Freud's
published work. But they indicate clearly why it was so imponant to
construct theories in which the relations of speech to consciousness were
so prominent.
The juggling by which Freud tried 10 integrate the different organic
developments of the sexual and mental apparatuses explains why his
theories as to the period at which the speech residues take up their
dominant role showed such variable chronologies. In lencr 46, the age
correlating pre-verbal experience and sexual traumas giving rise to
S4 langut1ge allll tire OrigitU of Psychoanalysis
hysteria is age 4; in letter 47, Freud seemed certain of this correlation:

... I have become convinced of something in the last piece of

theorizing - hysteria up to the age of four - inability to translate into
verbal ideas also belongs only to that period. (Ibid. (4 June 1896)
p. 167)

But in the more complex system of transcriptions, Pcpt.JPcpt.s./

UcJPcsJConsr., a new chronology, in which verbal trans-
lations were elrCC1ed from age 8 - IS, made the relations between
sexual experience and speech more complex. Then, in letter S5 of
January 1897. we find a new chronology: ps)'Chosis is determined by
traumatic e>'cnLS occurring ' before the psychical apparatus bas been
completed in its first form (from Ii to It years of age)'. (Ibid. SE I 240.)
And how arc we to connect thi.s prehistoric pl'.rturbation with the
following notion: 'An increase in the uninhibited processes to the point
of their being alone in possession or the path to >crbal consciousness
produces psychosis.' (Ibid. (30 May 1896) SE I 232)? Such a connection
was there to be made; Freud was 10 wait until 1915, as we will see, before
publishing it.
The machine for producing consciousness that the Project sci in
motion faded into the background as Freud searched more on the side
of sexuality for a genetic account of the aetiology of the neuroses. This
account in turn lapsed as his interest was caught by the internal content
of the neurotic symptoms - phuntasy a nd its relation to early sexual
experiences. Having abandoned much of his theory of the neuroses
when the seduction theory proved itself a red herring, Freud turned,
a lmost in consolation. to the one unequivocally secure product of his
self-analysis: the interpretation of dreams.
Chapter VII of The lnrerpretation of Dreams was a reworking of the
Project. Freud returned the systems <fi, t/J. and w 10 their original order,
rede6ni11g them without recourse to the properties of neurones, and
absorbing them all into a new system 1/1. We will not give a detailed
account of the new model of o/f: we will simply note that the position that
consciousness and the speech associations occupied was virtually
identical to that in the Projtct. With one difference: a clarification: the
system Pcs. was clearly separated from the system Ues., Pcs. and Ucs.
thus corrcspood1ng to thought-processes in I/I and processes invol,'ing
large ftows of Q, rcspcclivcly. Consciousness iLSclf was. as was0>, a system
for the registration of psychical qualities; in TM ln1trpr.ratian ofDreams
Freud called it a 'scnsc-organ for the apprehension of psychical
The Merapsychology of SM«h 55
qualities: (Freud (1900a) SE V 574)" And. as in the Project. it was the
sysrcm or speech residue$ that made conscious thought possible::

In order that thought-pr~ may acquire quality, they arc

associated in human beings with verbal memories, whose residues of
quality arc suffi<:ient to draw 1bc ancntion of consciousness to them
and to endow the process of thinking with a new mobilecathexis from
consciousness. (Ibid. SE V 6 17)
Or, as he put it earlier in the book, ' the Pc·s. system needed to have
qualities of its own which could anract consciousness; and it seems
highly probable that it obtained them by linking the preconscious
processes with the mnemic system or indications or speech, a system
which was not without quality.' (Ibid. SE V 574 (translation modified)).
With this new system of qualities, a second and finer regulation of the
flow of quantity becomes possible. Just as in the Project. speech makes
possible dispassionate thought-processes, so that Y, is not regulated by
the unpleasure or pleasure promised by the balance of cat hexes at any
one time. And it is this "dispassionate' and second level of regulation
that both gives consciousness its raison d 'ttre and &JVCS man his
supenority over animals.
Had Freud made any advance towards clarifying the question of what
makes repression possible? Certainly he was sure that repression acted
first and last upon memories; many was the time. as we shall see in later
chapters, in later psychoanalytic discussions, that he was to have
forcibly to remind his colleagues of this primary datum. He thus looked
to certain characteristics of memory for the causes of repression. Now,
the structure of both ¢"1w (Project) and I/! (The lnzerpreiation of
Dl'eams) was built around the thesis that memory and consciousness
were mutually exclusive. Obviously perceptions were not susceptible to
repression, since they brought ·with them' the quality that then ensured
them the prospect of binding that protected ideas from repression. We
begin to see the difficulty that must anach to any claim thot something
that has once been a l"',rccption can become repressed.
But if we look at the question from the side of a memory already
stored in the Ucs., we might be tempted to argue that its lack of quality
leaves it prey to repr=ion. Freud sketched out this position in TM
lnterp,.tation of Dreams:
Repression affects memories more easily than perceptions, because
mcmor1cs cannot receive the extra cathcxis provided by the excitation
of the psychical sense organ. (Ibid. SE V 617)
S6 la11guage and the Origins of Psyehoanalysis
As we poinled oul at some length abo\'e, such an argument leaves out
of the accounling lhecxcitation that can be aroused by the perception of
speech residues liolced with these memories. In other ... ords. F reud
" ould ha,e to argue thal repression acts upon memories that, for one
reason or another, fail to be associated with speech residues. That is,
repression acts upon those memories 1hat cannot or have not been put
in10 words. We seem to becoming close to a set of concepts linked by a
series of tautologous definitions. Rather than being a criticism of the
theory, it might well be a recommendation . What ii mighl indicate 10 us
is this: lhc true cause of repression will not be found by an cxaminalion
of the conditions governing 1he phenomena of memory. lns1cad. another
realm will have to be investigated; it was in the complcxilics of 'in-
slinctual life' that Freud then searched for the true cause of repression.
A month after comple1ing The lnterpre1a1i011 of Dreams. Freud
recalled some of 1hc chronological concerns lhat had preoccupied him
in his search for lhe conditions governing repression:

What makes a person a hysteric instead of a paranoiac? My firsl crude

answer, at the time when I was still trying lo take 1hccitadtl by storm.
was that I thought ii depended on the age at which the sexual traumas
occurred - on the lime of the experience. I gavt that up long ago. and
have been without any clue until the last few days. when a connection
with sexual theory opened up. (Freud (19SOa), 9 Dec. 1899, SE I 279)

He went on to make an attempt to relate the time of Lraumatic

experiences with a sequence of developmental phases or the sexual
instincts, particularly with respect to the relation to the object. Sexual
developmcnl replaced the phases of development or the mental
apparatus. Or. rather, Freud was able to recognize thal, given the
necessity for developmental phases, it was necessary to poslulate phases
of sexual development. rather than those of a hypothetical mental
apparatus. In this new formulation, what became of the factor
dtpendent upon th< development of language that he had earlier
hypothesized as being of great imponance both for the choice of
neurosis and for the related and deeper question of the possibility of
rcpr<ss1on? Certainly the spetth factor lost any gcne11c dimension; but
it retained all or its value as th< crit<rion by which to characterize the
conscious and the unconscious. The Three Essays on Sexuality, written
in 1905 afler the long silence following Tht lnttrpretationo/ Dreams and
Tire Psyclroputhology of Everyday Uft, gave repression pride of place
within a theory oft he sexual instincts. But when Freud returned to bis
T/Je Metapsyc/10/ogy of Spe«h 51
meiapsychology in the 1910s, the theory which gave language pride of
place was reaffirmed: in 1911 consciousness was defined as consisting in
a secondary sensory surface that only \'erbal residues can activate
(Freud (191 lb) SE XII 221). And when Freud came 10 write his
definiuve essay on the concept of the unconM:ious. it was to the
hypothesis of speech residues that he returned in order to sidestep the
conceptual difficulties involved in both the dynamic and topographical
conceptions of the unconscious.
It is intriguing that Freud introduced his discussion of the relation
between verbal impressions and the nature of the unconscious with a
return to the prob lent of the 'choice of neurosis". But, having learnt bis
lesson in the 1890s. he no longer approached the problem from a genetic
standpoint: he was to offer no more hypotheses about the relation
between pre-verbal childhood and the structure of pathological pro-
ducts. Rather. here, his argument was clinical and logical in character.
lfwe ask ourselves what it is that gives the character of strangeness to
the substitutive formations and the symptoms of schizophrenia. we
eventually come to realiu that it is the predominance of wbat bas to
do with words O\'er what has to do with things. (Freud ( 191Se) SE
XIV 200)"

Instead of lacking words. as other neurotics seem to, t.he schizo-

phrenic possesses a supernuity of words, a sys!ml of languag<: that has
been cut loose front any linkage with the unconscious thoughts
controlled and directed by the activity of the ego. Schizophrenia is the
mirror-image of asymbo lic aphasia; where the aphasic loses the whole
system of word presentations (or loses a part of that system, in
accordance with a hierarchy of non-semantic fu nctions of language, e.g.
syntactical complexity). the schizophrenic loses the system of objccu to
which the word presentations attach. In either case, what appears on the
surface of language, on that surface that consciousness perceives, is a
salad of sterile fruits, cut off from the tree of thought. We recall Freud's
suspicion of the 1890s, that psychosis was an overwhelming of the
preconscious by the unconscious, in which the path of language itself
has become invaded by the unconscious. But now he could supplement
this description: in psychoses the objects arc given up and the ego
cathcxes strive to return back onto them:
... to accomplish this purpose they set otT on a path that leads them
to the object via the verbal part of it. but then find themselves obliged
to be content with words instead of things. ( Ibid. SE XIV 204)
58 Languagt and the Origiru of Psychoanalysis
The difference between schizophrenia and the psycho-neuroses
reduces down to the question: which aspect or thought bas been
occluded. the thing-presentation or the word-presentation?

We now seem to know all at once what the difference 1s between a

conscious and an unconscious presentation.... tho conscious pre-
sentation comprises the presentation of the thing plus tho presen-
tation of the word belonging to it, while the unconscious presentation
is the presentation of the thing alone .... We can now state precisely
what, in the transference neuroses. repression denies to the rejected
presentation; it is the translation into words which should remain
(.1(}//e11 b/eibe11 ]auachcd to the object. A presentation which is not put
into words, or a psychical act which is not hypercathccted, remains
thereancr in the Ucs. in a state of repression. (Ibid. SE XIV 201 - 2.
Translation modified}

We should perhaps add one note to this: it is more precise, according

to the schemes we have examined in this chapter. to say that the
conscious presentation consists of the word presentation alone; by
definition. the thing presentation cannot become conscious. But for the
conscious presentations to avoid becoming pathological, as they do in
schizophrenia or in philosophy, these word presentations must (so//tn]
retain an unimpaired relation to the unconscious thing-presentations.
What is perhaps peculiar in this passage, a passage that brought
together into one definitive statement the concerns we have mapped out
in this chapter, is one phrase: ·an at once'. It was as if Freud had just
discovered th.is precise formulation of the difference between the
conscious and the unconscious. ,. But, to us, following the theory of
consciousness from 1891to1915, the theory seems to have been "already
there" from the beginnings of psychoanalysis. II was Jung, as we shall
sec, who, in 191 O,jogged Freud's memory of having once thought about
the relations between verbal presentations and the unconscious. But we
might offer the following hypothesis as to why it was necessary for Jung
to jog Freud's memory. as to why he had forgotten the theory be bad
laid down in both the Project and 77ie lnt.,prrtation ofDreams. Perhaps
it was because he sought the essence of repression in the theory of
sexuality - for example, in Fliess' notion that repression was an effect or
the conftict between the masculine and feminine components of the
bisexual constitution, a notion that Freud was explicitly to repudiate in
the 1920s - hoping to find the mechanism or repression as a necessary
'side-effect· of organic processes of sexual development. Be that as it
The Mttapsyclwlogy of Speech 59
may, there can be no questioning the fact that. during the fint decade of
the 1900s. the thesis tbac language gives rise 10 consciousness was
forgonen, was awoken by Jung's stimulus, buc had 10 be rethought by
Freud in the 'mccapsychologicaJ period': rethought to such an extent
1ha1 the final formula we have quoted could provide him with a great
deal of pleasure and satisfaction when be 611t communicated it to
Abraham in December 1914 (Freud, 1965a p. 206).
We should now retrace our steps in order co gain an understanding of
chc relationship between the theory of consciousness and the therapy of
the neuroses, the talking-cure. But in order co do this, we will find it
useful to follow out the uses that Freud made or the theory in his last
writings. In The Ego and the Id ( 1923) he repeated, with per naps greater
a11en1ion 10 detail, the ideas set out in 'The Unconscious':

... the real dilfercnce between a Ucs. and a Pcs. idea (thought)
consists in this: that the former is carried out on some material wruch
remains unknown, whereas the laner (the Pcs.) is in addition brought
into connection with word-pr=cacions. This is the 6nt a11emp1 co
indicate distinguishing marks for the cwo syscems. che Pcs. and the
Ucs.. other than their relacion to conscic>U$Dcss. (Freud (1923b) SE
XIX 20)

The material base of word-presencations is constituced by the

residues of auditory perceptions, ·so thac che syscem Pcs. has. as ii were,
a special sensory source' .

. . . only somcching which has been a Cs. perception can become

conscious, and that anything arising from within (apart rrom feelings)
that seeks to become conscious muse try to transform itself into
external perceptions: this becomes possible by means of memory-
traccs [of words heard~ (Ibid.)

Things arising from within may anempc co become conscious by

means other than memories of words; in these circumstances !he result
is hallucination. We catch a hinc or Freud's chronological pre-
occupations of the 1g90s in a lace paper.

... in [hallucinations) something that has been experienced in

infancy and chen forgouen returns - something that the child has
seen o r heard at a time when he could still hardly speak and that now
forces its way into consciousness ... (Freud (1937d) SE XXlll 267)
60 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
In order to pre.-ent hallucinations - a mistaking of memory for
reali1y - reali1y-testing is necessary. h is as if the speech residues, by
opening up the possibility of things in1emal b«loming conscious, also
open up the possibility for 'errors', for hallucinations, to occur - that is,
they make possible psychosis.

Conscious processes on the periphery of the ego and everything else

in the ego unconscious - such would be the simples1 state of affairs
1ha1 we might picture. And such may in fact be 1he stale that prevails
in animals. But in man there is an added complication 1hrougb which
in1ernal processes in 1he ego may also acquire the quality of
consciousness. This is the work of the func1ion of speech, which
brings ma1erial in the ego into a firm connection wi1h mnemic
resid ues of visual. bul more panicularly of audi1ory. perceptions.
Thenceforward. 1he perceptual periphery of the conical layer can be
excited to a much greater extent from inside as well, internal events
such as passages of ideas and thought-processes can become con-
scious, and a special device is called for in order to disunguisb between
the two possibilities - a device known as reality-ttsting. The equation
·percepuon • reality(extcmal world)' no longor holds. Errors. which
can now easily ari~ and do so regularly in dreams, are called
halluc/11a1ions. (Freud (1940a) SE XXlll 162: cf. Ibid. SE XXlll 199
and (1939a) SE XXlll 97)

But why this continuous concern with the theory of consciousness?

Perhaps it is as well 10 remind ourselves 1ha1 psychoanalysis. 1hough
firsI and las1 the science of the unconscious, can 011/y derive its working
ma1erials from consciousness.

But none of this implies 1ha1 the quality of being conscious has lost its
importance for us. h remains the one lighl which illuminates our palh
and leads us through the darkness of mental life.... our scientific
work in psychology will oonsis1in translating unconscious processes
into conscious ones, and thus filling in the gaps io conscious
perception. (Freud (1940b) SE XXlll 286)

In Other words. the raw material of psychoanalysis is derived from

one single source, consciousness, which iiself relics upon two ~parate
sources: perception and the presentations that become conscious
1hrough being connected with words. Now, in the actual procedure of
analysis, 1he perceptual possibilities arc cut to a minimum: 1he patient
The Metapsyrhology of Sµtch 61
lies on a couch, the analyst takes up a position removed from the visual
field or the patienL The analyst bears only words; the patient only has
" 'ords in his or her consciousness.'' There is a close fit between what
comes to the consciousness or the patient and what comes to the car of
the analyst. The perceptual model or consciousness guaranteed a
certain transparency between the unconscious orthe patient and the car
or the analyst; the analyst seems to take up the 'inspcctionist' function or
consciousness. Not that Freud did not have some qualifications to make
as to the character of the preconscious thus 'read out aloud' to the

It would not be correct, however, to think that connection with the

mnemic residues of speech is a necessary precondition of the
preconscious state. On the contrary, that Stale is independent of a
connection with them. though the presence or that connection makes
it safe to in for the preconscious nature of a process. The preconscious
state, characterized on the one hand by having access to conscious-
ness and on the other hand by its connection with the speech-residues
is nevenheless something peculiar, the nature or which is not
exhausted by these twocharacteristics.(Fr eud (1940a) SE XXJII 162)

Cenainly the preconscious state is not sufficiently defined by

connection with speech-residues; but, phenomenologically speaking,
this is its most important characteristic. Freud was often to discuss the
relations between the Ucs. and the Cs. as if the intermediary of words
sufficed 10 provide the necessary links betwcc'TI the two, as irwords were
the alpha and omega or aoecss 10 consciousness.•• And we can sec the
concatenation of themes that made such an equation attractive: the
talking cure, lhe transparency of words on the surface or the patient's
consciousness, the privileged access of speech to con!iCiousness and the
way in which speech opens up thought-reality that itself both opens the
way to ' hominizatioo'" and allows the possibility of an error that
makes or man an animal uniquely prey to neurosis.
So how can psychoanalysis effect a change in the forces governing
reprC$Sion 1

... the question bow we make something that i.s repressed (pre)
consc.ious would be answered as follows. It is done by supplying Pcs.
intermediate links lhrough the work or analysis. Consciousness
remains where it is, therefore, but, on the other hand. the Ucs. does
not rise into the Cs. (Freud (1923b) SE XIX 21)
62 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
How can we interpret these ' intenncdiatc links' as being anything
other than speech residues? An affirmative answer seems over-
determined on both tbeoretical and therapeutic grounds: psycho-
analysis. as the talking-cure, requires first and last that the patient should
say whatever comes into his head, and it is this surraoo or words that the
analyst must study.

A problem like: Where shall I probe now? should not exist. The
patient shows the way, in that by following the basic rule (saying
everything that comes into his head) he displays bis mental surface
from moment to moment. (Freud ( 1965a), 9 Jan 1908, p. 20)

And, on the theoretical side, the insistent repetition of Freud's theory

of 'speech-consciousness' gives a clear and precise concept of the
'process of becoming conscious·.
We can now clarify the therapeutic process. Jn Th• lnttrpretation of
Dreams, Freud wrote:

(Psychotherapy's) task is to make it possible for the unconscious

processes to be dealt with finally and be forgot-
ten .... psychotherapy can pursue no other eoursc than to subject
the Ucs. to the domination of the Pcs. (Freud (1900a) SE V 578
(translation modified))

The sign that such a domination is at least possible is the coming to

consciousness of unconscious contents via the ncc::cssary intermediary
of speech. Even if speech in itself does not guarantee the taming of the
unconscious, it at least guarantees that, whatever may be the process by
which the preconscious allows the forgetting of what was so unforget-
table, that process is no longer prevented from acting on memories
through their being cut off from the preconscious. lt is true that speech is
not enough; but it is ecnainly necessary if conviction or belief, the final
touchstones of therapeutic succ=. arc to be attained. " Gi»cn the
plurality or tasks that speech performs for .;, ii should now perhaps be
less or a surprise that psychoanalysis stans and ends with a putting into
words, according to its single fundamental rule: 'say it aloud'. 19 And
this rule is so much more than just a convention that neither patient nor
analyst could as much dream of dispensing with it as either could think
or giving the other the moon. 20
3 Symbolism
Freud mentions various symbols: top hats are regularly phallic
symbols, wooden things like tables are women, etc. His historical
explanations of these symbols is absurd . We might say it is not needed
anyway: it is the most natural thing in the world 1h111 a table should be
that sort of symbol. (Wittgenstein, 1967. pp. 43-4)

From a cursory reading of The Interpretation of Drtams it is clear that

there arc two different modes or analysis being employed in the
interpretation of individual dreams. The variorum edition produced by
James Strachcy makes it clear that the largest additions to the later
editions of the book are to the sections on symbolism. Not only are there
these textual additions but their character is markedly different from the
sections written for the first edition. The two different interpret-
ative methods seem to correspond to these two different times or
Freud was less theoretically oriented in these newer sections on
symbolism: be introduces far more dreams than elsewhere, with less
analysis and less detail of the life and loves of the dreamer. We can
recognize this as part or a broader discursive movement in the
development of psychoanalytic writing, from the short story style most
evident in the Katherina feuilleton of Studits on HySleria' to the
schcmatism of the case history or the Wolfman, whose autobiography
(Gardner ( 1973)) bears liule relation to the anamnesis through which
we arc conducted in the psychoanalytic work. The movement is even
clearer when we go beyond Freud's work 10 that of Melanie Klein,
where the individual details of the patient's life. whose individuality
ntffJSQrl/y bad to be signalled by a blank in the early case-histories of
Freud, figure not at all.
This par•llcl will be shown to be more than just that in this chapter.
Simply put. the move is from a personalized interpretation to a stock
interpretation, from an interpretation that puts order into a seemingly
random set of psychic clements, to an interpretation that orders them
through their translation into a more cursory tongue. In terms of the
64 Language and the Origins of Ps}'t.hoonalysis
mc1aphor of 1ransla1ioo, which we have already seen 10 be fruitful in
psychoanalysis. bu1 which we now pen:eive 10 be self-contradictory in
somcofi1s majortenets, the early roe1hod ofin1erpre1a1ioo favoured by
Freud led 1hc pa1ien1 from the text of 1he dream, via 1be discursive
production of new and disconnected elcmenis. 10 a new and semanti-
cally richer form of discourse, whose principle of ra1ionali1y spriQiS
from within, as ii were, guaranteeing ilS 1ruth in the feeling of certainty
1ha1 Freud posited as the final arbiter of analytic inlerprctation. 3 In the
la1er interpretative modes, the analyst searches for 1hc interpretation
1hn1 makes most sense of a given series of elemcn1s 1hrough a process of
reduction of these clements to a more restricted language of meaningful
signs. Theconcep1 of symbolism, as conceived of narrowly within the
psychoanalytic tradition•, bears much of 1he brun1 of the work of
reductive translation. This chapter will examine the introduction of the
concept of symbolism into the armoury of psychoanalytical concepts,
indica1ing the historical conditions tba1 gave i1 ils peculiar character.
Continuing our look through The lnterprttotiOll of Dreams, we are
Struck by the incidence of two names who made signi6cant contri-
butions to the lalcr editions of tbal work: Wilhelm Sickel and Herbert
Silbercr. Again, we arc intrigued to notice that both of their very
di1Tercn1 contributions were to I.he field of symbolism. But the
subs1ao1ivc intcUcctual debate that took place within the early psychcr
analytical group did not primarily concern the concepts of Stekel and
Silbcrcr. More hidden, but now more apparent 1hrougb 1he reccn1
publica1ion of thcif correspondence, is the debalo between Freud and
Jung over the concept of the symbol. With Jung, the debate was by no
menns res1ricted to the subject of dreams. Indeed, it is the sphere of
mythology and legend that occupied pride of place both in the
collaboration aod io the conceptual differences of Freud and Jung.
Freud presided over all the new developments in psychoanalysis,
anxiously 1ryiog to ensure that his enthusiastic and zealous disciples did
not step beyond the bounds of the science, bounds which he felt only he
could define. and which would only reveal themselves in the dialectic of
passionate and vitriol.ic debate. Without doubt, the major inftuences on
Freud as a mao coincided with the major influences on Freud as a
scientist. Between 1890 and the F'IISI World War, two men entered his
lire ond work, changing its direction and aiding the development or his
theories: Wilhelm Flicss and Carl Gustav Jung. It is to Flicss that we
owe the aflirmation of biological faith that inheres in the Three Essays
on Sexuality, it is to Jung that we owe the Dowering of psychoanalysis as
a science of culture.
Symbolism 65
When Freud and Jung began their correspondence in 1906, Freud
had published a number of papers on rhe neuroses. Tire lnterprnation a/
Dreams. The Psychopatholagy ofEreryday Ufe. Jokes (Jlfd their Relation
tat/re Unconscious and lhe Three Essays on Sexual11y. In the period from
1906 to 1913, when the two men were in constanl correspondence, be
published some far-ranging works rhat have become starting points for
many sub-disciplines within the psychoanalytic univel'$C: the first foray
inro child analysis (1907), t.he essays in non-therapeutic interpreration
found in Jensen's 'Gradiva' and l...eofl()rdo (1910). the allcmpt 10 take rbe
ciradel of psychiatry by srorm wirh a series of hyporheses about the
nar ure of the psychoses and the Schreber case of 19 11, and a preliminary
dig into the prehistory of neurosis and civilization as found in Totem a11d
Taboo (1912- 13). Freud, never rhe most confldent of men in his
relarionship 10 the public institutions of his world. found support and a
champion in Jung, a man who could command respect and attention by
din1 of his personality and rcpuiation. The intertwining of ideas that
emorcsced in their correspondence cannot compare with the depth or
boldness of the corrcspoadcnce wirh A icss. But in those letters the
programme for the psychoanalytic interpretation Of Culture Wa5 set OUI.
In trying to pick out the maia strands of intellectual interaction
between Freud and Jung, one b<comcs aware or nodes where especially
important theoretical discussion arose. These is.sues were to become the
foci of their later dissension: the nature of regression, infantile sexuality,
1he issue of present conflicts versus past even rs, the theory of the libido
and the nature ofsymbols. lnevirablyone of rhese nodes was the issue of
deme111iapraecox and its psychoanalytic interpretation. Freud 1reasurcd
his friendship with Jung for many reasons. amongst which was the hope
that, through him, psychiatry would become annCJ<cd o nto the
psychoanalytic empire. Such a hope was moderated when Jung left his
circle in I 913, taking with him many oft hose who. for a while, had made
Freud feel 'a man of property' (Freud, 1963a. p. 23).
The mtcrcst in the products of psychosis ga\'c rise, in a way which I
will later explicate, to a preoccupation with myth and the primitive
mind. This area was 10 be the area of greatest mutual concern, where
hopes of fruitful collaboration were at their highest and where the
cuhural stakes "ere greatest. And it was to be in the arcoa of myth that
l'reud and Jung came to realize their disagreements. Ostensibly. this
arena of research did not deal with the question of symbolism. But Jung
certainly made this question the central one, since the founding dualism
of his work was the opposition between symbolic and rational thought.
From the time of this collaboration on, the :1rticulation of the
66 Language and the Origins of Psyc:hoanolysls
psychoanalytic theory of myth and culture was ine•tricably bound up
with the theory of the symbol. But it is part or my contention that this
was always so: implicitly so, insofar as the methodology that was used
by the early analysts was philological in character: and explicitly so,
insofar as the theory of neurosis and the theory of dreams that were
extended to myth depended upon a concept of the symbol, albeit a
different one in each of these areas. For neurosis, Freud's early
conceptions were explicitly couched, as we have seen, in terms of the
role of 'symbolization'. And in dream theory, his interpretations were
explicitly directed against the ·symbolic' method of interpretation. In
the final unalysis, Jung and Freud's differences lay in their perception of
the relationship between language, symbol and reality.


lt is certainly premonitory that the first usage oft he term 'symbolic' to

be found in the Standard Edition or Freud's works explicitly lints the
symbolism found in hysteria with the type of thought relations found in

In other cases [of hysteria) the connection [between the precipitating

event and the symptom) is not so simple. It consists only in what
might be called a 'symbolic' relation between the precipitating cause
and the pathological phenomenon - a relation such as healthy people
form in dreams. (Breuer and Freud ( 1893a) SE II 5)

Oreuer and Freud were here contrasting symbolic connections with

the associative connection by which the simpler forms of hysterical
symptom were formed. Contiguity in time seemed to be sufficient for a
certain pain or state of the body to become fixed in relation to an
insufficiently abreacted a!TccL The physical sta le then owed its prcscr·
vation solely to its accidental temporal contiguity to a trauma. In
contrast. symbolism, or mnemic symbolism (Erinnerungsynibol) as it
was called throughout the Studks, referred to a more intimate
connection between the symptom and the affect. A 'erbal phrase. or
1rain of thought. served as intermediary be1woen the affect and the pain.
The jump from physical pain to psychical pain is effected by such an
intermediary. Thus 'a neuralgia may follow upon mental pain or
vomiting upon a feeling of moral disgust'. (Breuer and Freud (189Sd)SE
II 178)
Symbolism 67
In the majority of cases in\'olving symbolization. Freud thought that
the psyche made use of cenain organic pains as the locus for the
auaching of the repressed afl'CCI. The linkage was then forged using
certain phrases or 'linguistic usages'. For example. the phrase 'a slap in
the face' enabled the memory of an argument to become lodged in a
trigcminal neuralgia (Ibid.). Freud was at pains to indicate the obscure
detail\ of the symbolic construction of the symptom:

When I began to call up the traumatic scene, the patient saw herself
back in o period of great mental irritability towards her husband. She
described a conversation which she had hod with him and o remark of
his which she had felt as a bitter insult. Suddenly she put her hand to
her check, gave a loud cry of pain and said: 'It was like a slap in the
face'. With trus her pain and her attack were both ot an end.
There is no doubt that what bad happened had been a symboliz-
ation. She bad felt as though she bad actually been given a slap in the
face. Everybody will immediately ask how it was that the sensation of
a 'slap in the face' came to take on the outward forms of a trigeminal
neuralgia. why it was restricted to the second and third branches, and
why it was made worse by opening the mouth and chewing - though,
iocidcntally, not by talking. (Ibid.)

The mechanism of symbolization involves the enactment of the literal

meaning of a verbally figurative expression: the figurative expression
'slap in the fac.e ' was expressed as a facial neuralgia. If Frau Ciicilie M. -
the patient in question - had not 'retained' her feelings of being insulted
and had expressed them in the way appropriate to a civilized woman -
i.e. through speech - then she would not have converted her bollled-up
feelings into the symptom, via the symbolic expression . As the opening
a !lowed her by the fact that her pains did not hinder her lallcing implied,
in a specific form of speech lay her eventual cure. whereby she could
res1orc her li1eral expression 10 its rightful plaoc as a metaphor.
Bui a teosioo between the universal and the particular has already
been introduced through this characterization of the symbol. The non-
symbolic mode of generation of symptoms depends upon 'accidental'
contiguities in experience: an emotion of self-reproach became dis-
placed onto the contemporaneous tooth-ache ( Ibid .. SE II 179). The
tooth-ache is incidental to the meaning or the symptom: what has lo be
abreacted is the thought that accompanied thnt first ache, 10 which it is
connecled only by contiguity in time. not by ony 'third lcrm'. But the use
of figures of speech 10 displace affect from the psychical 10 the somatic
68 Language and the Origins of Psychoanal)'Sis
(even given 'somatic complianoc') results in a new stale of affairs.
When a metaphor is taken literally in this way, is this a purely
individualistic use of the language, or docs the very existence of such a
metaphor point towards a basis for such literality that goes beyond the
individual? One might be tcmpt.e d toaocusc the hysteric of wilful - even
asocial - abuse of the language in puning it to such symptomatic ends.
But Freud chose to go beyond an individualistic, quasi-moralistic view
of the mauer. pointing to cenain characteristics of language for

... when a hysteric creates a somatic expression for an emotionally-

coloured idea by symbolization. this depends less than one would
imagine on personal or voluntary factors. In rnking a verbal
expression litera"y and in feeling the 'stab in the bean' or the 'slap in
the face' afier somestigbting remark as a real event, the hysteric is not
taking libenies with words, but is simply reviving once more the
sensations to which the verbal expression owes its justification. (Ibid.,
SE 11 180-1)

Cenainly the hysteric is being highly individual in using language in

this way, but he has justification in the history of language and its
original relation to the innervation of the muscles. Hence Freud had
introduced the theme of a lrtlnSindividual determination of the
character of the symptom as soon as he defined the nature of the
symbol. We will find that this tension between the indi vidual meaning
and 1he universality of tbe symbol will recur again and again in the
development of the concept.
Breuer charuc1erized the mechanism of symboliza1ion as being 'often
based on the most absurd similarities of sound and verbal associations,'
(ibid .. SE JI 216) or on some ' ridiculous play on words or association by
sound.' (Ibid., SE II 209.) Freud specified this further: lbc difference
be1wccn normal and hysterical expression is the same as 1hat between
figurative and literal uses of language.'
A second distinction. which we would seem to be able to subsume
under the first, came more to the fore as J>S)'Choanalysis developed a
theory of sexuality lacking in S1ud1's on Hysttr/a: 1endentiously
figuralivejlittr.il. An assimilation of what was figurative to "A'hat was
tendcntiou• took place (cf. Freud. (1905c) SE VIII 9611). As interpret·
ations increasingly came to search out the exact content of the sexual
sa1iofac1ion that hysterical symptoms represented, there arose a ten-
dency to equate the genital (the absolu1cly 1cnden1ious) with the literal:
Symboli"m 69
that is, when the figure of speech could be shown to be at one end of a
series of displacements and substitutions that, at the other end, abutted
onto a direct representation of the genital the intcrprctati(>n was

accepted as complete.•
When we speak of the equation 'literal =genital' as the end-point of
interpretation, it should be made clear that interpretation was necessary
on both sides of the equation before it could be established. The concept
of the genital was expanded, so that any bodily sensation could be
viewed as a displacen1ent from the genital or - most prominent1y i11
Ferencz.i's work - as a regression of a genital sensation back onto those
parts of the body from which genital sensations had originally been
synthesized. 7 On the other side of the equation, the notion of a figure of
speech becomes literal - and hence corporeal - interlocked with the
newly expanded c-0ncept of the genital. As a consequence, a certain
typicality of interpretation, based up-0n the reference to sexuality,
entered into the analysis of symptoms. Freud paved the way for these
typical interpretations by finding in the acme of sexual satisfaction a loss
of consciousness, the absence, through which a crossing of the gap
between the literal and the figurative became possible (Freud ( 1909a)
SE IX 233- 4). This new hypnoid state. firmly attached to the normal
processes of sexual satisfaction. thus ensured that the content of the
hysterical symptom would be borrowed from the b-0dily sensations of a
polymorphous sexuality. We still retain the verbal intricacies of the
earlier conception of the hysterical symptom as abuse oflanguage; but it
is now firmly linked to a condition that the end-point of interpretation
of these word-plays should refer directly to an inflated genital. When the
word bec-Omes flesh it has a singularly simple morphology.
We have established that the theory of symbolization in neurotic
symptoms establishes the relation between a bodily state and a figure of
,,....o~ n;....t.. c. - -..u. ~..............1vo.... r. .... t.._i,;,,. ......,..,.._:,.,: ...., ,...,,..,.,;"'""~~-----
70 Languag• and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
a basic language, whose structure is possibly decipherable through the
in1crpre1a1ion ofsymptoms, 1he~lves interpreted through a reduction
of the speech of the patient. This theory of symbolism will reappear in
the next department of psychoanalysis in which a theory of symbolism
was found to ~doubly necessary: dream theory.


It is when we turn to the interpretation of dreams that the concept of

symbolism becomes of great importance. Freud changed the text of The
Interpretation of Dreams in ways that we have already noted: the major
structural change in the book from 1900 10 1914 was the addition of a
self-sufficient section on symbolism. This change has been marked by
many writers (e.g. Laplanche and Pontalis (1973) pp. 443- S). In this
section and tbc one that follows I wish to ascertain the nature of this
chan~. to ascertain what. in 1900. was Freud's conception of in·
tcrprcta1ioo and symbolism, and to try and disco111:r the causes and
consequences of the conceptual innovation.
Freud was \'cry coneemed 10 distinguish his method from that of
previous writers oo dreams. and thus involved himself in both a
legitimation of his own method and a critique of those of o thers. Al the
opening of the main portion of the book, Chapter II, Freud discussed
two other methods of dream-interpretation, which shared with his the
premise that dreams had a meaning, bul diverged in important respects.
The tirsl method he called the 'symbolic' method of interpreting
dreams, which:

'considers the content of 1be dream as a whole and seeks to replace it

by another content which is intelligible and in certain respects
analogous to the original one ... II is of course impossible to give
instructions upon the method of arriving at a symbolic interpretation.
Success must be a question of hining on a cle\'Cr idea. of direct
intuiuon .. : (Freud (1900a) SE IV 97)

The second method is the "decoding method. since it treats dreams as

a kind or cryptography in which each sign can be translated mto another
sign having a known meaning, in accordance with a fixed key' (ibid.).
The first substanti•c methodological point that Freud made about his
own method was that it should be associated more closely with this
la11er docoding rnclhod than with the former, since they both proceeded
Symbousm 71
by working upon 1he dream conceived of as a series of elements; Ibey
bo1b regard dreams as being of a composi1e charac1er. The di\·ergence
be1weco 1bc methods sla!ts immedia1ely aner one bas recognized this.
Dreams arc composed of visual images. The 'decoding' method finds a
fixed rcla1ion bc1ween a given image and a meaning. Freud's me1bod
disdains such a simple rcla1ion, implying 1ha1 i1s very •implicily is a
mark againsl ii. Rather , 1hc m eaning oflhc individual clement can only
be found lb rough a set of intcnnediary s1cps, 1hrough which 1he dream-
thoughls arc constructed. The construc1ion of lhc d rcam-1houghls via
lhc mclhod of free association and lhe disccmmcnl of 1hc meaning of
1hc drcam-clemenl are two processes tha1 go hand in hand. II is only a
mall er of the direclion of altcntion whcihcr one finds o neself inlerprel-
ing the drcam-clcmcnl or finding a background ugainsl which 1he
elcmcni makes sense. Freud's method of clucidaling the dream-clement
1hus consists in placing the clement in a series of associations or chains
of 1hough1 - bul not ·jus1 as it is', but, rather, as ii can be construed in
non-visual 1enns. The fact that the dream-images are visual in character
is an accidenl of the stale of sleep (and acciden1al al a level beyond that
a1 which one could say that dreams themselves arc an 'accident' of the
s1a1e of sleep). lo order to understand 1he dream-element one bas to
progress or regress from visual image 10 ·1houghl'. The essential means
by which this is done we may crudely call verbaliza1ion. All images in
dreams require transla1ion into anolher medium - words - before they
can recapture their meaning.
There is some1hing inherently unin1elligiblc abou1 images: they do
no1 form the chains of significatio n that Freud requires for his definition
of meaning. A major section of 71re lnterprewt/011 of Dreams (1900) is
devoted lo 'Considerations of Repreicntabili1y': that is, the means by
which dream-tho ughts arc expressed in visual form. It is as if the dream
is an inherently inappropriate form of expression . And, indeed, it is,
once one accep1s Freud's idea 1ha1 behind the fa~ade of the drcam-
images lie the non-visual though1s from which the dream isconstrueted
by the processes of condensation and displacement.
Having distinguished these two me1hods of decoding and symbolic
interprc1ation. F reud then proceeded to ignore 1he distinction and 10
refer to any non-associative or decoding me1hods of inlerpretation as
·symbolic'. Throughout the firs1 edition of his dream-book, Freud was
de1ermincd 10 show 1he inadequacy of the 'symbolic' method. The
prominence of \·erbaJ expression as a means of representing abstract
though! highlights the difference beiwecn his method and the symbolic
72 languagt and 1/re Origins of Ps)'t:hoanal)'sls
I will now record a dream in which a considerable parl was played by
the turning of abstract though! in10 pictures. The distinction bc1w«n
drcam-intcrpr<tation of this kind and in1erprcta1ion by means of
symbolism can still be drawn qui1e sharply. In 1he case of drcam-
in1crprcta1ion 1he key 10 the symboli1,a1ion is arbitrarily chosen by
lhc interpreter; whereas in our cases or v<rbal disguise the keys are
generally known and laid down by firmly established linguistic usage.
tr one has lhc right idea at one's disposal al lhe righl momcnl, one can
solve dreams of 1his kind wholly or in parl even independen1ly or
informillion from 1he dreamer. (Ibid. SE V 341- 2)

Bo1h m<1hods rely upon 'keys 10 the symboliuuion'(again , we should

be perplexed by the meaning of this term) in their auempl to unravel the
meaning or dreams without personal associations of 1he dreamer. Bui
Freud opposed 1he non-arbitrariness oflinguistic usage 10 1he arbilrari-
ncss or 'symbolization'. We have found 1his tendency in Freud's
writings already, in the passages from Studits on H)'sttria thal we have
discussed. Bui the pedagogical function of lhis argumtnl is dilTcrenl
here. In Tht ln1trprt1a1ion ofDrtanu, Freud wished lo assen the correct
way 10 analyse dreams and wished to st1 1his off clearly from
ahema1ives. lo the S1udies there was no such impcra1ive. Bui Freud did
have a definite aversion to specific modes of dream-analysis, which he
grouped under the heading of'symbolic'. The dream thal Freud used in
1he scc1ion from which I have j ust quoted led him to the following

[All the material relating to verbal disguise) leads to the same

conclusion, namely that there is no necessity to assume that any
peculiar symbolizing activity of the mind is operating in the dream-
work. bul that dreams make use of any symboli1,utions which are
already prcsenl in unconscious thinking ... (Ibid., SE V 349)

Herc was one more explicil target against which Freud was arguing: a
peculiar symbolizing activity of the mind. In the late nineu:cn1h century
context, this activi1y could be concaved of as a form of degeneracy or a
loss or appcrceptive ability (a concept which Silbcrer was later to revive
in just this context and with which we shall deal later). Freud wished to
assert positively that the keys and solutions to the dream are laid down
prior to 1he peculiar state of mind io10 which the dream thrusls us-
Although the interpreter may take the lead in using them as 1hc clue to
the meaning of the dream, it is not an arbitrary_ individualistic ac1. but
Symbolism 73
one sanctioned by the history of culture:

Wherever neuroses (or dreams) makc use of such disguises they are
following paths along which all humanity passed in the earliest
periods of civilization - paths or wh<>5e continued existence today,
under the thinnest of veils, e"idencc is 10 be found in linguistic usages,
supcrs1nions and customs. (Ibid .. SE V 347)

We have here 1wo oppositions that arc closely linked, but which it is
important to separate: the opposition between 'arbitrary' and 'already
laid down' (or 'determined'); and the oppo~ition between 'individual'
and 'collective'. One of the tensions in Freud's thought was that, on the
one hand. he wished that any 'arbitrariness' that entered into analysis
should enter from the patient's side, not from the analyst's. Bui if both
pa11en1 and analyst can call upon linguistic usage and historically
necessary determinations of specific forms of meaning, lhcn lhc
arbitrariness bas been foreclosed. Ricocur confuses these 1wo levels
when hecb.araclcrizes the shift from the Studi,.10 the Traunukurung as
one tn which the mechanisms of displacemcn1 and condensation have
absolute priority in the Studies. 10 lhe SCI or 'cultural s1ereo1ypes' or
Tlw ln1erpre1a1ion of Dreams (Ricoeur, 1970. p. 97, n. 1). The cultural
s1erco1ypc 1ba1 we find in the later Freudian symbolism is not individual
in any important sense. But 1becultural refcrencesoflinguislic usage are
individual a11dcollcctive al the same time. When 1he patienl ar1icula1es a
figure of speech in 1he dream or in 1he neurotic symptom. we perceive a
common basis upon which the elemenl draws, but we also nole 1ha1 the
figure of speech forms parl of a verbal d.iscoursc that is completely
individual 10 the paticn1. In the tension between the clichc and the
inappropriate analogy we see the fusion ofindividual and collcc1ive that
both allows the analyst 10 vouchsafe bis interpretations and to
safeguard against the stereotypical symbolical or decoding methods of
Thus I wish 10 contrast 1be symbolical method of in1erpre1a1ion with
the lingui>1ic melh~ in the laner the dream-element in question
reveals its meaning by the son of figure of speech 1ha1 we have already
considered in hysterical symbolization. How do such analyses function
in practioc? The following example illu<1ra1<d the remarks 1ba1 I have
already quoted:

Since I had some knowledge of the dreamer's personal relations, I was

able to interpret certain of the pieces ofil independenlly of her .... I
74 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
decided lo lake the tower in lhc stalls li1crally. h lhen emerged thal
lhc man ... lowered above the other members of1hc orchestra. The
tower mighl be described as a composile picture formed by ap-
position. The lower pan of its structure represented the man's
greatness; the railing at the top, behind which he was running round
like a prisoner or an animal in a cage- this was an allusion to the
unhappy man's name - represented his ultimate fate. The two ideas
might have been brough1 together in the word 'Narrenllirm' (Freud
( l900a) SE V 342- 3; translation modified)

The same play on words 1ha1 Breuer deprecated in hyslerical

symbolization now reappears in the inlcrprclalion of dreams. The
interpretation characterizes what is es.sen1.ially a linguistic mechanism
buih our of the rhetorical device of a misplaced litcrali1y and the
grammatical device of apposi1ion. The ncccssily for expressing the
drcam·lhoughts in pictorial form functioned as a cons1rain1 upon these
lhoughls. entailing rhetorical and grammatical elaboration before it
was possible for them to enter the dream.1
Bu1 perhaps the most surprising feature of1his dream analysis is the
in1crpretativc liccoce to which Freud feels he is entitled simply on
account of the clever \"erbality of the putative mode of representation.
Not only does he feel entitled to interpret the specific figure of speech
used in the representation of the lower, but he even suggests a
composite word - Narrenturm - that synthesized two sets of drcam-
thoughts. Going even further, in the next paragraph, he interpreted the
dream-element ·coal' through a German folk·song in which coal
represents secret love. We draw the conclusion that l' reud believed that
the seeming arbitrariness of this procedure is offset not only by his
knowledge of the dreamer's personal relations. but also by his
adherence to 'firmly established linguistic usage'. (Ibid .. SE V 342)
Now the question presents i1self: is lhe firm establishment of the
evidence of linguistic usage of an empirical order, or does it have
theoretical and architectonic suppon? It is this ques1ion that is at issue
between the symbolism of the image and the symbolism of the word.
Bu1, before we answer this question, we mus1 take account of the
methodological con1cxt. Throughou1 the early editions of The
lnt.rprttotion of Dreams, Freud continually w-•med that any interpr<I·
ation of symbolizations should only be used in conjunction with the
me1hodologically primary technique of interpretation: free association .
In ascn>c. the dedphering of clements by reference to firmly established
linguistic usage is the terminal boundary of1he field or cxpl11na1ion set
Symbolism 75
up by the method of free association. Whal is of the first importance is
1ha1 the inlerpretations be able to take their place ma series of words
and thoughts that have their syntactical structure altered for the
purposes of censorship and visual representation. The riches and
varieties of linguistic usage are guaranteed 10 be available both to the
interpreter and to the dreamer. But the <sstntial position to be avoided
is one in which interpretations arc available only 10 the interpreter. As
Freud rciteraled in 1914, when commenting upon the distinction
bc1wccn the symbolic and decoding methods and his own:

An insuperable source of arbi1rariness and uncertainly arises from

1hc facl 1ha1 the drcam-elemcn1 may recall oorious things to lhc
in1crpre1er's mind and may recall somc1hing dilTercnl to dilTercnl
in1erpreiers. The technique which I describe ... dilTers in one
essential respect from the ancient me1hod: it imposes the task of
interpretation upon 1he dreamer himself. II is nol concerned with
what occurs to the interprt'rer in connection wi1h a part.cular clement
ofthedrc:im. but with what occurs tothedrt'ar~r. (Ibid .. SE IV 98 n I)

ln1erpretation by verbal symbolization was a last di1ch attempt to

ascenain the meaning of elemcnls that, for one reason or another, had
not succumbed 10 the method of free association. Even then, the
recourse could only be made to clements that one was certain were
available to the drc-Jmer: the a priori communality of linguis1ic usage
guaranteed such availability. In 1900 Freud would only allow himself
the following guarded sta1emen1 with respec1 to a universal symbolism
tha1 wcnl beyond this:

A dream-symbolism of universal validit) has only emerged in the case

of a few subjec1s, on the basis of gtncrolly familiar allusions and
verbal substilutcs. (Freud ( 1900a) SE V 345)•

In finding such symbolisms, the dream is. again. not employing some
special powtr of symbolization. but is rathtr "follo,.ing the pa1hs which
11 finds already laid down in the unconscious' (tlit sit mr unbr.<UJSten
De11kt11 fH,,;,. g'bahnt rorfo1de1), (Ibid. SE V 346). For such limi1ed
topics. such as the symbolism of the body discovered by Schemer. or the
symbolism of seed and plough_ "the way ha> been well prepared by
linguistic usage. itself 1he precipitate of imaginttthc similes reaching
back 10 remote antiquity .. :. (Ibid.)
The final sanction for Freud's method of interpretation was the
76 language a11d the Origins of Psy<'hoonolysis
atN'JJib1/t1y to the drcameT of the fonns of signiflClltion that were
presented to him. But this was not the only argument against the
m<thod of symbolic decoding. His antagon1Sm to the laner no doub1
stemmed in part from his conviction of the individuality of structure of
each dream. of each neurosis. Such structures were built up out of the
same methwtisms. but one did not exp«t these mechanisms to produce
the same manifest content or symptom corresponding to a given
concealed thought. since the individual's unique experiences were the
raw material o ut of which the structures were built. In his papers on the
neuroses in the 1890s, Freud made much of the revo lution he was
effecting in the nosology of the neuroses: his new classification was
bused 011 mechanism, not on symptomatology (e.g. Freud (1895b) SE
Ill 90 I). Similarly, his theory of dreams rested on the delineation of
the metltanisms or the dream-work, not the superficial themes or
common features shared by various dreams. 10 To retre:u back to
classification by symptom and sign would in effect amount to losing
everything that psychology bad gained for pathology.
We have seen that the individuality of reference of the content of the
dream or the neurosis is guarantttd by the method of free association.
Where this source fails. the shared meanings 'stored up' in linguistic
usage arc a•ailablc to the interpreter. The articulation of the archi-
tectonic within which explanations in terms of linguistic usage are
founded still remains undefined, and will remain so until Chapter 5.
Now, we should turn lo the changes in the editions of Tltt l111erpretation
of Dream.< and the impact of the growing psychoanalytical movement
upon the method of dream-interpretation for a clarification both of this
architectonic support and the concept of the symbol. Dul, a lready, in
connecting the problem of symbolism and the explanation through
linguistic usage we have presaged the form that Freud's later theory of
symbolism took .


190S JO

In 1926. on the occasion of Freud'sseventicth birthday, Ferenczi wrote

a paper honouring Freud, in which he defended his manner of
conducting intellectual disputation and the manner in which ce.r tain
analysl5 had been excluded from the psychoanalytical movement. In
particular. he defended tbe impartiality and scientific fair-mindedness
of Freud. At one point he said. 'For a long time Freud overlooked even
Symlx>lism 77
the scientific gambols of one of his followers, because he recognized bis
acute sense for sexual symbolism: (Fcrenczi. 1926a. pp. 16- 17.) This
playful follower was Wilhelm Stckel, who had a whirlwfod analysis with
Freud in 1902. and became one of the founder members of the
Wednesday group that eventually became the Vienna Psychoanaly1ic
Society(Stekcl. 1910, 1911-43, 1922, 1923, 1950; Roazcn. 1976 pp. 224-
34). Stckcl quickly established himself as the en/ant terrible of the
group. playing the lead in the two major controversies of the years that
prec,cded the rift with Adler. He disagreed with Freud over two major
issues: firstly. the significance of physiological or non-psychological
factors in the genesis of neuroses, particularly anxiety stales. As a
consequence of this debate, Freud made the first revision of the
nosology of the neuroses that he had set out in the 1890s: the
interposition of a category between the actual- and the psycho·
neuroses, namely, anxiety hysteria. The second issue was related to
the first: the importance of masturbation. Stekel arguod vehcrnent.ly
thllt masturbation had no ill e!Tects whatsoever. F reud maintained that
masturbation could be found to be an aetiological factor in many, if not
all. neuroses. Again. Stekel and the debates he aroused in the
Wednesday group forced Freud to define his position more carefully:
masturbation bas no ill effects physiologically - it is a normal auto-
erotic method of gaining pleasure with no pathological conscquences -
until it becomes linked to fantasy-formation. Masturbation plays an
aetiological role in neurosis because of its relation to fan tasy-formation
and the Right from sexual reality that is involved in the 'anti-social'
short cut of solitary sexual satisfaction (Minute.• II , p. S62).
Stekcl had the same effect upon Freud in an urea that eventually
became of greater theoretical importance: the study of dream-symbols.
Unwillingly. and with great misgiving. Freud was for(;od to clarify and
change his position upon the nature and the importance of symbols. We
have seen the sort of resistance that he presented to what he conceived
of as regressive and non-scientific modes ofdream-analysis. He retained
these misgivings. but under the weight of the 'empirical' evidence that
Stekcl o!Tered. he seemed forced to concede that a significant amount of
the" ork of dream interpretation could be conducted in a universal and
imagistic code of dream-symbols. The slow process through which
Freud came lo this a<:c.eplance is most instruc11vc and can be: traced in
detail in hi> publications. correspondence and through the t.1inutes of
the Vienna Psyc/wanalytic St>Ciety.
Let us take a passage from the 1905 edition of the Thrr~ Essays on
Sexuallt)'. in which Freud considered symbolism in the perversions:
78 l.anguagt and the Origins of P•J>ehoonalysis
In other cases the replacement of the object by a fetish is determined
by a symbolic connection of thought. of which the person concerned
is usually not conscious. It is not always possible to trace the course of
these connections with certainty. (The foot, for instance, 1s an age-old
sexual symbol which occurs even in mythology; no doubt the part
played by fur as a fetish owes its origin to an association with the hair
of the mons V tneris.) Nonetheless even symbolism such as this is not
always unrelated to sexual experience in childhood. (Freud (J9()Sd)
SE Vil 155)

Psychoanalytic explanation C·Onsists precisely in elucidating the

·course of the connections' between the manifest and latent conicnl of
1he sexual perversion. That in the case of fetishism this is not possible
worried Freud. Thus. he proposed two hypothetical dc1crmina1ions of
these connections: one laking its form from a universal association of
fur and pubic hair, the other from the connections available in
my1hological products. Jn this passage, written before the inOucnce of
Stekel was brought to bear upon the problem of the dream. Freud is
moving on one step further from a strict limitation to determination by
linguistic usage found in Tht lnttrprnation of Drroms, written live years
earlier. Here we already find two of the major 1hemes involved in the
exegesis of symbols: the 'silence' of the symbol, its distance from
language: and its reluctance 10 step into line with other clements present
to consciousness.
Freud's critical position with respect 10 a proliferation of arbitrary
interpretations remained clear 1broughou1 this period. in which the
early 'wild' analysis were flexing 1he.ir new fo und inlcrprcrnt ive muscles.
At a meeting of the Vienna Psychoanaly1ical Society on February 13,
1907. 1he discussion !urned around the reecn1 performance of
Wedckind's Spring A ...akening, and in particular around the figure of
lhe 'headless queen· in that play. Alier much truly arbitrary intcrpret-
a1ion from the discussants, Freud corrected 1he uoil1ncar. single
significations 1hu1 had been offered (e.g. Reitler had suggcs1cd that the
figure represented a 'symbol of bise.•uality').

The organic source of the fantasy is the anonymily of the fantasied

woman: he is sull 100 timid. one might say, 10 love a spcc:ific woman.
Women frequently indulge in fantasies nboul headless men
(mask).... Lastly. a "headless" individual cannot learn and Moritz
is 1or1urcd precisely by his incapacity 10 learn. (Minutes I, p. 114)
Symbofism 79
The very div~ty of these modes of elucidation was pan of the
pedagogical point that Freud was making: symbols arc detcnnined
precisely insofar as they take up manifold connections with the 'text'
that suppons them. As Freud put it with respect to one ofStekel's more
outlar>dish interpretations of a symbol at a meeung of the Society in
October 1908:

The interpretation as a sexual landscape may or may not be correct.

The only proof in such cases is to be found in whether the
interpretation yields a new connection. (Min111t.r II. p. 10)

The emphasis on the 'new connection' points in two directions.

First ly, it emphasizes the sense in which the symbol must take its place
in an ever widening context of meaning, in which it becomes a pan of the
detail that is the only guarantee of the validity of psychoanalytic
interpretation in general. In itself. this forms part of the thrust towards
an individually unique solution to the ·neurotic equation':

Each case must be dealt with individually. Our presentation begins to

be conclusive only with the intimate detail. (Afi11utes I. p. I 72)

We have already noted the importance of this movement towards the

individual in the Studies on Hys1.ria and The lt11erprewtio11 of Dreams.
But thesecood feature of the 'new connection' is novel, relating to the
place of symbolism in the analytic process. in the diulectic of patient and
analyst. In clinical practice, the symbol is churnctcrized and signified by
the silence that marks the moment for a new intervention by the analyst:

Pnticnts arc silent in two situations: when they do 11ot accept sexual
symbolism, or when the transference situation pr<-scnts an obstacle.
(Afinutes I, p. 180; cf. Freud (1916- 17) SE XV 149- SI)

By May 190'J, this lack of connectedness of the symbol had become

the theoretical starting-point for a book of s~xuol symbols which Freud
.. as going to write. He proposed to the Society that they gather material
together for this book. ·with the presupposition that. when nothing else
can~ uncovered. we have to assume something sexual'. ( Afinutes II, p.
219.) But Freud himself was silent at the meeting of the society in
February 1908 when Joach.im presented a paper on The Nature of the
Symbol. An argument between Fedem and Joachim served as axis of the
discussion . Federn presented a view of the symbol as intimately related
80 Language and 1he Origins of Psychoanalysts
to language. a view that could find suppon in Tht lnttrprNation of
Dreams. He contended thac

Symbolism comes into being only with language, and it is brought

about by the impossibility of adequately reproducing the details of
the outside world. Moreover, the multiple meaning,s of language
determines the possibility of symbol formation. (Afinutts I, p. 319)

Joachim replied:

Language itself is full of symbolism and could not be formed if the

technique of symbolism were not already developed . ... the pro~
lem concerning the relationship between symbol and language
depends entirely on what is understood by symbol. (Ibid., p. 322)

Indeed. the problems were often to revolve around a vagueness in the

concept of 1be symbol. But the cons1ellation of language seemed to be
the primary reference point for all discussion of symbol, even if it was
only to dissociate symbolism from language, IJ some special and
localized means of representation. Such a position might have far
reaching consequences. For instance, if Freud were to define the symbol
by its lack of connection lo the rest of the dreamer's associations and
thoughts. by its lack of connection with a universe of verbal discourse,
then he would be tempted - perhaps even forced - into finding a
dictionary of meanings, a set of standard translations that avoided
the question of the precise locus of the symbol in the psychic life of the
dreamer. We will encounter a more sophisticated bul less overt version
or this argument in Jones' classic paper on symbolism.
We can appreciate now that one particular approach to the problem
or symbolism arose directly out of the method of dream interpretation.
If free association supplies the means with which the elements of a
dream can be explained in terms of a coherent and self-consislcnt
structure of thoughts and memories. then t.bc lack of such associations
presents an important pr.1ctical problem. What interpretative strategics
arc brought to bear upon this problem then have considerable
theoretical oonsequences. The first attempt to circumvent silence, the
method of 'linguistic usage', led directly to a preoccupation with the
nature and history of language. as we have seen in the Studiu on
Hysttrla. The second attempt. in which silence indicates a ·symbol'.
seems 10 lead beyond the restricted field of language. A primary theme
of this chapter will be that a reference to language. albeit only to its
S)'mholism 81
history. was fell to be necessary for psychoanalytic interpretation to
retain its character, even when dealing with putatively universal
symbols. h was as if the de\•elopment of knowledge about symbolism
put a gJCal •tr.iin on the linguistic suppon of psychoanalytic interpret-
ation: when: the history of language had previously appeared to
present no problem, the advent of universal symbolism created one.
Let this not obscure the fact that the history oflanguage was always of
importonoc in Freud's work. But the enormous concern with linguistic
uwge that Freud's firs t three major works of the new century - The
Interpretation of Dreams ( 1900), Tire Psychopotlrology of Everyday life
(1901) and Jokes and their Relatio11 to tire U11co11scious (1905) -
displayed was primarily a concern with the ' morphology' and 'his-
tology' of a set of given texts. To borrow back a metaphor from biology,
the period from 1900- 1905 was more concerned with the ontogeny of
language. whereas the period 1906- 1913 dealt with its phylogeny. The
concern with mythology and symbolism, with literary texts and with
ritual. that characterizes this period appears first and foremost as an
extension of the concern with linguistic usage. But, before "e turn to
this material, we can follow out tbc vicissitudes that surrounded the
symbolic adventures of Stekel.
Stekel was accused by his fellow members of the Wednesday group of
manufacturing meanings. His ·Wednesday' case was famous: every
meeting he would proclaim that he had had a patient that very morning
who had produced material directly relevant to the points under
discussion (Jones fl, 153). His approach to symbols seemed similar. A
dream-clement or a specific symptom would be proposed for lhc group
lo discuss; his interpretation would follow immediately. Freud was
always wnry of such direct, non-discursive interpretation, but found
that, according to his own criteria, Stekel was usually right (The
Freud/ Jung lellers 253F, p. 418). Jung found the same, taking up a
similar position to Freud: Stekel is usually right. is bad for psychoanaly·
sis as a science and is worse for itJ public ( Ibid. 159J. p. 258). 1.n the
Vienna Society. Freud would caution against accepting Stekel's dream
symbolic mode of interpretation, but he gradually came to accept that
the enterprise was now possible, probably on the grounds that Stekel
was usually right, and therefore there must be something in it. By
November 1909. Freud could write to Jung:

A book on dream symbols doesn't strike me as impossible. but lam

sure we shall object to the way Stekcl goes about it. He will work
haphazardly, taking whatever he can lay hands on without regard for
82 Language and tire Origins of Ps)'t:hoanal)'sis
1he con1<x1. and without taking myth or language or linguistic
devclopmeni into account. (Ibid., 163F. p. 266)

By Man:h 1910 Freud was suggesting group rcscan:h on symbols to

Jung(lbid.• 1811. p. 299). But the emphasis had changed in the year that
had elapsed since he had made a similar suggestion to the Vienna
Gro up. Then. he had wanted straightforward "dictionary' inlcrprcl·
at ions or dream symbols. By 1910 the lheorctically vouchsarcd method
or lhc historical investigation or language and myth had suggested itselr
as 1he means by which 10 secure the soundness of the study of symbols.
It was this element. the reference 10 language. as seen in the above
quoted lcncr. that Stekel would surely lack. ' '
Jn his 1909 lectures at Clark University. Freud found a compromise
solution 10 the problem of symbolism:

... the analysis of dreams has shown us that the unconscious makes
use of a panicular symbolism. especially for rtprescnting sexual
complexes. This symbolism varies panly from individual to in-
dividual: but panly it is laid down in a typical form and seems to
coincide with the symbolism which. as we suspect. underlies our
myths and fairy tales. (Freud (19 10a) SE Xl 36)

Freud now sanctioned the first two of the following three possible
conceptions of symbolic expression:

1. An f11tli1•id11a/ and verbal symbol (a seemingly "priva1c symbol):

the example of a "slap in the face' would t1ppn1r to come in10 this
11. A unirrrsal and rerbal symbol. Superficially. 1hc uni"crsality
would only apply within one language. Bui etymology extended
this into 01her languages, so that 1hc sphere of application
broadened to include all Janguagc-sixakers. With the con-
centrated application of the philological method. the two usages i.
and ii. could be unified. An example can be found in Silbcrcrs
Probl~ms of Mys1icism and ils S1mbo/ism (1914/ 17 p. 30) the
drtam·1mage · BahnhoF serves as a phallic symbol via the
linguistic relation to the English word •station'. thence to the
Latin "to stand. to stare', the genital interpretation of which is
supported by jokes about ·s1irrs·.
111. A univrrsa/ and risual symbol. seemingly unconnected with
language. e.g. a cigar is a phallic symbol.
Symbolism 83
With his compromise formula, Freud could include both the
linguistic definition of symbolization 1ha1 he had formulated in the
1890s and defended in The lnterprrtalion oj Dreams, and also, with
increasing reliance upon etymology and philology, the new non·
linguinic dictionary of mcaoiogs elaborated by his disciples. A priori, be
was decidedly unhappy about the non-linguistic mode, as bis opinion of
the dream-book Stekel would write demonstrated. Bui, besides S1ekel.
another inftucncewas making itself felt: Carl Gustav Jung. 1910 was the
year in which both Freud and Jung turned their attention primarily to
the problems of symbolism. Eventually it was from Jung that Freud
encountered the most important attack upon his theory of symbols.
T he first hint of Freud's preoccupation with symbols came just before
he lcf\ for America in the summer of 1909:

In the course of an interesting excursion into archaeology, I have

cooceivcd some ideas about the nature ofsymbolism. but they arc not
yet clear enough. ( The Freud/Jung Utttrs. IS4F. p. 24S)

By October. Jung was well entrenched in the vast new area of study.
and found difficulty in finding a description for it: ·Archaeology or
rather mythology bas got me in its grip, it's a mine of marvellous
material.' (Ibid. IS7J. pp. 251- 2.) Freud replied:

I am delighted to learn that you arc going into mythology. A little less
loneliness.... I hope you will soon come to agree with me that in all
likelihood mythology centres on the same nuclcur complex as the
neuroses. {Ibid., 16-0F. p. 260)

By ' nuclear complex' Freud was referring to what later became

known as the Oedipus complex. We thus see that the study of
mythology, archaeology and religion (these terms seemed lo be
interchangeable) served two ends: the elucidation of symbolism and an
attempt 10 prove the efficacy of the central concept of his explanation of
the neuroses in another field. It would appear that these aims were
separate. But the same problems and issues of typicality and univer-
sality. of field and possibility of reference. on the one hand. and the
discursive structure of the object of psychoanalysis, on the other, arose
in the development of the concepts of the Oedipus complex and of
symbolism. It will thus be frui tful to turn to the history of the Oedipus
complex as part of our account of symbolism.
84 Language and 1he Origins of Ps;~hoanal;~is

Freud's first published discussion of the play Ordipus Rrx is to be found

in the section on T;pica/ Dreams in the 1900 edition of The
ln1.rprt101/on of Ort!ams (Freud (1900a) SE IV 261 - 4). " As we have
already noted, this section contained the few examples of symbolism
that Freud had 'discovered' at that early date. In 1909 and 1911 the
material discovered by Ste.kc! and others found its pluce in the expanded
section on Typical Dreams, a separate section for Symbolism not being
created till 1914(1bid. SE IV xii- xiii). In the 1900 edit ion, then. the first
hint of the 'Oedipal impulses' occurred with respect to dreums of the
death of relatives. Immediately we should note that the 'Oedipal
intcrpretution' of such dreams disregards one of the fundamental
principles that Freud laid down in the rest of the book, namely, the
distinction between the manifest and latent content - 'The dream is the
disguised fulfilment of a repressed wish' ( Ibid. SE IV 160). To dream of
the death oft he father expresses the dream-wish in an unusually direct.
undistorted manner. Freud recognized that his intrrpretatioo of such
dreams as arising out of death wishes indicated that the ccn.sorship was
not acting in the manner he had demonstrated it usually did in all other
dreams. Consequently. he produced a set of arguments to indicate why
this was possible (Ibid. SE IV 266- 7}:
a. one would never dream of such a wish, so that the very enormity of
the thought imbedded in the wish allows it to be expressed directly:
b. there is a thin disguise of the death-wish behind a day-residue of
worry about the person who appears as dead in the dream:
c. the exception that proves the rule: from this sort of dream, and the
similar anxiety dreams, we can show that the purpose of the
censorship is 10 prevent the release of anxiety or other distressing
afl'ccts: in the Oedipal dreams, this is not achieved.
While being perplexed at this multiplicity, even superfluity. of
reasons - a muhip~city that cannot bdp remind us of one of Freud's
favourite anecdotes coocemiog the neighbour who returned a bor-
rowed kellle with a hole in it together with a series of mutually
contradictory reasons which proved that the blemish came from
anywhere but the borrower - at this point. we should note simply the
place oft he introduction of the Oedipal theme: in the section on Typical
Drtams, from which the material on symbolism was developed.
It should come as a surprise to realize the late arrival oft he Oedipus
complex as the crucial concept for the explanation of the aetiology of
Symbolism 85
the neuroses. We might well ask what were the relations between
Freud's theory of Oedipal impulses in childhood and the aetiology of
the neuroses at the time when be wro1c 1hc ci1ed passages. We shall
refrain from aucmpting a complc1c answer 10 1his question, since it will
1akc us far from the issue we are dealing wi1h, bul a skc1ch is ncc,cssary.
Some indica1ion of the stale of Freud's 1heory of the neuroses at this
period can be had from the case-history of Dora, wriueo in 1901 and
published in 1905. Undoubtedly the course of the analysis centred upon
' the family', but this family was certainly not 'nuclear' in either of two
i. the 'family' that constituted the structure in which Dora's desires
were articulated, expressed and repressed consisted of a mother, a
father, Herr K. and Frau K. Thus at the ·manifest' level her family had
four terms, instead of two, and Freud did nothing to remove two of
those terms when it came to the latent structure of desire.
ii. we find no trace of a 'nuclear complex' consisting of a relation
between Dora. her mother and her father. An instance of lhe lack of
privilege of Oedipal impulses can be Sttn in the following passage:

·Her own love for her father bad therefore been recently revived; and.
if so. the question arises to what end this had happened. Clearly as a
reactive symptom, so as to suppress something else - something, that
is, that still exercised power in the unconscious . .. she had suc-
ceeded in persuading herself that she had done with Herr K. - that
was the advantage she derived from this typical process of repression;
and yet she was obliged to summon up her infa ntile alTcction for her
rather and to exaggerate it, in order 10 protect herself against the
feelings or love which were constantly pressing forward into con-
sciousness.' (Freud (1905e) SE VII 58)

We wish 10 make the following points concerning this passage:

a. The displacement operates bore in the interests of the repressed IO\'C
of Herr K .. for which lhe alTcctio.n ate impulses towards her father arc
1he conscious representative; one would expect a displacement in the
o pposite direction, ir one were to assume, as is often the case io later
psychoanalytic explanation, that adolescence is the occasion for revival
or love of the father' for which various 01her loves represent displa~
ments. Of cou=, one could argue that a funher analysis would uncover
a love of the father for which the repressed love for Herr K. is itself a
displacement. But Freud seemed 10 take account of this possibility,
86 language and tire OriginJ of P1ychoanoly1i.r
which was rendered available to him by his account of the infantile
arrcc1ions that children have for their parents he had given on tbe
previous page, by using the terms 'summoning up' and 'exaggeration'
when talking of the infantile ·afrcction' for her father. terms that call 10
mind both the d0$Ctiption of the Projert, in which pr~pubc:nal impulses
are magnified on their return to consciousness in adolescence, and a
neo-Jungian notion, not altogether foreign to Freud's theories from the
1890s on, concerning the infantile non-sexual alrections that are revived
in order to provide an escape from present-day problems, such
alrcctions receiving a sexual colouration from the specific character of
the present·day preoccupations.
b. Such an inversion of the expected order of the appearance of
impulses and the expected exigencies of repression parallels the
inversion of temporal order in the sequence of memories analysed in
Freud ( 1899a). In that paper, a screeo·memory appertaining to an
experience at the age of 3 covers a repreosed memory dating from
puberty. What these two examples- Dora and the screcn-memory-
v.ould appear to indicate is that, following on the shock that Freud had
rccc:ived with the demise of the seduction theory - and I think ,..e are
justified in calling it a shock. since its elrect wu to prevent Freud from
publishing any significant paper on the neuroses from 1897 to 1905-
Freud was muc.h more interested in displaying the structure of psychic
products. rather than their final aetiology, so that if it turned out in a
specific case that the 'earlier' depended upon the ' later', this would in no
way obscure his point. Again, I would argue, the emphasis is on
mechanism rather than content.
c. Freud himself recognized certain mistakes or errors of technique in
the Dora analysis, which may have a bearing on this passage. In
particular, he avowed his failure to single out a homosexual current.
which took Frau K. as its object. as the 'strongest unconscious current
in her mental life' (Freud ( 1905e) SE VII 120 n. I). In ignoring tllis, he
was led to give additional weight, indeed to insist against the evidence.
that Dora's primary lov~object was Herr K. As Lacan puts it (Lacan.
1975a. p. 207): ' It is absolutely clear that it was Freud's ego that
intervened. that is. his own conception ofwhat girls are made for - a girl
is made for loving boys. If there is something stuck. something that
torments her, that is repressed. it can only be. in the eyes of Freud. this:
that she loves Herr K. And she perhaps loves Freud a little in the same
manner: But such a belated recognition. although throwing light upon
the prominence of Herr K .• does not alter the balance of interpretation
in favour of an Oedipus complex, even if inverted. One will have to
Symbolism 87
remain content with the 'incompleteness' of the analysis given in the
case-history, if one wishes to view it from a position taken up within the
Oedipus compkx.
Cenainly. at this time. in the early years of the new century, Freud
was absolutely cenain that neuroses arise out of the failure of a defence
against sexual impulses, the latter invariably taking as their model a
piece of infantile sexual activity. Involved here was the relation between
infantile masturbation and sexual fantasy, again. as we noted above. a
topic that was not clarified until Freud was forced to do so under the
pressure of Stekcl's uncompromising opinions as to the elTccts of
masturbation and the status of the actual neuroses (Freud (1909b) SE X
5- 147). T hough he discovered, in 1897, without quite knowing what to
make of the discovery, that fantasy could have the same aetiological
elTect as real sexual activity, it was not until the debate concerning
masturbation that Freud established the primacy of fantasy in the
aetiology of the neuroses (sec Glymour (1974) pp. 302- 4). Of great
interest in delineating tbis development is the following passage from a
discussion at the Vienna Society io February 1907:

Freud remarks, cooceroing the concept of auto-.:rotism, that

Havelock Ellis uses this term wbco only OM person is involved (thus,
for instance, also in relation to hysterical symptoms). whereas Freud
uses it when there is no object; for example. those who masturbate
with images (Bilderonanis1en) would not be considered autocrotic.
(Minutes I , p. 118)

In May 1909 Freud used this important distinction (upon which the
concept of narcissism was eventually built) to elucidate the aetiology of
the psycho-neuroses:

Personally, Freud is more and more inclined toward the view that ii is
not masturbation that - as the patient asserts - is the source of all
these neurotic sufferings; the essential faclor is what lies bcbind
masturbation - namely, the primitive mas1urba1ion-fantasics ...
Neurolics arc persons who in fantasy have not arrived at a
detachment from their first objects; and it is from this content of the
primilit:• fantasies that all these feelings of repression follow. For
persons who can detach these fantasies from father, mother, etc.,
masturbation has no psychological consequences. (Minu1ts II, p.
88 language a"d the Origins of Psrrhoanal,.sls
This position contra.sted strongly with the spirit of Freud's pro-
nounccmtnts upon the aetiology of the neuroses in his paper of June
190S (Freud. 1906a). The emphasis !Mrc had ~non the disiurbances in
the organic sexual processes. By 1909 Freud was emphasizing the means
by which such organic disturbances came about. i.e. the defences
against various objects or aims that lead to a fixation. or lack of
detachment of libido, fro m various sexual component-instincts. With
the work• of 1907 and 1908, the new element came to the fore: the
consequences of the thought-activity of children for the construction of
neurotic symptoms in later life. Two papers were the consequences of
this investigation of the ' normal' thought-world of children and young
people: 'The Sexual Theories of Children' and 'Family Romances'.
Both these papers. wriucn in late 1908.,, eonccntrated on the relations
between the child and its parents, but in a completely different manner
from either the seduction theory or the Three E:ssars on Sexuality. The
theme of parent and child was located on the level of thought and
fantasy: the intellectual anempt to resolve the 'twin' problems of the
origin of babies. and the origin of the self (including there. the question
as to the origin of the self qua sexed being).
With the introduction of the term 'complex' by Jung (derived from
the methodology of the association experiment). the issue becomes
more complic.atcd. Now 'complexes' referred to circles of ideas
possessing a permanent and hidden affe<.1ive charge. In 1908 we find
Freud following J ung, perhaps reluctantly. in using the term complex
for a vitriety of psychical contents: the 'personal' complex, the
'professional' complex - and the 'family complex' (Freud ( 19() 1b) SE VJ
4-0; added 1907). We can now see the components that. on top of the
conccpl of infan tile sexuality and object choice. went into the construc-
tion of the Oedipus complex: the study ofl hechildhood sexua l theories,
the family romunces of adolescence. and 1he family complex. But as yet
we ha\•e not unravelled all the threads.

For a small child his parents are at first the only authonty and the
source of all belief. The child's most intense and most momentous
1N1sh dunng these early )'ears is to be like his parents (lhat ii. the
parent of his own sex) and to be big tikc his father and mother. (Freud
( 1909c) SE VII 237)

This statcmcnt, taken from ' Family Romances'. d= not sound at all
like a component part of the Oedipus complex. It lacks that essential
diffcrcntiution between father and mother that characterizes the triadic
Symbolism 89
structure of the Oedipus complex. Indeed, it hinges around a psychologi-
cal mechanism that comes closer to the non-psychoanalytic concept of
'imitation'. True, it was not until B•yond th• Pltasuu Principk (Freud
(l920g) SE XVIII 17) that Freud was to establish an explicit critique of
the concept of imitation. But Adler was to make explicit the direction of
thought indicated here. when he asserted that the child's wish to be ·on
top', to be in a position of power with respect to those toward whom he
felt inadequate. was the dominant concem of the neuro tic(Adler, 1912-
17). So. at this time, Freud and his co-workers were not particularly
concerned with the triadic relation of father, mother and child. When
Jung wrote a paper on 'the fathe r complex' (as Freud called it io a
letter). a paper roughly contemporaneous with Freud's ' Family
Romance and ' Sexual Theories' papers. he was able to assert:

In my experience it is usually the father who is the decisive and

dangerous object of the child's fantasy, and if ever it happened to be
the mother I was able to discover behind her a grandfather to whom
she belonged in her heart. (Jung (1909} C W IV 323).

This and similar passages certainly caused Abraham some disquiet.

H e "-'rote to Freud:

Arc you, incidentally. also of the op1mon that the father is so

predominant'/ It is definitely the mother in some of my analyses; in
others, one cannot decide whether it is the fa ther or the mother who
plays the more important pan. It seems to me to depend very much on
the individual circumstances. (Freud ( 1965a) p. 76)

Freud replied:

My comments on the problem Jung deals with arc similar to yours. I

have previously believed the parent of the sa me sex to be more
important for the person coocemed. but can reconcile myself to
greater individual variations. Jung has taken a part out of the whole,
but he has done so very clTcctivcly. (Ibid. p. 78}

None of the three- Freud. Jung or Abraham conceived that three

terms con.n ituted the complex, the 'whole' 1hat Freud mentions in
passing. without, as yet, attaching much importance to its exact
constitution. Freud's suggestio n that the parent of the same sex was the
more important is also seen in the passage quoted above from 'Sexual
90 language and the Origins of Psyc:haanalysu
Theories'. Al Ibis lime, Frtud's account of the childhood S<Jlual theories
revolv<d around the rtlation of the child to the Grossrn - 1he grown-ups
(Freud 1908c) SE IX 214). In that account, the conflict between the
authority of the Grosun and 1he 'views for which [1be child) feels an
ins1inctual kind of pn:fertnce' Obid.) gives rise to suppressed and
unconscious thoughts - the 'nuclear complex' of the neuroses. Hence.
in its initial formulation in 1908, the nuclear complex referred to the
thought relations stimulated by the (imagined) conflict between infantile
sexuality and the authority of the paren1. We may note the essential
con1inui1y bclwccn the concept of the nuclear complex and such
lhoughts about the family in anolher 'aside', from lhc Minutes for
January 1908:

The old "family romance", which is the core of all neuroses. expresses
itself also in this case.... (/.Iinures I, p. 295)

The family romance and the sexual theories of children went hand in
hand in forming the basis of lhe neurosis. Staning wi1h the gap lhat
exisis between the impulses oflhechild and its k.nowledge of1hc means
of procreation and S<Jlual activity, the sexual inves1igalion of the child
comprises an attemp1 at sexual knowledge of the parents. The mystery
surrounding his own genital sensations bears an unknown relation to
the mystery of the parents' sexual relation (Freud (1909b) SEX 134-6).
The investigation of this relation is closely connected with the mastur-
batory gratiRcation of 1he infantile period: the sexual theories are the
first fantasy-structures of the Bilderonanist . The fomily romances of a
slightly later agc(though we should note that Freud at this stage did not
auach much importance to cardinal chronological considerations) arc
1hc sexual theories transj>os<d under the pressure of the allcmpt to
liberate the self from the parental authority.
Having arrived 'back' at thecentrali1y of1hc parents in the life of the
child, Freud wrote to Jung in December 1908:

l am so obsessed by the idea of a nuclear complex in neuroses.such as

is at the heart of the case of Little Hcrbcn [Hans) that I cannot make
any headway. ( The Freud/Jung uurrs. I 18F, p. 186)

Over 1he next few momhs the concept was to take the shape that we
more immediately recognize as the Oedipus complex, 1ha1 is. solu1ions
to the problems of the aetiology of the neuroses ceased to have either the
Symbolism 91
5truccure or'tirher(the mother) or (the rather)' or 'the>mothcr-and·thC>
father', and began to take up a form in which opposition and
idcntificat.ion were both necessarily involved. Firstly. Freud brought the
sexual curiosity and intellectual activity or the child into close connec-
tion with both his tender and hostile impulses:

Tbe nuclear complex ... comprises the child's earliest impulses.

alike tender and hostile, towards its parents and brothers and sisters,
aner its curiosity has been awakened - usually by the arrival or a new
baby brother or sister. (Freud (1909d) SEX 208n)

But. even at this date, Freud still lcrt a number of foatures

uncoordinated: these feat ures concerned the hostility of the child
towards the father. His accounts in early 1909 gave a number of
separate reasons for this hostility. Firstly. 'it is entirely characteristic or
the nuclear complex of infancy that the child's rather should be assigned
the part or a sexual opponent and or an intcrrercr with auto-erotic
sexual activities' (Ibid.); secondly. much of the hostility of the child is
directed towards the father on account of the 'father's concealment of
the facts about the sexual proces5<$ connected with binh'. (Alinures 11,
p. 72) 14 • \Vhatever F reud understood by the term 'sexual opponent' (a
phrase from the first quote above), it is clear that the father's role as
sexual opponent was only one of the reasons for the child's hostility to
the father. We may assume that. at this time, Freud did not conceive of
the child's ·auto-erotic' activities as centred around n phantasy of the
mother, to which the father's role as opponent could thus be linked, as it
was the Clise in later writings. Nor. as yet, did Freud seem to ask the
question: why is the/arher always assigned the role or withholder of
knowledge. rather than the mother? Tbe father quo sexual opponent
was thus only one of the themes that contributed 10 the hostile trend
that Freud already saw clearly as being essential to the 'nuclear
com pie>'.
We may safely conclude tbat the essential connection or the father
and the mother in the Oedipus complex had not been clarified. Further
evidence of this can be rouod in the first version of the paper on. special
type of object-choice made by men, read to the SOCtety in May 1909.
Freud summed up the aim oft he paper by saying that 'it was meant 10
pro,ide a stimulus for going beyond the already somewhat dreary
formula Of the mothtr, and for DOI losing sight Of the abundance or
psychic happenings, which yield the most diverse results'. (,tfinutes IJ.
p, 256) By the time Freud came to rewrite the paper for publication, its
92 f.Anguage and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
character bad cb311ged. The father figured as much as the variations
upon the 'dreary' maternal aetiology." lo the rewriting be coined the
term "Oedipus complex'. The conceptual enrichment that this involved
can be seen fr.om the discussion of the theme of 'rescue' that forms pan
of the 'special type'. Freud argued that the r=uc (usually of a woman)
\\'as ovcr·dctcrmincd; the attempt to rescue the mother rccci\•cd
additional force from the wish to be one's own father. •• Perhaps it is at
this point that we see coming together all the thcmcs that we have seen
connected with the development of the concept oft he Oedipus complex:
the mystery of birth, the danger of birth, the origin of children, the
relation oft he father to the mother, both in reproductive and in sexual
terms. and the attempt to resolve the conflict of desires and fears that
make up what we might call the 'dreary' Oedipus complex . 17 The
crystalli7.ation of the concept of the Oedipus complex could be said to be
complete in this paper; it is one of those occasions, rare in the history of
science, when the first usage of a concept and the first usage of the name
for that concept coincide. Its crystallization was foreshadowed in the
remarks Freud made to the Vienna Society in October 1909:

In general. neuroses are muc.h more centered than we thought. ln this

case too [a case-history presented by Win els] it is 1hc typical problem,
the same story as has been disclosed in Oedipus and in little Hans.
(Minutts II. p. 286)

At 1his point let us summarize the characteristics of the Oedipus

complex as we have presented it. First and foremost. it is a work of
thought and fantasy, a coordinated structure of representations. and
no1 a bundle of impulses. Secondly, its importance for Freud was that it
formed the core of all neuroses: it unified the field of neurosis. But this in
itself presented problems: what makes one neurosis dilTerent from
another? If they have the same structure at bottom, a new set of
distinctions must be introduced to allow for the variety of neuroses. In
November 1909. Freud proposed tbe follo,.;ng three-tier .iructure to
the Vienna Society:

We anticipate that it may tum out by chance that adult neurOSC$ have
their prototype in cbikl life. ... Then we would have a clear
undcl'$tanding of the origin of the neuroses and. between the nuclear
complex and the later adult neurosis, we would have to insert the
elementary neurosis as an intcrmedia1c stage. The pediatrician is in a
position to make the distinction definite between the psychologically
Symbolism 93
conditioned strata of neurosis and a core that falls into the earliest
years of life; he can further determine, with regard to this core, what
should be shifted over to development and what should be ascribed 10
heredity. Perhaps it will appear that behind all psychologically
conditioned phenomena there lies something else. (!of i11u1es II, pp.
322- 3)

Formulating this in a schema:

a. General case b. Lillie Hans
Adult neurosis
Childhood neurosis Childhood neurosis
Nuclear complex Nuclear complex
IL was this schema that formed the basis for the polemic contra Jung
that Freud wrote in 1914, 'From the History of an Infantile
Ncurosis'( l918b). Freud shut off an)' auempt, such as those made by
Jung throughout the period of collaboration and, more explicitly, after
their rift, to deny the importance of infantile experience in the
formation of neurosis, by declaring that adult neuroses invariably and
only arise on the basis of an infantile neurosis. Consequently, the
r<latioo to be investigated is that between the 'latent' Oedipus complex
and the ·manifest' (through interpretation) infantile neurosis. not that
between the adult and the infantile. The structure of the relation
between the two levels is retained, but the relation itself a nae hes now to
two levels that arc both one step more ' theorized'. What is more, with
this three-tier i;chcme. Freud could easily outflank a heresy that would
be based upon his own concepts of interpretation und Naclorr{/g/lchkeir.
We should remind ourselves that the lan er concept was originally
introduced to explain away the possibility of infantile sexual desires,
while retaining an aetiology of hysteria that found its original,
'traumatic' event in childhood (cf. Freud ( 1950a) SE I 347- 59). In this
new schema, Nachrrliglirhkeir, operating betW«n the nuclear complex
and the infantile neurosis, operates completely M'/thin childhood - that
is, t.hc two points in time between which N«hrrllglichkeir acted were
both loc<tted in childhood - thus gainsaying an argument that wished to
locate the c<1uses of neurosis in the adult present, and explaining the
infantile conl~nt of the ne-uroses by a rclroacli\'C activation Of infantile
material. Freud himself now wished to use the concept of Nachrriiglic-
loktit for a similar purpose: to explain the universal content of the
childhood neurosis by 'retroactive' activation of the nuclear complex,
rather than the 'amplification of quantity' function the concept had
performed in Lhc Project.
94 Language tU1d the Origins of Psychoanalysis
The polemic against the Jungian position had thus been staned long
before Jung was to occupy it. Perhaps. But one should not under-
estimate the explicit recognition of dilTer<nccs and the firm manner in
which Freud publicly eschewed some of the ·zurich tendencies' in the
period 1907- 12. At the meeting of the Vienna Society in November 1909
at which he set out the three-Lier theory we have quoted, he made it quite
clear thut it was against certain ideas of Jung that he was arguing,
specific.ally Jung's conviction that there were hysterias in which
reminiscences p layed no part, that were simply ·organic' or ' hereditary'
in character - exactly the position that Freud's radical attack on the
concept of hereditary determination and degeneracy of the 189Qs had
expelled from consideration in psychoanalysis.

In an infantile hysteria that appears in the sixth to eighth year, the

prehistory must be in no way underestimated, since the decisive
impressions arc received in the second to fourth )'Cars of life.
(Afinutts II. p. 323)

With the introduction of the Oedipus complex and its integration into
a new schema of the aetiology of the neurOSC$ - a process that one
cannot separate from the genesis of the concept and which acts as the
gauge of the existence of that concept - Freud gave a new dimension of
'typicality'. of 'universality', to psychoanalyt ic theory. Al the base of all
neurosis. at the deepest level - and o nly, to be sure, al the deepest
level - was to be found one single structure, transforms of which gave
rise 10 different neuroses. The dcrnil with which u psychoanalytic
explanation only makes sense was by implication downgrodcd: another
criterion, conformity to the unitary Oedipal strucLure, seemed to pull in
the opposite explanatory direction. Instead of a finer and finer
appreciation of the intimate details of the individual neurosis, an
approximation that might have as its ideal conformity with an
·understanding' of that person's life, it becomes more and more
tempting to urge analysis towards a single and final end of all
interpretation, an apocalyptic twilight of the dialectic of destiny. And
what end was this? - The panem, the image, that bad. so surprisingly,
appeared to F reud in The ln1erpu1a1ion of Dr~ams, and for which be
had virtually created a special category: dreams of the death of relatives
and or incest. The discooo:rting explicitness of a class of dreams, which,
by definition. were at their most implicit when to be explicit would be to
disconcert, now. came to be the aim and measure of psychoanalysis,
whereas then, in 1900. it bad been something to be explained away,
Symbolism 95
some1hing 10 be patched over, the bole in the psychoanalytical kenle.
Symbolism, as the apparatus of explanation that took over the niche
created by the makeshift category of typical dreams, functioned in
parallel 10 the Oedipus complex, now grown, as we have seen, out of all
proportions toils humble beginnings as a typical dream. Both bypassed
de1ail; both bypassed interpretation; both bypassed the spinning out of
words that coagulated meaning through the plurivocality of their
reference. The Oedipus complex introduced a transparency between
symptom and cause, symptoms now being viewed as one modality
umong others of a cause already known. One might argue that this
transparency occurred only at the level of theory, the level that, as we
emphusizcd above, was strongly emphasized in the new three-tier
structure that the Oedipus complex inaugurated; one might argue that,
in the realm of practice, just as much detail of the ' inner world', just as
many subtle innuendos of symptom and image were examined. But this
is precisely what the theory of symbols shows us was no11hecase. h was
a prartica/ exigency- the /ailur• of detail, the lat•k or a connection,
silence - to which the theory of symbols was meant to answer. Its uni-
dimensional and irreversible mo,·cmcnt along a univocal reference be-
came a formidable pan of practice, founding a supporting theory that
we are still in the process of examining. matching the movement of
simplification - even duplicating and supporting it - that the concept of
the Oedipus complex brought 10 1he aetiology of the neuroses. J usl as all
roads lead (back) 10 the Oedipus complex, so that the questions of
heredity versus accidental, of constitution versus experience, of male
and female, have 10 be asked in terms of 'mummy' and 'daddy', so do
the clements of a dream increasingly have to find their final reference in
a very limited set of referents: 'the body in all its aspects, the parents,
children. brothers, sisters, birth. death, nakedness - and something else
besides'. (Freud ( 191 6- 17) SE XV 153: translation modified)"
We have established that the period 1907- 10 saw the formulation of
the Oedipus complex.•• The component parts of the concept were
brought together via the concepts of the nuclear complex, the family
romance and the sexual theories of childhood. The Oedipus complex
acted as a simplifying concept, in the accumulating welter of infantile
fantasy and sexual theory. Its first simplifying function was to reduce
the number of o bjects of aetiological moment. ll was only later that it
acquired the function of synthesizing the component instincts, or of
mediating between the ego and the social world (as in the genesis of the
The simplification worked in two ways: firstly, by exclusion and
96 Language and the Origins of PSJ'Choanalysis
secondly by subsumption. Cenain ·complexes· would necessarily prove
or secondary derivation and therefore would function as intermediate
steps in the solution of a neurosis. Such would be Jung·s •profcssionar
and ·personar neuroses. Such, also, might be the religious complex: the
reduction of God to the father is bound up with the Oedipus complex. 10
Secondly. ccnain themes, seemingly of equivalent primordiality to
Oedipus, could be subsumed within the Oedipus complex: the themes of
birth and rebirth. of the rescue, of the cloaca! theory of birth. and so
fort h. The latent content oftbe neurosis was afllrmed as stable.just at
the point where the detailed manifestations of it were proliferating.
Just as symbolism gives direct access to meanings derived from the
unconscious. so the Oedipus complex gives direct nccess to the primary
desires. More than that, it gives a justification for a certain irrevcrsi·
bility of interpretation: from the god to the fa ther, and not vice versa.
Once one k.nows what the core of a neurosis is going to be. the process of
interpretation becomes more straightforward, less dependent upon the
twists and turns of the ·detail' that had been so 1mpor1ant. The typicality
of Oedipal desires is mirrored in the typicality of their representation.
h is in the domain of myibology and its symbolism that we find the
movements towards simplicity of aetiology and towards interpretative
verisimilitude most at odds. And it was mythology that came to
preoccupy Freud and his co-workers most in the period we a re studying.

MYT H AND DREAM. 1910- 191 I

Freud and Jung both turned to the study of myths and symbols at about
the same time: the beginning of 19 10 . In January 1910, Jung gave a
lecture to a student society in Zurich. He wrote to Freud about the
richness of the area of study, and how unsatisfactory his first formu-
lation of the problem was. Freud replied:

Your deepened view of symbolism has all my sympathy. Perhaps you

remember bow di>satis6ed I was whc.n in agr<ement with Bleuler all
you had to say of symbolism was that 11 was a kind of ··unclear
thinking··. True. what you write about it now 1s only a hint. but in a
direction where I too am searching. namely, archaic r<gr.ssion. which
l hope to master through mythology and the dttelopmmt oflanguage.
(The Freud/Jung utters l 77F, p. 219)

From this time on, the genetic approach outlined here was to be
Freud's argument against the universal symbolizing tendency of Stckel
Symbolism 97
and later of Jung. Through the genetic approach. he could retain his
previous theory of symbolism intact. 'The meaning of symbols is to be
found in linguistic usage and the historical understanding of language' -
this would always be Freud's fundamental atti1ude to symbolization.
In 1895 he had loca1cd this usage in 1hc prcscn1 and the past. In the
19 IOs he was forced to give up the double determination of the linguistic
usage of the present - that is, free associa1ion and resorted to
dc1ermination of symbolism through the pre-historic origins of lan-
guage. With Stekel's dream-symbols. language was no longer a direct
guide to meaning. leaving the explanatory afTec1ion that Freud had for
language with 1he secondary task of explaining why thesymbols had the
meaning 1hey in fact did have. As he phrased his new posi1ion in 191 4,
symbols were ·a relic and a mark of former idcn1i1y'. (Freud (1900a) SE
v 352.}
In his letter to Jung of January 1910, from which I have just quoted,
Freud had stated the programme for the investigation of symbolism
that he was to follow lhroughou1 the rcs1 of his"""'"~· First fruit of his
investigation of the dtvclopmcnt of languag< and archaic regression
was a paper written in February 1910: 'The Antithetical Meaning of
Primal Words'. Freud mad< u~ of a pamphkt. written by a philologist,
Karl Abel. on the prot<>-Egyp1ian language. showing that in that
language there arc a number of words with two meanings. one of which
is the exact opposite of the other. Freud and Abel constructed an
explanation of this phenomenon in terms of the development of
language. Freud postulated a stageoflanguage. exactly parnllel with the
system al work in the dream, in which a word represented a conceptual
'dimension'. e.g. 'weak-strong'. A later s1agc of lunguagc differcntia1cd
'weak' from 'strong' by adding to the one word 'wcak-s1rong' two
different ges1ures. Eventually via a 'phonelic reduclion (modification}
of the original root' (Freud (1910e) SEX! IS8).1wo words separated out
on the basis of a coupling of the original conceptual dimension with a
ge>tural sign that fixes the meaning in that dimension. In other words,
when the drcam--..ork converts two seemingly separate words first into
a relation of antithesis. and then. following funher regression. into a
relation of identity. the dream is simply reviving the ancient usages or

In the correspondence between the peculiarity of the dream-work

mentioned at the beginning of the paper and the practice discovered
by philology in the oldest languages, we may see a confirmation of the
view we ha vc formed about the regressive. archaic charncter of the
98 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
cxpressionofthoughts in dreams. And we psychia1ristscanno1 escape
the suspicion that we should be belier at understanding and
translating the language of dreams if we knew more about the
development of language. (Ibid. SE XI 161)

But there is a characteristic of Egyptian 1hat is even stranger: words

can reverse their sound as well as their sense. ' Numerous cxamplcs of
such reversals of sound, which a re too frequent to be explained as
chance occurrences, can be produced from thc aryun and Semitic
languages as well.' ( Ibid . SE XI 160.) For example,
capere (Latin fo r 'take') - packen (German for 'seize');
lra/(EngLish for ' leaf ') - folium (Lalin for ' leaf');
l111rry (English for 'hurry') - Ru/le (German for 'rest').
We note 1ha1 Freud was not discriminating in these examples bclween
synonyms and antonyms; nor did he discrimina1c the exact genealogy of
each language. except by the vague grouping of all these languages as
What arc we to make of these peculiar c1ymological connections?
Bcnvenistc ridiculed Freud's and Abel's ancmpt to discover the
' homology between the stages of a dream and the processes of
" primitive languages'" (Benvenistc, 1971, p. 71). He also isolated the
feature 1hat is of most interest to us a1 the momen1: the straightforward,
unabashed universalism of the discussion of lnnguages· meaning and
sound: 'The dis1inctions each language brings fonh must be explained
by the pur1icular logic 1hat supports 1hem and not be submitted s1raight
off to a universal cvalua1ion.' ( Ibid.) Freud obviously accepted the
prc1nisc that there is a universal sys1cm ofrootscommo11 1 at least, lo the
'arisclien wulsemitisdien Sprachen',allhough 1hcse may 1101 be visible at
the level of speech; rather, they form a stock of'idcal' roots, transforms
upon which arc necessary for the production of a given language. The
oontinuity of meaning between languages is similarly guaranteed by a
'Lamarckian' mechanism of survival. The desire for a uni•crsalisticand
comprehensive explanation was such tha1 Freud was even prepared to
vcn1urc an in1erpreta1ion of the classic example of foolish etymology
offered by Quintilian: lucus a non lue•ndo: lueus(a grove) 1s derived from
luetrt (to shine) because light docs not shine in a grove. Such a
sophis1ical derivation conformed to the conflation of opposites
common to primi1ive language and dr.ams, and 1hus was plausible to
Freud. in the same way tba1 the etymology provided by many a joke
could never not be significan1.
Symbolism 99
What such studies added to the study or symbolism is not im-
mediately apparent. although we can be sure that the proximity of date
between his setting out the programme or research into the archaic
regrmion orlanguagc and the writing or the paper signalled the end to
which these philological hypotheses were directed. In the paper, Freud
only wished to point out that the mechanisms or the dream-work
corresponded to the mechanisms or earlier stages in the development or
language. Explorations of the roots or languages seemed the most
promising - perhaps the only admissible - direction of inquiry into
those clements of both dream and myth that seemed most opaque:
symbols. Freud was starting the allempt to find tt way of underpinning
the seemingly non-verba l character of symbols and myths by reference
to philological researches. Perhaps the clearest example of this attempt
occurs in a letter toJungof May 1910, which produced an exemplar that
Freud was to make much of in later writings on symbolism:

On the scientific side just an oddity. I have two patienu with nuclear
complexes involving their witnessing acu or infidelity on the part or
their mothers (the one historical. the other perhaps a mere phantasy).
They both tell me about it in the same day and preface their story with
dreams about ..-ood.. .. Now I am aware that boards mean a
woman, also cupboards, [both these words have sexual connotations
in Germani but I have never heard of any close connection between
wood and the mother complex. It occurs to me though that wood in
Spanish is madera- matter (hence the Portuguese name of the island
or Madeira) and undoubtedly mater lies at the root of mater/a
(matter). Force and matter would then be father ond mother. One
more of our dear parents' disguises. (The Freud/Jung u11ers 190F,
pp. 314- 5)

Herc Freud had found what he was looking for: symbolism sanc-
tioned by contemporary or ancient linguistic usage and origins. With
such an V<planation he could dismiss the category 'symbolical thought'
as being of secondary importance when compared with either word
representations or object presentations, which formed the two basic
systems of mental functioning. In other words. symbol1Sm did not form
the exemplar or non-verbal representation for Freud: symbolism was
always secondary, derived from the system of word-presentations,
rather than giving direct access to the system or object presentations.
Jung, on the other hand, began to ascribe more and more importance
I00 Language and the Origins a/ Psyehoanal)'sis
10 symbolic though! in opposition 10 vtrbal 1hought. For a period of
1imc, ii seemed 10 bolh men lha1 Ibey were working along parallel lines
'"i1h respect 10 symbolism: I.My wrolc two 1mponont theoretical works
a11he same time, Freud assuring Jung tho1 he was not plagiarizing, bu1
1hinking independcrnly. 21 These 1wo works were 1he ·Formulations on
1he Two Principles of Mental Functioning' of Freud. written in
November 1910. and Jung's 'Concerning Two Kinds of Thinking'.
wrinen from January 19.IO to December 1910, even1ually becoming the
major 1heore1ical section of Wand/1111gen und Symbol~ tier Libiclo. n
In his paper, Freud introduced lhe pleasure principle and the reali1y
principle as lhe 1wo principles of menial functioning. They were
charac1crized more by aim than by mechanism: 1he pleasure principle's
aim was simply the avoidance of unplcasure, and the release of1ension;
1hc realily principle aimed a1 1ruth, here in1crpre1cd as the besl
guarJnlce of fu1ure pleasure. Involved in the distinc1ion was the
opposi1ion of fantasy and reali1y. and again, Freud made much of the
cssen1ial contribution speech and verbal residues made 10 the function-
ing of the reality principle. through the conscious perception of inner
s1a1cs thal they made possible. He made no menlion of symbolism or
symbolic thought; indeed. one might ask. why should be. since
elsewhere he had reduced the status of symbols to linle other than a
derivo1ive of language?
Jung started his description of the two kinds of thinking with a
characterization of the dream as symbolic. He thus started by shifling
1hc term 'symbolic' to the centre of the problem of interpre1ation. There
was no hint in this work as ye1 of his con1en1ion that this symbolic
meaning lrunscends a verbal hermeneu1ic, but his focus on 1he symbolic
gave the first hint of how be was 10 develop the symbolic mode. He
continued in the paper with a discussion of our normal mode of
thinking, finding. with a whole array of suppor1ing au1boritics. that it
consisis in thinking in word forms, which enable though! to lake a
specific direction. The second mode of thinking is non·vert>al. un-
directed. subjective 'dream or phantasy thinking' (Jung, 1911 /12/15. p.
22). This is the form of thinking that Freud disco•ercd, he maintained,
and it is identical '"lb the thought that the ancients expressed in their
myths and that ,.-e express in our dreams and our psychopatbological
structures: i1 is symbolic thought.
These 1wo conceplions of 1he two forms of thinking did not seem to
their proponents to differ very much. As Jung wrote to Freud in March
Symbolism I01
The lirsl lhiog abou1 your conccp1ioo of1hc unconscious is lha1 i1 is in
sinking agreemen1 with wba1 I said in January on symbolism. I
c~plained there that 'logical' thinking is 1hinking in • ·ords, "'hicb like
discourse is directed outwards. ' Analogical' o r fantasy thinking i5
emo1ionally loned, piclorial and wordless. not discourse bu1 an inner-
dircctcd rumination on ma1erials belonging 10 lhe pas t. Logical
1hinking is 'verbal thinking'. Analogical 1hinking is archaic, uncon-
scious, nol pul into words and hardly formulablc in words. (The
Freud/Jtmg urters 181J, pp. 298- 9)

Jung began 10 locale the opposition bc1wccn lhc two for ms of

thought more and more in terms of verbal and non-verbal. as we can see
from a comment he made in a letter wriuen in May 1910:

Only Oleuler has taken il inio his head 10 carp a1 the notion of verbal
and non-verbal thinking. withoul advancing anything positive. (Ibid.
193J, p. 319)

He then look the not slep and equa1ed visual 'symbols' with the firs1.
non-\crbal thinking. It was here thal he began 10 diverge from Freud's
view. As Freud commented upon a draft of Jung's chapter:
The opposi1cs arc actually fan1as1ic-rcal, no1 symbolic-real. ( Ibid.
199aF. p. 333.)
Freud even thought 1hat the 'whole thing should not be titled
"Symbolism", but "Symbolism and My1hologf', since more light is
thrown upon the lauer 1han the fonner.' (Ibid. p. 335.)
Before we turn 10 a closer look al the development of Jung's work. let
usjus1 no1e some of lhe issues raised by bringing logelher symbolism and
my1h. Freud conceived of myths as being like dreams. H is pupils drew
upon 1hc same analogy bu1 with very different methods.» For Freud,
mylhs were 1he dreams of a people and 1hey needed the same detailed
analysis as he had outlined in 111e lnterprt1a1io11 of Dreams. Necessarily
included in this analysis was a sharp dis1inction bc1wecn 1he la1en1 and
lhe manifcsl con1ent. Just as symbols had been unwillingly admined,
under firm consirainl, into lhe interpretation of dreams. so lhcy could
be allo"'ed to fonn a minor pan of the analysis of myths. The diffcrrncc
bet" ccn myth analysis and dream analysis consisted on the absence of
'1nd1vidual associalions'. Since this was the methodological point of
en1ry of symbolic decoding of dreams. myth analysis had this in
common with inierpretation using symbols. Jung certainly equa1ed
myths and symbols precisely because of 1his characteris1ic: he never
paid a,s much attention to individual associations as Freud did.
102 language and tlw Origins of Psychoanalysis
But Freud oonccived of the myth as a paranoid prodU<:l of the same
order as the secondary revision of the dream. Much of the work of
myth-analysis revolved around extricating the ·originar myth from the
revisions and distortions that had aocumulatcd in it over long periods of
time.•• This difficulty of ascertaining the original 1ex1 of a myth bad as
its consequence that analysis of mythic products would always remain
secondary. for Freud, 10 the analysis of neurotics, with whom a
discursive enquiry.such as 1ha1 conducted with the Ratmun in search of
the original wording of his obsessional formula, could result in a clear
decision as to the Urtext.
Another way of pulling this point is lo assen lhal Freud was very
loathe to give up the contcxtualist methodology of interpretation. The
advantage oft he individual dreamer's associations did not derive from
their unified source, from their belonging 10 an individual, although this
unity functioned as a precondition for the elimination of certain
distortions that were unavoidable in myth analysis. Rather. the
individual could supply the detailed con1ex1 1ha1 was necessary for
interpretation. For this reason, Freud regarded as doubtful any symbols
that did nol have support from a number of he1erogenous sources:
myths, fairy Illies. and, of course. linguistic usage. And if dream·
symbols needed support from myth before they could be acttpted. how
could Jung hope 10 justify the use of dream-symbols in the analysis of


In 1956, Jung wrote:

. .. unlike the contents of a neurosis, which can be satisfactorily

explained by biographical data, psychotic oontcnts show pcculiarilics
that defy redU<:tion to individual determinants, just as there arc
dreams where the symbols cannot be properly explained with the aid
of personal data. (Jung (1956) CW Ill 254)

These two themes, the explanation of psychotic contenis and the

movement towards non·individual explanations of such contents. were
among the major preoccupations of Jung·s early work on dementia
praecox, which first brought him into personal contact with Freud in
1906. The work iVandlungen und Symb<ile der Libido (19 12- 13) argued
for the position that Jung arrived at after years of work with Freud, a
Symbolism 103
posi1ion that was in conftict with Freud's. In Wand/ungm. Jung asserted
the essential difference between the neuroses and the psychoses. Bui in
his early work on The Psychology ofDementia Praecax ( 1907), Jung had
sided wilh Freud against the academic psychiatnsts, by attributing ·10
the individual an almost incalculable significance as regards the origins
and specific form or the psychosis. The importance of the individual
factor, and or the individual's psychology in general, is undoubtedly
undcrcstima1cd in modem psychiatry, less perhaps for theoretical
reasons than because or the helplessness or the proc1ising psychologists. '
(Jung (1907) C W 111 35.) But Jung could not follow the 'anti-disease'
orgumenl to completion; there were significant d ifferences between the
clinical pictures of hysteria and dementia praccox that justified a non-
individualistic theory or the latter. Jung chose the option or abnor-
mali1ies or melabolism as lhe probable non-individual cause or
demen1ia praccox. Toxins lead 10 the arrcs1ing or the complex-
rorrnotion process, and then one specific (randomly chosen?) complex
·coagulalcs and delcrmincs the COnlCnl ortbc symplom'. (Ibid. cw Ill
Both Jung and Abraham (1908a) could dcmonstrale that the
psychological mechanisms for the generation or symptoms in dementia
praccox were those that Freud had demons1ra1cd at work in 1be psycho-
neuroses. Bui neither had any idea as to 1he psychological or sexual
ae1iology or the psychoses. Jung suggested the toxin theory; Abraham
remained silent un1il he received hints from Freud us to 1he 1heoretical
possibililies. but, with Ferenczi. made an indirect altack on 1he toxin
1hcory, by criticizing then prcvalenl theories of lhc close kinship of
alcoholism and psychosis (Abraham, 1908b). Perhaps. as Jung left the
severely anti-alcoholic atmosphere of Swiss psychiatry in the years after
1909. he reh less interest in 1he toxin 1heory. Cenainly during bis
association with Freud he round linlc cause 10 mention it. But ii
resurfaced in his papers or the 1930s and 1950s, when orthodox
psychiatry was again seeking 10 assuage its perplexity in the face or
psychosis by turning to drugs: insulin in the 1930s and Jorgac10J in the
·sos.(Cr Jung ( 1956) cw Ill 253; Jung (1958) cw Ill 2581T)".
But. however linle importance be eventually a11achcd 10 il, the toxin
theory se!"cd 10 emphasize 1begulfbe1ween dementia and lhc neuroses.
In 1910 and 1911, two points served 10 s1ress this gulr: firstly. the
'empirical' point that the fantasies displayed by psychotics were or a
typical and mythological character, unlike the individual creations or
the neurotic. Secondly, Jung could not accept that lhe prol'ound
disturbances of affective and cognitive relations LO Lhc world found in
104 longuagr and tlu? Origins of Psy<h{)(JJ1a/ysis
schizophrenia could be due solely to a disturbance in 1he distribution of
sexual libido. In other words, be rejected the sexual aetiology of the
Jung·s primary concern with psychosis was 1hus. from the very first.
allied to his conviction. at first vague. that a non·individual solution to
the problem of psychosis separa1ed it off from neurosis. We find a series
of oppositions and idcn1ifica1ions in Jung's though I: psychosisjncurosis;
my1hology/individual faatasy; symbolic thinking/verbal 1hinking; uni-
versal/individual. Whal Jung lackc-d, as we shall see, is the third term
1hat Freud fell was necessary be1ween 1he.~e opposi1ions: history and
language. In the Wolfman'scase-history, Freud presented 1he argumenl
fo r history: neurosis (and, implicitly. psychosis) cannot be understood
solely in 1erons of the fantasy con1em of the presem, but mus1 be referred
10 defini1e pasl events. when cenain permanen1 fantasy-s1ruc1ures and
libidinal inves1ments were founded. In the lcc1urc on Symbolism which
formed pan of the Introductory lectures (1915- 17), he SCI ou1 the
1heory of the his1orical developmeo1 of symbolism ou1 of language tha1
ensured both 1ha1 a trans-individual non-,erbal unconscious could
never be a viable concept and lha1 symbolism was no1 the privileged
means of access ei1her 10 mythology or to the unconscious.
But 1he dispute between F reud and J ung did not take place either on
the terrain of psychosis or explicitly with respec110 symbolism. Rather,
the problem of incesl. itself the focus of Freud's interes1 as he began to
elaborate the overarching imponance of 1hc Oedipus complex. oc-
cupied the cen1ral place in the explici1 disagrecmen1 that terminated
their in1cllectual collabora1ioo. (The Fre11d/J11119 u11ers, pp. SO I IT).
Why inces1'! True to his firsl ovenures 10 1he Freudian system , Jung
perceived immedia1ely that the problem of inecs1 lay :01 1be bean of all
his my1hological material. But he saw the problem of incesl as much
deeper than 'jus1' infantile seJ<ualiry, which. a l tha1 period in the
dcvelopmen1 of psychoanalysis. was prceminen1ly idcn1iAed with
'perverse' sexuality. Jung wrote 10 Freud in 1909:

... wi1hou1 doubl there's a 101 of infanlile sexualily in it but that is

no1 all. Rather it seems to me lhat antiqui1y was ravaged by lhc
struggle wi1h inust, with which sexual rtprtSJion ~ins (or is it the
01her way round?). ( Ibid. 170J. p. 279)

Jung's problem was clear: both the con1ents of psychosis and

mythology, when duly interpreted, revealed 1he problem of incest.
What then distinguished him from Freud was a fundamental ahisto-
ncny in his argument. Al the level of in1crpre1alion. he made no
dis1inction be1wccn the original and the denvcd versions of myths.
Hence all mylhs resolved themselves into a uniform field of symbolic
prcscnta1ion. At the level of explanation. Jung refu~ lhe concept of an
origin as cause, """ in its sophisticated Freudian guLSC of /\'a(htriig/i(·
hkt/1 (deferred action). So Jung's method of analysis was essentially
timeless. And this aspect tied up neatly with his con1en1ion that the
contents of psychosis were essentially non-individual in character.
Surely. he argued, what we are faced wi1h in psychosis is the raw
unconscious, v.·ithout any inLerven1ion of consciousness: we are con·
fron ted wilh the symbols that furnish out lhc Freud ian unconscious.
And, since Freud had cs1ablished the limclcss characler of the
unconscious, Jung's arguments concerning psychosis and mythology
seemed lo be the way of the fu1ure for psychoanalysis: direc1 confron-
tation wi1h the unconscious.
A condilion of lhis argument was the elision of 1he distinction
be1wccn the manifest and the lalent c.o ntents of a myth or a dream, a
distinction that had bttn undermined by Abraham with respect to
myth. and Stekel with respect to dreams, with their focussing on the
dictionary ofsymbols. But F r<ud wished to retain thisfirm distinction as
a bulwark 38ainst any anempt 10 read the contents of the unconscious
directly. Apart from such a project being a con1radiction in terms, the
unconscious was only ever available through 1he systems of the Pcs.
Whal was Freud to make of the strange cha racier of psycho1ic products
and of mythology? His argument, as ever, was 10 concenlrate on
mechanism (displacemenl, condensation etc.) rnther lhan on con1en1s.
A firs1 essay can be found in the Schreber case, where he noted that the
con1ents of Schrcber's paranoiac universe were lhe rcsull of the
1ransforma1ion of the legal universe cons1ructcd by sublimation (Freud
(191 lc) SE XII 73). Thus the paranoia lakes on the formal structure of a
rigorously civilized and verbal structure or thought. The argumcol is
made more specific and applicable 10 1he more recalcitrant schizo.
phrcnic in Frcud·s paper on ·The Unconscious' (sec Chapter 2). There,
what distinguishes psychosis is that unconscious mechanisms have come
lo act upon the system of word·prcsen1.a1ions. rather than on the object-
presen1ations (as found in the repressed con1en1s of neurosis). Psychotic
conicnts, rather than being tho naked rcvela1ion ofobjec1-presentations.
as Jung might wish them. arc a dorivativc of verbal lhinking. Psychosis
was, lhon, in a 1wisted sense, one stepfurthtr away from the unconscious
lhan neurosis: a privileged access such as Jung wishod for in the analysis
of schizophrenia was thus cut off.
106 Language and the Origins of PsychoanalysLs
Jung was concerned lo discover from the unconscious a universal
my1h: he found such a myth in the detachmenl or the libido from the
molher. in\'olving rebirth and sacrifice. Thus, approprialely. be divided
1he last section of Wandlungen und Symbole inlo chap1ers with the
following ti1lcs: 'The Unconscious Origin of the Hero', 'Symbolism of
the Mother and or Rebinh', 'The Banle for Deliverance from the
Mother', 'The Dual Mother Role', 'The Sacrifice'. Strangely enough,
the major feature of bis paper or 1909 was absent: 1here was no reference
to the father. His account or the genesis of myths is one that deals only
wilh the relation to lhc mother and with the 1hemcs ofescape from the all
enfolding molhcr into reality.
Jung felt no ncccs.<ily for making his enquiry an hislorical one. Each
myth was a valid story, a fan tasy constructed by a people in their search
for the liberation of their libido from its past anachmcnts, in the face of
an especially dilficult but unknown adaplation that was prcscnlcd to
them with the force of necessity (Jung, 1911/ 12/1S. pp. 464-5). It is as if
Jung were asserting the primacy of the symbol and thus cuning olT any
possibility of grounding the symbol in 'another' realm. The Freudians
were only later to realize, after Jung's defection, that a grounding of the
symbol directly in the body would short-circuit any such theory of the
The same themes found in the Studies °'' Hysterill re-emerge. Jung
was opposing biology and psychology, while conceiving or biology as,
on the one hand, a species-preserving func1ion, and, on the 01her, a
consummation or sexual desire. Having conceived or biology as
ndap1ive, he could then reject its relevance for 1he inccsl question, which
was ' pa1en1ly' not concerned with desire, thus leaving him with a
homogeneous, undilTerenciatcd field of psychic evencs, in which a
reference to a 'real' mother provides al mos1 an occasion fo r, and
certainly not 1he cause or, the imporrnnce or che series of mother-
symbols. Freud certainly never conceived of 1he incest taboo as tbe
pure reftection. on the psychic level, of a biologically species-preserving
instinct. But, on the other band. he did oppose to 'psychology' a
conccp1ion of the incest taboo as grounded outside the field of
representation. Just as the physiological theory of the alTccts was
insumcienl, needing an 'historical' momcnt to bridge the gap between
physiology and representation (Freud ( 1926<1) SE XX 133). so a
biological theory or the sexual impulse - even 1hat venture into biology
found in the T/iree Essays 011 Sexuality - was insufficient to ground tbe
coniinual reproduction or the incest taboo: a ' hiscorici!I' factor was
necessary. 16 This factor was 1hes1ory of the murder of the primal father.
Symbolism 107
Elsewhere, we have noted that the term 'primal' signifies an elision of
the distinction bctwttn psychical and material reality, of the distinction
bct,.cen what is real and what is thought (to be real). A primal event
thus has a double character: it is the starting-point, the 'first cause', of
both systems of reality: it is both psychic and material. Through the
concept of the primal, one can link the 1wo systems in a manner which
evades the dualistic postulate which initially characterizes them. The
primal is the pineal gland of the Freudian system. But, true to his times,
Freud's concept of the primal is perhaps first and foremost a concept
that gives the temporal order its character. As the first event, it both
partakes of lhesamc character as those events that follow (it is a part of
u sequence) and ii partakes of a transcendental, 'timeless' character, its
'firstncss' culling ii otTfrom the temporal sequence, casting everything
that follows into its shadow. E\'erything that is not primal bas some
qualities that belong to it by virtue of its being in the sequence initiated
by the primal, and some qualities that arc first and foremost the negative
of what is primal, the absence of what is primal: the oevcr-to-be-
forgonen marks everything lhal comes after.
The pcculiarcbar.icterofth e primal 'his1oricalcvcn1', then - whether
primal murder or primal scene- is that its historicity grants it the status
of being accidental. of being j ust the first of that series of even IS that fill
up time. And yet the very existence of the series poiolS lo the first event
as being of overwhelming importance, as being 'necessary' in a sense
that none of the events that follow arc. h is the play between the
contingent (accidental) and the necessary cha•actcr of the primal that
gives the debates concerning the primal their elusive, inconsequential
and exasperating quality (cf. Kant ( 178 1- 87), /\444/B4721T). On the one
hand, its contingent character seems to make the ascertaining of its
existence a question of the empirical order, open to evidence which
speaks to one side or the other. On the other hand, its necessary
character seems to undertnine the use of evidence either for or against its
existence. since the evidence itself seems 10 depend on the existence of
the primal. The primal event's existence seems to be subject to an
overwhelming necessity, so overwhelming that, in discussion of whether
or not a particular primal event has taken place or not. the discussion
will come to a point where a shrug of the shoulders indicates the
misplaced criterion upon which one disputes the r<ali1y of past events.
There is no primal father in Wandlungtn und Sy mbole der Ubido. Nor
should we mistake the all-enfolding mother, the principal theme, the
archetype, the noumenous object of that work, for a primal point of
reference, placed outside the field of symbols. The mother, having been
108 language and tlw Origins of Psydroa11olysis
removed from all contact with the biological. indeed. with the bodily,
the 'real' moth<r - even 1'i tb the prehistoric mother or the ·culturelC$S'
matriarchy 1s just a symbol. For whom? As soon as we ask this
question. the difT<rence between Jung and Frcud becomes stark. Jung's
starling-point, thal the individual productions or the psycho1ic and the
collcc11ve symbolic representations or the Volk are or the same order.
eliminated the individual subjec1. And, ir he were reluctantly 10 admit
tha1 neuro1ics displayed a highly individual set or symbols, he found a
number or ways to minimize this individuali1y. Firstly. he wished 10 find
hysterics in whose symptoms individ ual memories played lit1le part (cf.
above p. 94). With Freud, any such movement towards typicality
and univers:1lity was reluctant. An exchange between the two, from
October 1911, captures the difference or attitude well. The subject under
discussion was the symbolism of twins. particularly in mythology (e.g.
Romulus and Remus), for the elucidation or which Freud considered,
amongst other things, the ·arter-lire' born with the baby. But 1he topic
ga•e him cause to remark:

If there is such a 1hing as a phylogenetic memory in the individual.

which unrortunatcly will soon be undeniable. this is also the source or
the uncanny aspect of the tkJppelgiingtr. (77rt Fuud/Jung uf/ers 274
F. p. 449)

Jung replied, enthusiastically taking up Freud's remark:

... ii fits in very well with certain other observations which have
forced me 10 conclude that the so-called 'early memories or child·
hood' :ore no1 individual memories at all but phylogenetic ones. (Ibid.
27SJ . p. 450)

One can already read here, between the lines. thefuturcdivergence, in

which Jung would reject the importance of memories of infantile
sexuuli1y, since they \\'ere neither sexual nor mcn1orics. and Freud
would emphasize their importance, despite the ract that 1hey were not
memories or reality, and despite the ract that they were no1 sexual in any
conventional St:n~.
But their divergence was one orrundamcntals: Freud wished to allow
anonymous collectivity only as the last resort. the limit of the
psychoanalytical field. He equated ancestral experience with hereditary
factors, and, insofar as the motor of his early 1hcories of neuroses had
been a radical at1cmp1 to expunge heredity from the aetiology of 1he
Symbolism 109
neuroses, he fought shy of reinstating it. arguing that even if phylogen-
etic memo ries cxislcd, individual experience \\'as still necessary to
·activate them. The enthusiasm with which Jung extended the scope of
Freud's remarks in the direction of expunging the primacy of infantile
memories was symptomatic of the wish for collectivity that his theory of
psychoses and myth implied.
Secondly. Jung would later make of the 'individualistic· portion of
analysis a preliminary and superficial stage, a slightly distasteful
confrontauon of the analysand with the false gods of his family and his
past, beyond wluch the rtal work of analysis, contemplation of the
collective unconscious. could start. It was only insofar as symbols lost
their iodtvidual associations that analysis made any progress.
Con,·ersely with Freud. Where he and Jung seemed to meet - the
question of phylogenetic memories - was also the point of departurt.
Frcud·s phylogenetic memory - and we can take as our exemplar the
primal coital scene of the Wolfman - was only the barest outline, a
sketch of a figure. upon which the real work of analysis was brought to
bear: the filling in of details so individual as 10 leave finally the question
of non-individual origin as liule more than a debating-point. We will see
this more clearly when we come 10 discuss the Grusha episode in the
Wolfman's case-history.
Hence. for Jung, true symbols were lacking in indh•iduality. A symbol
was a symbol for all or for none: ii was not for someone. Freud, in
reluctantly recognizing. as we have seen. that symbols were trans-
individual in character. only terminated the analysis when it had been
determined whose phallus this sword was a symbol of, even if the bearer
of this phallus turned out to be a father finally become mythical.
Jung's approach managed to maintain a fine contradiction: each
symbol was unique (Ind indivisible in its exprcssivi1y, and yet each was
equally anonymous in being a representative of homogeneous libido.

. . . symbols are no110 be understood 'anatomically' but psychologi-

cally as libido symbols; ... One l0$CS one's way in one 'cul de sac·
after another by saying that this is 1he symbol substituted for the
mother and that for the penis. In this realm there i,s no fixed
significance of things. The only reality here is the libido, for which .. all
that is perishable is merely a symbol." h is not the physical actual
mother, but the libido of the son, the object of which was once the
mother. (Jung (191 1/ 12/15) p. 249)

Frtud achieved the same in1erpreta1ive results as Jung. while

110 La11guag• and tire Origins of Psychoanalysis
avoiding this axiom of the homogenei1y of the libido as the one fixed
point of reference. Of course, lhc principle of over-determination and
that of ps)'CIUc determinism were completely al odds with Jung's
reflections on the fluidity of rcprc:scnlation in the unconscious. But it
was more a question of levels than of a d ispute ov<r the importance of
the libido:

... this primal identity [oft he instincts] may well have as linle to do
with our analytic interests as the primal kinship of all the races of
mankind has Lo do with the proof of kinship in order Lo establish a
legal right to inheritance. (Freud (1914c) SE X IV 79)

The h omogeneity of the libido (Jung's reference point for the

grounding of symbols) is besides the point: what is of importance is the
detailed structure o f the symbolic net (as in 'kinship structure'). Jung's
single libido loses altogether the concern with structure that Freud's
concern with the 'linguistic structure' of myths and neurosis guaranteed.
And it was this grammar of symbols that, aligned with an etymological
fo unda tion for Lhcsc images, secured ps)'Choanalysis against the
n oumenous and anonymous flux of symbols.

The collective unconscious, moreover, seems to be not a person, but

something like an unceasing stream or perhaps ocean of images and
figures which drift into consciousness in our dreams or in abnormal
states of mind. (Jung (1931) CW VIII 349- SO)

The stream is libido; what ii bears are the images and figures that
recur in dreams, myth and psychosis, each image remaining equally
unimportant or important until it seizes upon a piece of neurotic
preoocupalion and finds expression. The chief mark of the neurotic is
his indo lence in turning 10 outmoded symbolic expressions for comfort
when he should be confronting the present-day problems that confront
him. To Jung. the n eurotic was questionable from a moral point of view.
while his symbol w.is efficacious from a spiritual point of view. Its
spiritual efficacy, its prospective function, marked another clear
difference between Jung and Freud. Insofar as the mother-symbols
were not the mother. the neurotic suce«ded in finding an alternative 10
the incest complex. The symbol had a positive function in that it pointed
'beyond' the mother, beyond the symptom lo a spiritual resolution.
Where Freud emphasized the derivative nature of the symbol, Jung
emphasized its creative and forward-looking function. For Freud
Symbolism 111
symbols were repressed or regressed ooncep1s; for Jung they were
1ranscendcn1 ooncepls.
Wha1 1be conflic1 amoumed 10 was a fundameo1al difference of
a1ti1ude 1owards the ineffable. Freud, in absorbing the ineffable into the
inexpressible, and in his verbal ralionalism, dis1rus1ed the symbol
insofar as ii became pure Image, and wasdt1ached from the Word. Jung
wished to 6nd in 1be symbol a transcendence of verbal rationality: the
opposi1es for him really were 'Symbolic. Real'. Symbolism opened up
onto the secrels of myth as an allegorical ques1. 1'he myths and
1rodi1ions of other societ.ies could no1 only be undcrs1ood, but they
could be recuperated, be brougb1 back 10 life, through the in1crprc1-
a1ion of symbols. Nol only did Jung and Silbercr embark upon a
psychological inlerpretation of alchemy - perhaps lhe only way in
which 1wen1ieth century thinkers could oome 10 lerms with that episode
in the history or thought - but they hoped 10 show that such an
allegorical search could be useful in the parallel adventures of a modem
Robert Fludd. The silence of the symbol was to be welcomed as an
opcni11g onto the ineffable. Freud iook the silence of 1he symbol.just as
he look the silence of 1he transference. as crea1ing a praC'lical exigency:
1he necessity of connection. Bui the symbol and the transference
phenomenon - the 1wo oocasions for silence - lay at the opposile ends
of a Spectrum: to find the symbolic connection a dclour via the mosl
alien - alien to the patient - assoeia1ions, and vcryofien, as weshaU see,
via the most obscure linguistic forms, was found to be necessary.
Whereas. wi1h the transference. what was required loyclose at hand. too
close 11t hand, o silence signifying the danger of proximity, of 'over-
conncc1ion'. Al the 01her end of the spectrum, cloaked by the silence of
a long dead language, a putative ignorance made it imperative to try and
catch the echo of a reader whispering to himself in the Library of


If Jung·s work on mylbology had led him 10 a Platonic 1heory in which

the symbol rcprcscnLS the derivative, the eanhly representative, of the
Noumcnon. Freud"s theory now needed 10 be articulated fully. In 1915-
17. in the lmroduciory Lectures. he acoomphshcd this by imegrating
symbolism with a theory of language. This lecture on symbolism and
Jones· paper on symbolism effectively ended the psychoannlylic debate
on 1he nalure of symbols and the nature of language. \Ve find very little
112 language and the Origins of Psyt:hoonolysls
theoretical discussion, either in correspondence or in publications, after
this date."
In his lecture, Freud gave a long list of symbols and the objccu
(usually sexual) that they represent in dreams. He then raised the
question as to the origin of1hcse symbols, a question which. he noted,
ranges much furthcrthan either dreams or sexuality. But there did se<:m
10 be an intimate relation between sexuality and symbolism. The whole
train of thought culminated in the exposition of a philological
hypothesis of Hans Sperber's, which argued that sexual needs have
playc'd lhc biggest p•rl in the origin and development or speech. Yel
again, Freud resorted to hypotheses about the origin or language in
order to explain lhe always perplexing phenomena or symbolism:

According to him. the original sounds of speech served for communi-

cation and summoned 1he speaker's sexual panner: the funher
development oflinguistic roolS accompanied the working acti,1ties of
primal man. These aai'1tics, he goes on, were performed in common
and were accompanied by rhythmically r<pcated uueranccs. In this
way a sexual interest became auached to work.... As time went on.
the words became detached from the sexual meaning and fixed to the
work .... In this way a number of verbal roots would have been
formed. all of which were sexual in origin and had subsequently lost
their sexual meaning .... The symbolic relation would be the residue
of an ancient verbal identity; things which were once called by the
same numc as the genitals would now serve as symbols for them in
dreams. (Freud (1916- 17) SE X V 167)

How strange to find such a full-blown hypothesis about the origin of

lnnguage in a lecture oo symbolism. Only strange if we fo rget the
intimate connection in Freud's mind between the theory of language
and the nature of symbols. The theory filS psychoonalysis like a glove,
the origin of language grows out of sexual need and bears an intimate
relation to reality - ·work·. Symbolism drops out of the theory as a
secondary relic, the mark of a former -bol identity (Freud now stating
explicitly what he had only implied in his programmatic letters to Jung
of 1910). a VC$ligial representative of origins. Freud had made Lhe same
conceptual manoeuvre in 1895 when be pondered the question of
symbolization in hysteria (see p. 93ff.) The ·common source· of both
language and hysteria that he had posited in 1895 28 was the primal
language of sexuality that he finally found in the hypothesis oftheorigio
of lnnguage that he used in 1916. Behind his eagerness to use this
Symbolism 113
hypothesis was his old desire to indicate the source of language in copro-
erotic terms (sec Chapter S). The movement here is parallel to the mo\•e
in the overall direction of psychoanalysis from the 1890s to the
twentieth century. Freud looked to bis friend Wilhelm Fliess to supply the
organic level - the 'bouom storey' (Freud (1950a). Origins, p. 300) - for
bis psychological theories of the aetiology of neuroses. The fruit of
bis pious hope was the 77ire, &says on s,xuality and the grounding of
the aetiology of huma.n action in general in SCJtuality. F rom that point
oo, Freud clung to sexuality as the stem by which to root psychoanalysis
in a universe of discourse other than its own. Whether couched in the
Malthusian mode". the problematic distinction between psycho-
analysis and biology••. the relation of natural and social law", the
problematic of the biological or cultural origin of history". or the final
opposition between material and historical reality. whereby a pre-
verbal event determines the turning-away of language from reality that
characterizes psychosis - all these alternative formulations serve only to
tie down the theory to the 'botlom storey'. As Freud wrote to Jung:

I am rather annoyed with Bleuler for bis willingness to accept a

psychology without sexuality, which leaves everything hanging in
mid-air. In the sexual processes we have the indispensable "organic
foundation" without which a medical man can only feel ill at ease in
the life of the psyche. (The Freud/Jung Lett.,s 84F, pp. 140- 1)

ln 19 16 Freud had found a theory that grounded even language in

.exual need and allowed symbolism of all kinds-including the
symbolizati on fo und in neurosis - to be seen as a sexual precipitate of
language, which itself hod turned to face reality. Symbolism would
always be derivative of verbality.
We can even turn back to Freud's reply to Jung's subjectivizatio11-of
the inoest problem to see the form of his historical theo ry of sexuality
and language:

A fat her is o ne who possesses a mother sexually (and the children as

property) . The fact of having been engendered by a father has, after
all, no psychological significance for a child. (The Freud/Jung le11ers,
31 4F, p. 504)

What is at issue here is the definition of a 'father'. A father is one who

'possesses' a mother sexually: Lhe word 'possess' thus amounts to a
synonym for the sexual act (as in the Biblical ·10 know' ). Hence the
114 Language and the Origins of Psycho(llla/ysis
sexual relation between the 'father' and the childrens' mother de-
termines the relation between the 'father' and the children: they become
derivatives of his sexual possession, they become property. But, at some
point in time. the word 'possess' or 'property' 'loses' its sexual
connotation: it becomes a ·word'. But the sexual meaning remains 'in'
the symbol, so that 'children' splits off, and comes to represent the
genital organ of either sex (Cf. Freud ( 1900a) SE V 357, 362- 4; ( 1916-
17) SEXY 157). The concept ofthe'child ofa father' or'father'sson' is
thus parasitic upon the representatives of the sexual act; conversely, in
its representation in consciousness, the sexual act is parasitic upon 'the
child'. That Freud could liken the objoct of psychoanalysis to a kinship
structure should come as no surprise (see above, p. 110).
As the meaning of words change- both in the ontogeny of the
individual and the phylogeny of the race- so symbols accumulate in the
unconscious of the individua l and the race. Symbols arc vestigial
residues. Freud had returned to the promise he had made to Jung of
mastering archaic regression through the development of language.
Symbols are the vestiges of a time when sexuality and language were
identical. In the analysis of the individual he presumed the same order;
thus in his analysis of little Hans be found evidence that the little boy's
faculty for symbolic representation was intimately bound up with his
learning to speak (Freud ( l 905d) SE VII 193- 4). Again, in 1908, when
Freud elaborated the relationship between the character traits of
obstinacy, parsimoniousness and orderliness, and anal erotism, he
spoke of the symbolic relationship between money and dirt, and the
ancient Babylonian identification of gold as the faeces of hell:

everyone is familiar with the figure of the Dukatenscheisser (shitter of

ducats, spendthrift). Indeed, even according to ancient Babylonian
doctrine gold is the 'faeces of Hell' ( Mammon ~ ilu manman). Thus in
following the usage of language, neurosis, here as elsewhere, is taking
words in their original, significant sense, and where it appears to be
using a word figuratively it is usually simply restoring its old meaning.
(Freud (1908b) SE IX 174)

The symbolism of gold as excrement reduces to the expression both of

a contemporary linguistic usage, and of an ancien t and primitive
linguistic identity. Freud intimated that all symbols are reducible to
linguistic usage, either past or present. I believe that Freud thought he
had found ·case-historical' foundations for all the symbols he cites,
though he often omitted to give the original network of linguistic usages
Symbolism 115
and elymologies lhat bad been lhrown up in practice. I will give 1wo
examples from published his1ories, the first being the "jewel-case· cited
in lhc ln1roJuctory Ucturn;

Another symbol of the female genitals which deserves menlion is

jewel-case. Jewel and lreasurc are used in dreams as well as in wal<ing
life to describe someone who is loved. (Freud ( 1916-17) SE XV 156)

In Dora's case-hislory, wrinen in 1901, Freud wenl inlo the

symbolism of the jewel-case in some detail, since il occurred in one of
the 1wo dreams, the analysis of which comprised most of the paper. lo
accordance with the rules of dream-interprc1a1ion. Freud split the word
in10 two halves: jewel and case. Jewel (Schmuck) is fou nd lo be very rich
in associations in both Dora's ·own' language and that ofaoccpted usage:
S chmuck meant clean, dirty (by opposilion) from which il came to
rcpresenl semen and sexual wetness in general. A sooond verbal bridge
allowed it lO rcprcscnl the sexual inlcreoursc or Dora ·s parents. Finally.
il came 10 represent Dora·s own gcnilals 1hrough the set of fears
constcllaled around semen and her worrying vaginal discharge (ca1arrb
in Freud's terminology. which allowed him 10 make a bridge to the
other mucous membranes. which formed the organic foundation of the
concept of erogenous zone). Freud had introduced his discussion of the
jewel-case with Dora by pointing out that Scl1muckkiistchen was a
'fa vourilc expression· for the female genitals. Al the end of 1he paper he

The clement of "jewel-case' was more 1han any other a product of

condensation and displacemenl, and a compromise between contrary
mental currents. (Freud (1905e) SE VII 92)

For Dora'sjewel-case. Freud also bad a 'lalcral' dctcrminalioo of its

symbolic meaning as female genital. A few days before. he bad analysed
a piece of her symptomatic behaviour concerning a reticule she was
wearing. Freud suspected thal Dora had maslurbatcd as a child and
wished to do so again. The playing with her reticule and the dream of the
jewel-case seemed 10 support one another in confirming his suspicions.
He noted with respect to such seemingly indirect evidence:

There is a greal deal of symbolism of this kind in life, bul as a rule we

pass it by without heeding it. When l scl myself the task of bringing 10
lighl Whal human beings keep hidden within them. nol by 1he
116 la11guage and the Origill.f of Psy<:hOOllalysis
compelling power of hypnosis, but by observing wha1 they say and
what 1hcy show. I 1hougbt the 1ask was a harder one 1han ii really is.
He 1hat has eyes 10 see and ears to hear may convince himself that no
mortal can keep a secret. If his lips arc silcni. he chaners wi1h his
linger-tips; betrayal 001;cs out of him at every pore. ( Ibid. SE Vil
77- 8)

Hence, in the context of Dora's use of the ·symbol" jewel-case, Freud

had lalcrol evidence concerning its symbolic rcfcrcnl, he had linguis1ic
usage as a guide and be had the whole in1ima1e fibre of Dora's
admincdly non-comminal revela1ions concerning lhose significations
she had bidden. From Ibis case, and perhaps from simila r concordances
arising out of analysis, Freud assigned jewel-case to 1he generic class of
symbols representing the female geni1als.
A few lines after he had mentioned the jewel-case in 1he Introductory
ltttures, Freud noted: 'Sweets frequen1ly rcprcscnl sexual enjoymenl."
(Freud (1916- 17) SE XV 156). This remark is expanded upon in 1he
case-his1ory of the Wolf-man, probably wrincn a year earlier:

Permanent marks have been left by this oral phase of sexuality upon
1hc usages of language. People commonly speak, for instance, of an
'appe1izing· love-object. and describe persons they arc fond of as
'swcc1'. It will be remembered. too, tha1 our linlc paticnl would only
cal sweel lhings. In dreams sweet 1hings and sweetmeats siand
regularly for caresses or sexual gratifications. (Freud ( 1918b) SE
XVII 107)

Here we find the reference to pre-his1oric periods of developmeni

combined wi1h a call upon the good offices of ' linguis1ic usage'. With
such ana lyses Freud could reassure himself1ha11he symbols he and his
followers were using had a firm basis in the pas1 usage thal had
accumulated in lbe unconscious of present-day pa1ients. There now
seems little reascn for avoiding the tenn ·collec1ive linguis1ic uncon-
scious' for such architectonic suppons of 1be inlerprctativc practice at
Clearly. on 1he basis of the theory of the primi1ive sexual language,
symbols arc detcnnined by a 'foreign' language or which the dreamer
has no knowledge. And ii was 001 only in 1916 that Freud had
enterlaincd such a possibility. lo the lirs1edition of The h11trprerali011 of
Dreams 1hc following dream involved the analysis of the word ·geseres'
1hn1 Freud, on waking, had found incomprehensible:
Symbolism 117
... The boy refused to kiss her. but, holding out bis hand in farewell.
said ' AUFGESERES' to her. and then "AUF UNGESERES" to the
two of us (or to one of us). (Freud ( 1900a) SE V 441 - 2)

The elements ·auf geseres~ and ·auf ungescrcs· received two separate
i. Freud made inquiries of the philologists (Schr!ftgefehrten) who told
him that:

.. . 'Gcscrcs' is a genuine Hebrew word derived from a verb 'goiser',

and is best translated by 'imposed sufferings' or 'doom'. The use of
the word in slang would incline one to suppose that it meant 'weeping
and wailing'. (lbid.)

ii. Following another train of thought, Freud was led to recollect an

incident (we arc left in the dark as to whether he had been present. bad
had it reported to him. or bad used his imagination in filling in the
details) in which a doctor had lost bis temper with the worried mother of
a sick child. exclaiming: ·was machen Sic liir Gcseres?'
Are these two separate determinations of the meaning of the dream-
clement or does i. only serve as a prologue to the lifting of a repression
whose next most accessible representative is the phrase 'Was macbcn
Sic fii.r Gcseres?'? The te•t docs not clarify this question, but we arc left
with a strong impression that one oft he methods available 10 the dream-
interpretcr is a philological inquiry into foreign languages. But does the
recovery of an incident which provided a spoken context, an experien-
tial point of reference, fo r the word 'geseres' cniail that the philological
inquiry did not have an independent value in elucidating its meaning?
Assuming that the Hebrew philologists did have something more to
offer th.an just the oocasion for jogging Freud"s memory, we can see that,
even in 1900, Freud was prepared 10 venture outside of the languages
th.at be knew - or thought be l::ncwll - for the elucidation of drcam-
elemcnts. Al thisjuncture. we can detach two separate points: firstly. the
relation of foreign languages to the dream-elements; secondly, the
relatio n of the indi.Odual dreamer's experiences and associations to
these clements. Of cou=, a foreign language that was pan of the
individual's conscious linguistic equipment, and hence pan of bis
dream-vocabulary, would be perfectly acceptable. even if Freud
restricted possible interpretation to elements that the dreamer supplied.
But what we find in the ' ungeseres' dream and, at the theoretical level in
118 language and the Origins of PS}~hoana/ysis
the 1916 lecture on symbolism, is the idea that a foreign language
unkn0><n 10 the dre~r in M·aking life can supply ekments that take a
place in the latent elements that determine the content of the dream. As
a consequence of this assumption, Freud could continue to preserve the
close relation between linguistic expression and the dream, without such
an assenioo conforming to the methodological individualism that the
1900 cdi1ion of The lnterpreratian of Drtams had so s1rongly advocated,
while, n1 the same time, excluding the arbitrary interpretation that
Freud con1inucd to associate with imagistic symbolism. Universalism
without arbitrariness: such was the aim of Freud as he shilled away
from the narrower position of 1900. Philological analysis could point
towards universalism and still give suppo r1 10 the individuality and
uniqueness of each interpretative determination. Philological analysis
seemed 10 bypass the individual associations wit hout giving rise to
mono1onous and dreary translations.
In Jung ·s later work the concept of 'collective unconscious came to
play an important pan in explaining 1he origin of lhc archetypal
symbols 1hat emerged in every analysis. Frcud·s psychoanalysis re•
\'taled the same phenomenon: symbols wtre generated in analysis and
by children lhat seemed 10 cross the lines drawn up by dilfcrcnt
languages and by each individual. They seemed to represent the one
certain proof of a phylogenetically inherited archaic heritage. Y ct Freud
attcmp1cd to minimize the importance of any such conclusions by
rccOUl'$C to hypotheses about language. As he wrote with regard to the
phylogenetic inheritance of symbols in Moses am/ MontJth eisnr (1938):

Herc, then, we seem to have an assured instance of an nrchnic heritage

dating fro m the period at which language developed. But another
explanation might still be attempted. It might be said that we are
dealing with thought-connections be1ween ideas - connections which
had been established during the historical development of speech and
which have to be repeated now every lime the developmcn1 of speech
has to be gone through in an individual. It would thus be a case of the
inheritance of an intellectual disposition similar to the ordinary
inheritance of an instinctual disposition ... (Freud (1939a) SE
XXlll 99)

That Jung·s concept of the collective unconscious might seem

remarkably like such an archaic heritage might well have been a reason
for airing 1he hypothesis of a recapitulation of the development of
symbols in every generation·s acquisition oflanguagc. But. in Moses and
Symbolism 119
Monoth•ism , be finally bad to admit that psyclloanalysis seemed to give
unequivocal proof of an inherited store of symbols. But, before
admining i1. he tried, once again. 10 put some distance between himself
and Jung:

II is not easy for us to carry over the concepts of individual

psychology into group psychology; and I do no1 think we gain
anyihing by iniroducing the concept of a 'collective' unconscious.
The con1ent of the unconscious, indeed, is in any case a collective,
universal properly of mankind. (Ibid . SE XXlll 132)

What exactly F reud thought he was 'saving' from Jung by this

asser1ion would repay some though!. But cerrninly it then gave him the
licence to asseri the universal character of symbolism:

We must finally make up our minds to adopt the hypothesis that the
psychical precipitates of the primac\'111 period became inherited
propcny which. in each fresh generation. called not for acquisition
but only for awakening. In this we have in mind the example of what
is ccnainly the 'innate' symbolism which derives from the period of
the development of speech, which is familiar to all children without
their being instructed, and which is the same among all peoples
despite their different languages. (lbid.)' 4

Such a passage, which bad capitulated to all 1hc pressures of Jung and
Sickel - us well as perhaps even of the facts - still leaves us wondering
about the different languages and the period of the development of
speech. ls its implication that there was one primaeval speech that gave
rise to a universal symbolism, and then was dissolved, by unimaginable
calastrophcs, into the diversity of tongues that exisl today or of which
we have record'? Yet again, the relation of plurality/diversity to
individuality and generality is evoked. The uni1ary past has a certain
indeterminate but necessary relation to the plural present. Yct, now. the
plural present does not express its diversity in the way it did in The
lnttrpretation of Dreams: the stock of symbols, the relic of a spark of
linguistic creativi1y that lies outsidc of history, now provides an
ahemative to the diversi1y of association, the bricola!Jt of the dreamer,
and the explanation that roots both 1hesc modes or dream·
interpretation in one primal root. the explanation 1hrough the deve.lop-
mcni of language, is now a pale shadow of a justification. It seems to do
linle work in the practice of analysis.
120 Language ond 1he Origins of Psychoonalysis
What Freud had feared in 1900 came true: S)'ltlbolic methods of
interpretation came to dominate analysis. During the period of debate
(1907- 16). one can still catch F reud castigating his followers for their
wayward S)'ltlbolic intc:rpr<tations. For instance. in October 1912,
Freud presented a case to the Vienna Society cn1i1lcd: 'Communication
about a Case. combined with some Polemical Observations. One part
of the polemic consisted in the following detail:
After four months of treatment, she brought a dream 1ha1 explained
the essentials of her childhood history and of her neurosis - provid<"<l
one did no1iry10 interpret ii merely symbolically, bu! drew upon the
patient's associations. (Minures IV, p. 108)
When we cum lo the case· his1ory of the Wolf-man. wriuen for 1he
most part in 1914 bul not published until tho end of 1he First World
War. we find a si milarly polemical remark, set in a work that is first and
foremost a polemic against Jung. Freud discussed the Wolf-man's
screen memory of a ·~utiful big buuerlly with yellow stripes and large
wings which ended in pointed projection.s '. The elucidation of this
memory gave Freud occasion to indicate two of1hc possible •pitfalls in
analysis. both stemming from the analyst anemp11ng to impose upon
the patient's material. without talcing due account of1he complex and
highly individual structure of associations at issue.
One day he told me 1ha1 in his language a bunerfly was called
'babushka·, 'granny'. He added that in general buuerllics had seemed
lo him like women and girls. ... I will not hide the fact tha1 at1haL
time I put forward the possibility that the yellow stripes on the
buuerfly had reminded him of similar stripes on a piece of clothing
worn by some woman. I only mention this as an illus1ra1ion to show
how inadequate the physician's constructive efforts usually are for
clearing up questions !hat arise.... Afler this 1he little problem was
once more left untouched for a long time; but I may mention the facile
suspicion that the points or Slick-tike projections of the bunerfty's
wingsmighl have had the meaning of genital symbols. ( Freud (1 918b)
SE XVII 89 92)"

The facile suspicion turned out lo be wrong. One feels how pleased
Freud was 1ha1 the second anonymous and dreary suggestion proved so
inadequate lo the 'reality' of the ·memory'. Rather. the Wolf.man's
infantile thought processes revelled in the sort of word· play that Freud
always found lhe more convincing manner of explanation.
Symbolism 121
One day there emerged. timidly and indistinctly. a kind of recollec-
tion that at a very early age. even before the time of the nurse. be must
have had a nursery-maid who was very fond of him. Her name bad
been the same as bis mother"s. ... Then on anothtr occasion be
emended this recollection. She could not have had the same name as
his mother .. . . Her real name, he went on. had occurred to him in a
roundabout way. He bad suddenly thought of a store-room. on the
first estate. in which fruit was kept after it had been picked, and of a
particular sort of pear with a most delicious tustc - a big pear with
yellow stripes on its skin. The word for 'pear' in his lunguage was
'grusha', and that had also been the name of the nursery-maid.
ll thus became clear that behind t.he screen-memory of the hunted
bulterOy the memory of the nursery-ma id lay concealed. But the
yellow stripes were not on her dress, but on the pear whose name was
1he same as hers. (I bid. SE XVII 90-1)

Yet. even now. with the elucidation of the magical significance of the
bunrrOy-pcar. the playing with words was not finished.

He confirmed the connection between the Orusha scene and the

threat of castration by a panicular ingenious dream, which he himself
succeeded in deciphering. ·1 had a dream; he said. ·of a man tearing
ofTthe wings of an Esf'<'.' '£sf'<'?' l asked; 'what do you mean by that?'
'You know; that ins«:t with yellow stripes on its body, that stings.' I
could now put him right: 'So what you mean is a Wespe (wasp).' 'ls it
called a Wespe? I really thought it was called an Espe.' (Like so many
other people, he used his difficulties with a foreign language as a
screen for symptomatic acts.) ' But Espe, why, that's myself: S. P.'
(which were his initials). The Espe was of course a mutilated Wcspe.
The dream said clearly that he was avenging himself on Grusha for
her threat of castration. (Ibid. SE XVll 94)
Freud was always happier if be could find the justification for the use
of some image in a dream or in a symptom io the sphere, however
defined. of"linguistic usage'. Yet, by 1916. Freud was fon:cd to admit
that 'linguistic usagecoversonlya small part of(thescsymbobf. ( Freud
(1916- 17) SE XV 166) Even so. as we have seen. Freud "'ishcd to find a
language that .ccurcd these symbols in a past linguistic matrix, in lieu of
the present foundations orindividual and fol kloric language: 'And here
I recall the phantasy of an interesting psychotic patient, who imagined a
"basic language' of which all these symbolic relations would be
residues.' (Ibid.)
122 longuagt and tht Origins of Psychoanalysis
Throughout his works, then, Freud found 1hc origins and the nature
oflanguagc as the alternative to a conception of the symbol as the ovcr-
arc.hing root of all unconscious products. Herc, as elsewhere. Freud
found the resolution of problems in historical hypotheses. As we have
seen. the debate in his mind shift«! from regarding symbols as ao
indirect representation of contemporary linguistic meanings, to finding
the linguistic roots of a given symbolic reference in the past. Symbolism
forced him lo turn from the contemporary social system of meanings to
1hc archaic and the pre-historical. both in 1he theory of hysterical
symptoms and in the theory of dream symbols.


As we have argu<d in this chapter, i1 was the not.ion of symbolism that

determined the parting of the ways of the Zurich and Vienna schools of
psychoanalysis.•• ll is therefore appropriate thal the definitive psycho-
analytic study oo symbolism was wrinen as a polemic against the
Jungians. But Jones also took. as his target the work of Silberer. The
argument against Jung and Silberer was often a joint one, but Silberer's
work was of a quite different kind from Jung's and requires a separate
Silbercr's contributions lo the study of symbolism fall in10 two
categories: (i) the experiments he conducted upon himself, observing
1he production of images in states of drowsiness and fatigue; (ii) the
revival of 1be anagogic and 'symbolic' method of dream-interpretation
that he built upon these. T he so-called functional phenomena that he
discovered in his self-observation consisted in the turning or mental
processes into images, rather than the representation of mental contents
with which Freud bad concerned himself in his dream-book. Freud
rccogni7.ed this phenomenon as a ' second contribution on the part of
waking thought to the construction of dreams' (Freud (1900a) SE V
SOS); that is, the self-observing critical agency directs a cenain anention
to the processes of dream. so that these can, in tum. become the objects
of the dream-work. Having admined that such an interpretation of
specific dream images was possible and useful. Freud then diverged
from the main line of Silbercr's argument. As Oalbiez put it, Silbercr
confused the topic of symbolism by taking the functional phenomena as
the most imponant example of symbolic rcprcscn1a1ion in general
(Dalbicz(l936) Ip. 107). In a paperwrinen in 191 2, he described the law
of symbols as follows:
Symbolism 123
... a tendency to replace the abstract by the concrete, and by the
choice of rcprese,n tations which have, so 10 speak. a vital connection
with what is 10 be represent,e d. (Silbcrer. 1912, p. 208)

A consequence of this definition was that met,a phor was a sub-class of

symbols; Silbcrcr could then define symbols as "the form of appearance
of the underlying idea', (Ibid. p. 211) Having defined symbolism so as 10
include all images that were not abstract ideas, Silbercr went on to argue
1ha1 not all symbols represented sexual mauers, the empirical crux of
the argument being his own observations of the functional symbolism
(or 'auto-symbolism', as he called it al times). Al this point, be
introduced the teleological conception of the symbol that also marks
Jung's theory: symbols ' appear when man's mind reaches out fo r
something which he cannot as yet grasp'. ( Ibid. p. 217) The conditions
favourable for symbol-formation arc fo und when there is either a
movement 'towards' or ·away" from an idea.

Symbol-formation appears as a falling-shon-of-tbc·idc a. as a regres-

sion 10 a pr~cious and inadequate mental le•-el. ( Ibid.)

Silbcrer found the cause of symbol-formation in the Wundtian

concept of 'appcrceptive weakness' or 'insufficiency of appcrceplion. •
Waking life. with its appcrccptive predominance, was contrasted with
dream· life. in which there is a regression to lower levels of the mental
apparatus. Symbols represent a movement away from the intellect
towards the senses, from the idea 10 the image.
Whal was involved in Silbcrer's concept of anagogic in1crprc1a1ion
was two different arguments: firstly, 1ha1 symbols arc auempts to
represent a level of thought that is. for the moment, beyond the mental
capacity of the dreamer or teller of myths; secondly, that this sphere of
more abstract thought was one stage further removed from the
impulsive and egocentric than tbe symbol. Freud agreed that certain
dreams and myths included allegorical modes of representation, but
denied that this represented a progress towards higher forms of
thought. Rather. these indicated the difficulty of representing a thought
which was both abstract and liable to arouse unplcasurc in tbe dreamer.
Freud. in other words, did not see degree or abstraction u.s necessarily
related 10 the movement away from the infantile and the sexual. Once
again, we encounter a theme that was oflen misunderstood by his
followers, namely. that thought is as much in the service of desire and
sexuality as perception, indeed, in certain accounts. more so: our
124 Language and the Origins of Psyt:hoanalysis
discussion orthc elaboration of family romances and the sexual theories
of children, with their production of the Oedipus complex as a work of
though1. dcmoiutrates this. If we were 10 represent the relations of
1hough1 and symbol in Silbcrcr's and Freud's theories. ii mighl look like
• llt90rlW
~n 1i •2> ---A----rhou ht• •t>
fl egressh.ii!

I ! ..,,_ ..

Si/Mrer's theory Freud's theory

ln1crprc1a1ion may move either ·Proocsscs A & B rcprcsenl prob-
in the regressive ('Freudian') lems of the means of represen-
dimension or in the prospective tation. True in1crprctation re-
('Jungian') dimension. quires movement via Thoughts
(2) and (I) 10 the infantile con-
cerns; no direct access from the
symbol to the ins1inc1ual level is
encouraged. I have placed the
symbol 10 one side 10 indica1e
1ha1 in1crprcu11ion via symbo·
lism is a minor part of Freudian
interpretation. In most cases
Thoughts (I) will be arrived at
via free assoc:iation.

Ycl again. we encounter the cruciaJ diO'crencc between Freud and his
colleagues that we have met so many times in this chapter: the symbol
was never at the heart of the method of dream-interpretation he
advocated, so thal he was delermincd to demons1ra1e that, when
symbols arc encountered, they arc derivatives ofthougbl which have to
be constructed before the 'real' business of in1erpretation can start.
Even 1hcn. the end result of in1erpre1a1ion will concern thoughts that
occurred (or should have occurred) in infancy: 1hc Freudian account
Symboli.rm 125
always remained within that band orthough1 bounded by impulse and
transcendental images. Whereas Jung and Silbcrcr located symbols at
the cross-roads or two different movements or interpretalion - the
regressive (the Freudian) and the prospective (the palh orindividuation
and transcendent knowledge)- Freud saw symbols as only part or the
more general problem of the means or representation or thoughts in lhe
essentially alien form or visual images, forced upon the dream by the in-
dependently delermined mode or regression or lhe mental apparatus.
In his paper. 'The Theory of Symbolism', Ernest Jones felt his first
iask wus to distinguish symbolism from linguistic metaphor: the easiest
way 10 find the true meaning of symbolism was by clarifying the
linguistic representations of metaphor. J ones defined the metaphor by
reference to the figurative/literal opposition with which we arc familiar
(Jones, 1916, p. 133). He then proceeded. almost without rcforence to
the discussion of metaphor, to give the primary characteristics of the
symbol, as outlined by Rank and Sachs (1913): representation of
unconscious material, constancy of meaning, independence of in-
dividual conditioning factors. its evolutional)' basis. its linguistic
eonnccuons and its phylogenetic parallels. But it is the very monotony
of the ideas represented by symbols that is so striking a characteristic,
and Jones explained this feature as follows;

All symbols represent ideas of the self and the immediate blood
relatives. or of the phenomena of birth, love and death. In other
words they represent the most primitive ideas and interests im-
tiginablc. The actual number of ideas is rather gr~ttcr, ho wever, than
might be supposed from the ):niefncss ol' this summary - they
amount. perhaps, 10 about a hundred .. .. (Jones, 1916, p. 145)

Jones' argument then took on 1wo di1Teren1 chardclers; a biological

and a philological one. Firstly, let us look at the biological basis of the
theol)' of symbols, which took its character from a special privilege
accorded to the genetic origin oft be instincts: their first objects and aims
(the concrete and immediate bodily concerns. on the one hand, and the
'blood' relatives, on the other) constitute a privileged primitivity that
closes olT the arena of continual displacement and mo.-cment that
charactenzed human sexuality in the Thr~~ Essays. Symbolism reaches
back to a lime - indeed. fixes it - when the contingency or in.stinctual
aim and libidinal object is yet to~ revealed. We can note this ambiguity
in Freud's essay ' Instincts and their Vicissitudes' (1915) in which the
'source' of the instinct does indeed reach down into the organic, and,
126 Ulllguage and the Origins of Psyrhoonolysis
perhaps. defines the possible objects and aims: the mucous membrane of
the anus seems to define the aim of expulsion and retention before the
psychic takes its band in determining the ·splining ofT" of sexuality from
the self-preservative instincts. Jones· argument. then, seems to take us
back to the very source of the instinct, skipping over the level at which
one might say there were only ·first' objects and aims. It is this biological
level that assures him of the permanence, universality and reassuring
monotony of those things symbolized.
But we arc more interested in the philological arguments, and, as in
Freud's lecture on symbolism. J ones makes a theory of the symbol
depend upon a putative primitive language. Whal seemed Lo be
empirical questions as to the meaning of this or that symbol could then
be answered with evidence founded on the notion of a primitive
language, thus supporting a particular directness of interpretation. The
'constant meaning" of symbols, which Jones assumed, had been the
object of direct attack by Freud in the first edition of 77rt lnttrprttation
of Drtams. since it opened the door to arbitrary interpretation. But, if
the symbol is referred to "the uniformity of the fundamental and
perennial interests of mankind' (Jones 1916, p. 140). the problem of
arbitrary interpretation is undercut.
Jones uscrted that the individual ·cannot give a regular symbol a
different meaning from any one else'. (Ibid.). What is the nature of this
constraint? On the one hand, we have the assertions concerning the
perennial interests of mankind, the preoccupation with the body and the
firsl objects. with its covert biological reference. But. on the other hand,
we can look to another feature of symbols that guarantee their fixity of
reference: their determination by the history of language.

Now. the study of et)'lllOlogy, and especially of semantics, reveals the

interesting fact that although the word denoting the symbol may have
no connotation of the idea symbolized, yet its history always shews
some connection witb tbe laner ... (Ibid .• p. 141 )

But the exact relation of the symbol to its "determining word' is not
always the same. "It may appear in an older and now obsolete use of the
same word, in the root from which the word was derived. or from other
words cognate with it."(Ibid.) Even then we may not have found the
association that brings the symbol into connection with language, and
thus fixes its rcfcrcntt. The sphere oflinguistic usage in which one might
have to cast one's net in search of the word grows wider and wider:
jokes, folklore, etc. Or, sometimes, the relations between phrases in
Symbolism 127
roreign languages and the word that stands ror the symbol must be
pursued, a path mapped out most bizarrely by Freud's use of Abel's
work on the antithetical meaning of primal words. Jones docs not look
quite as far as ancient Egyptian:

E\'en with symbol words where ii is hard 10 trace any association

between them and the words denoting the ideas symbolised, such an
association is often apparent in the case of synonyms or foreign
equivalents. A good example is our word ' room' - a room is a regular
unconscious symbol for woman - where one has 10 go 10 very remote
Aryan sources - e.g. Old Irish 10 find any trace of a feminine
conno1a1ion; one has only to turn, however. to the German equi-
valent. Zimn1er, to tlnd that the compound Fruurnzin1mer is a
common colloquialism for woman. (Ibid., p. 143)

We have the strange specue of a quasi-universal language (perhaps

001 even restricted to the Aryan tongues) in which. unknowingly, the
dreamer will dream his symbols. He has the freedom to choose another
means of representation other than the universal symbolism thus
guaranteed, but he docs not have the freedom to use these symbols for
other meanings than those laid down in language. We must conclude
1ha1 the dreamer 'knows' the lioguinic connections 1ha1 underlie these
symbols. even though be may be uncultured and unilingual in everyday
life. The unconscious seems to ha ve become a receptacle for all the
languages and usages of a historically determined group of tongues. The
next step is 10 posit a primary or primal language Iha! suppons this
polyglonism of the unconscious.
And yet Jones' argument against Silberer ignored this linguistic
dimension entirely, and emphasized instead the fundamental import·
ance of unconscious affects in determining symbols. Silberer believed
that symbols that had been originally used in a material sense, to
represent contents of the mind, were then used to represent mental
ttn<kncits. Hence the specific content of the symbol - the phallus, the
desire to cat the mother - would be attenuated: until the symbol would
be SJmply representative of'love', 'hate" or other menial tendencies. As
Jones pointed out. this was simply the consequence or regarding
symbols a.s a concrete image for an abstract idea. occasioned by the
appcrceptive insufficiency of the mental apparatus, an insufficiency that
in Silberer's account could be explained secondarily by the interference
of affects, but which rendered the symbol's exact relation to the affeet of
indirect and secondary significance. As Silberer said:
128 Language and th£ Origins of Psychoanalysis
... the more established and pronounced typical figures become. the
more do they recede from the original ephemeral signification. the
more do 1heybecomethesymbo lic «presentation of a whole group of
similar experiences, ... until finally one may regard them as simply
the representatives of a mental tendency. (Silbcrer, 1914- 17, p. 153,
German edn.)

Jones rebutted:

if 1hcrc is any truth at all in psychoanalysis, or, indeed, in any genetic

psychology. then the primordial complexes displayed in symbolism
must be the permanent sources of menial life and the very reverse of
mere figures of specch. (Jones, 19 16, p. 167)"

The primordial complexes remain primordial bocausc oft be alTcctivc

significance that remains theirs. thus ronferring a permanent literality
upon the symbols forever tied lo them. The importan1 1hings in life do
no1 change: there is no progrcs.s that can he gauged by the movement of
symbols towards the abstract (Silberer) or towards the noumenal
(Jung). Symbols represent both what is past and what is pnmary, often
equaled by Jones through a slide in 1he meaning or regression.
Me1aphor and figures of speech escape from this model of the
unconscious determination of symbolic meaning. Metaphor is only
preconscious: aoy metaphorical relation of symbols is scrondary to the
primary reference, reforring 'across' to collateral meanings, ra1her than
directly 10 the unconscious source. Silbcrcr's confusion, Jones argued,
amounts Lo a confusion of symbol and metaphor, so that 1he func1ional
phenomena that he took as the model for symbolism in general amount
to simple metaphors.

. . . what Silbcrcr, however, calls the passing of ma1 erial symbolism

over into functional I should prefer to describe as the replacement of
symbolism by metaphor - i.e. by an associative connective between
collaterals - and the diJferencc is a grca1 deal more than one of words.
(Jones, 1916, p. 169)

Herein lay Jones' primary allaclc upon the J ung- Silbcrcr in1erpret-
a1ions: 1hey look metaphor to be the primary form of symbolism,
whereas Jones saw metaphor as 001 symbolical at all. since i1 docs nol
involve unconscious affective forces. Around this thesis were arraigned
1hrcc arguments tha1 J ones shared, however uncomfortably, with his
Symbolism 129
opponents. Firstly, symbols arc concrete since that mode of reprcscn·
tation is both easier and more primitive. But whereas Silbcrer in
panicular saw their concreteness as a primary characteristic ofsymbols,
Jones saw it as as a by-product ofthestrengthorthc unconsciousaffeets,
which firmly attach symbols to the primary processes of thought.
through which identify is asserted, in contrast to the ·similarity and
difference· of metaphor.
Secondly, we !ind that Jones granted to symbolism the privilege that
Freud wished to refuse it: direct access to the unconscious. Thus Jones
come very close to Jung's position at this point: what distinguished his
line of argument was the assertion that the primary affects are sexual in
character. Thirdly, how does this mesh with his argument about the
linguistic determination of symbolism? Strangely enough, the metho·
dology of symbol interpretation through etymology and semantics was
common to all the psychoanalyS!s and the post-ps)<choanalytical school
(as Jones called Jung, Maeder and Silbcrer): the study of the Aryan
languages, the rummaging around in the cultural baggage of the Aryan
peoples in search of meanings. and the ~coccupation with cross-
cultural and universal connections was common to all. But it was only
Freud and Jones who endeavoured to use this material as the evidence
for a primal language which coincided with the primordial and
biologically determined complexes of mankind. An empirical demon·
stration of the convergence of all th~ facts upon such primary
meanings, a conceptual dissection of the inadequacy of a conception
that tried to orient symbols towards a less sordid and less bodily future
was not enough: the psychoanalysts seemed to need a fo undation of
symbolism both in language and in biology. The oddest part of that
fo undation was that it detoured via the whole system of meanings found
in the Aryan languages.
Symbols arc privileged since they refer us back to a time when the
name and the thing matched each other perfectly. Strange spectre! The
unconscious. the source of all ambiguity and incomprehensibility in its
recurrent surfacings. is the locus of a language that is unambiguously
unh-ocal in its reference. In order to giiin a foothold on tbc universal, a
nominalism has been sneaked in round the back door, into the language
of the unconscious, from which all other languages derive. This
nominalism opposes the Platonic idealism that Jung cultivated in the
concept of the archetype:

Were I a philosopher, I should continue in this Platonic strain and

say: Somewhere. in a " place beyond the skies". there is a prototype or
130 languagt and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
primordial image of the mother that is pre-existent and supraordinatc
to all phenomena in which the -matc111AI", in the broadest sense of
the term. is manifest. (Jung (1938-54) CW IX Part I 75)

For all its emphasis on language as an independent system, psycho-

analysis is continually threatened by a nominatistic theory of language,
which it strives to support through a recourse 10 regulative principles
stemming from outside its domain: the reference to biological factici1y
limits the free play of the system. 38 In Freud's writings, such a reference.
indicating the insertion from 'outside', is signalled by the use of the
prefix 'Ur-', translated in English a.; primal. Whether ii is the primal
father, the primal horde, primal words, primal repression. the primal
language, the primal scene, Urges<'hil'htt- whichever it is, we are aware
that a stop has been put 10 the sliding of meaning that continually
threatens to erupt from the unconscious. The uninhibited sliding is
celebrated in schizophrenia, a condition whose name has an etymology
which tells us exactly the opposite of what it is: a collapse oft he separate
levels of meaning and reality that constitute the essence of sanity. In
Lacan 's revision of psychoanalysis. we find the same theoretical locus,
the 'Ur-', occupied by a met.aphor, by 'the upholstery button through
which the signifier stops the otherwise indefinite sliding of meaning'.
(U.can E 805/303.) Meaning has tobc tied down to reality at some point.
It is the position of such a determination that in tum determines the
confi,g uration of meaning fo r the subject. Al some point, an identifi-
cation of thing a nd word must be achieved, a mutual devouring of
subject and object must take place. a mysterious crossing of the gap
between the sound ' tree' and tbe concept 'tree' must be braved. Perhaps
it is appropriate to let Jung have the last word upon this grand piece of

The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the
tree. and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious or present-
day man. who no longer feels at home in his " orld and can base his
experience neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is
yet 10 be. should hark back 10 the symbol of the cosmi<: tree rooted in
this world and growing up to heaven - the tree that is also man. In the
history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself,
a growing into that which eternally is and docs not change: which
springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also
makes that union possible. (Jung (1938/54) CW IX Part I 109- 110)
4 Grammar
I fear that we do not get rid of God because we still believe in
Friedrich Nietzsche'
Old rule ofgrammar: what does not lend itself10 declension, a11ribu1c
10- transference.
Sigmund Freud'
The idea or passive includes in ii the case. in which 1be action tba1 I
suffer is performed by myself.
A Grt~k Grammar, 1824'



In 1his chaplcr we will be concerned wi1h 1he s1ructure and location of

the language that forms both the means and the objoc1 of psychoan·
alysis.• Firstly, we an: obliged 10 take note of a fundamental ambiguity
introduced into Freud's theory from thcs1ur1, when he recognized both
1hat symptoms arc structured like a language - in the sense that they arc
011/y comprehensible when 'read' as a concealed and distorted ex-
pression of thought, whose translation into words allows them to take a
place in the chain of events that constitu1c the experience of the
subject - and that the means by which this ·pJau· is discovered, and by
which 1bc symptom is cured, consists in finding this 1ransla1ion. bu1 this
ti~ in spoktn language. Surely we cannot treat these two languagcs-
lhe language of the symptom and the languaie of the cure - as the
same? Surely it is precisely because the symptom is not spoken language
that psychoanalysis becomes necessary? Having made the discovery
that a symptom is the ~quirolmt of a spoken message, a discovery that
constitutes the very possibility of the talking cure, we arc obliged to
make a fundamental dis1inction between the language of neurosis - the
incomprehensible ritual of the bed-chamber. 1he chronic and perpetu·
132 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
ally elusive ache or pain - and the talk with which the subject will
conduct a boot-strap pulling operation. straining to bring into a
coherent spokeo accou01 the liule incomprehensibilities that open up to
him the possibility of secreting his meaning inside a 'symptom'.
11 would seem clear that.. to a first approximation, the distinction
between the language of the symptom and speech can be expressed as
follows. The symptom is marked by its permanent character. its
'chronicity' (even if it is a question of repeated ·acute', rather than
'chronic' symptoms).' The language oft be symptom is characterized by
its relative imperviousness to discursive change, a permanence seem-
ingly independent of all ' external' factors. In the Project. Freud called it
an 'immovable symbolization' (die Symbolbildung so fesrtr Art).•
On the other hand, the speech of the analysand is characterized by its
evanesccnoe. its dialectical character' through which its meaning is
intrinsically bound up not only with past experience. but also with the
other to whom the words are addressed, who will eventually participate
fully in a dialogue.• Such ·speech' is here essentially opposed to the act.
II is hoped that the analysand will remember ratherthan act out. will put
things into words rather tbao into actions. Ideally. the speech ofanalysis
is held to escape from the irreversible effects that speech and action
inevitably produce outside analysis. The analyst presents 10 the
analysand a screen whose properties of infinite absorption it is hoped
will remove the pole by which the standing waves that constitute the
analysand's unconscious arc supported.
Jn what follows we will be touching upon the oppositions built into
three closely rela'ted psychoanalytic concepts: forgening, remembering
and permanence. There is one sense of forgcning that is equivalent to
repression: a memory, rather than being forgo11cn , is remembered too
well, so well that it is a permanent feature of the psychic life of the
subject, but without him knowing it. There is one sense of remembering
that is captured in the formula: 'hyst.erics suffer from reminiscences'
(Breuer and Freud (1893a) SE II 7), and their sufTcring, permanent,
'chronic' as it is, is due to their not being able to forget. There is one
sense of 'permanent' best evoked by the term 'indestructible: 'it is a
permanent feature of unconscious processes that they are indestruc-
tible. In the unconscious nothing can be brought to an end, nothing is
past or forgonen'. (Freud (1900a) SE V $77)
And then. we can tum each of these three concepts around, and look
al them from their other side. The other sense of forgetting is what is
aimed at in analysis: one wishes to allow the normal processes of
wearing away 10 take place: 'The task of [psychotherapy] is to make it
Gran1mar 133
possible for 1be unconscious processes 10 be deah with finally and be
forgotten: (Ibid. SE V 578.) The 01her sense of remembering we
migh1 perhaps call recollecting, when 1he resis1ances surrounding wha1
is remembered 100 wcll in the form of a symplom dissolve and the
recollection of wha1 had previously been forgotten dispels the per-
mancm mark of 1he symp1om. The 01her sense or perrnanenl will refer
10 1he ideal possibility, one or 1he aims or analysis, or making the past
always available 10 the subject, so 1hat he will be ublc 10 recall whal had
previously been forgotten: a permanent capacity to rccollccl at will.
We 1hus have three pairs of concepts. linked closely in 1hcir mode of
operation, and ranged in opposilion lo each other:

Repression - Forgening - Forgetting - \Vearing away

Suffering from memory - Remembering - Remembering- Recollecting
Indestructible - Permanent- Permanent - Available to recall

Some further comments on the play of opposition associated wi1h

these pairs of concepts, although seemingly at a 1angcnt to our main
theme. may help clarify the privilege of1hc words spoken in analysis. In
makin& these comments we will be bringin& out cenain tendencies in
Freud's thought that remained, for one reason or another, in the
background in his writinp. ·
Firstly, we should note the close relation between these paired
concepts and the opposition ·memory--0onsciousness' to be found in
Freud's metapsychology. This latter opposition was sometimes couched
as follows: ·consciousness and memory are mutually exclusive·•. The
ephcmcralily we have noted as attaching to lhe spc1.-ch of analysis is the
oountcrpart of the 'inexplicable phenomenon of consciousness [that]
arises in the perceplual system instead of fun Stelle] the permanent
traces' (Freud (1925a) SE XX 228.)' 0 In the Project or 1895 and its
reworking of 1920. Beyond the Pleasure Printiplt, the mutual exclusivity
of consciousness and memory was the rcsuh or an argument penaining
to the fundamental character of consciousness: the most fundamental
characteristic of memory is a pennanent trace or mark, left in a syste-m
by the passage of excitation; what characterizes consciousness is its
responsiveness to new stimuli, a responsiveness that would be soon
deadened, clogged up, if the Cs were subject to 'marlung'. Thus the
system Cs. shows no resistance to passage from one clement to another.
(Freud (1920g) SE XYJJI 26-27.)"
Now we should note that this argument that memory and conscious-
ness arc mutually exclusive, based upon lhc necessary properties of the
134 lnnguage and rite Origins of PJ}'<hoana/yJis
simplest possible systems of memory and consciousness, docs not yet
yield the conclusion that consciousness arises i11Jrtad of (literally, in
place of) memory traces. (Even the most sophisticated presentation of
these issues, that found in 'A Note on the Mystic Writing Pad', docs not
go beyond the ' lngical' interrelation of two systems whose necessary
properties arc infinite di!prh of registration and perpetual and perfect
tXrl'l'loriry. Sec Derrida, 1966.) What introduces this relation of
rtplactmenr, a notion that implies a temporal irreversibility and
necessary connection? As we might have guessed, the notion is
connected with the special character ofinfantile experience, or, to put it
more generally, the special character of those past events to which little
or no auribution ofconsciousness can be made. The issue is presented in
an inverted manner in the following passage from The lnterpreration of

... the impressions whicb have had the greatest elTect on us - those
of our earliest youth - are precisely the ones which scarcely ever
become conscious. But if memories become conscious once more,
they exhibit no sensory quality or a very slight one in comparison with
perceptions. A most promising light would be thrown on the
conditions governing the excitation of the neurones if it could be
confirmed that in the Y,-systcms memory and the quality that
characterizes consciousness are mutually exclusive. (Freud (1900a)
SE V 540)

Now, we not only have the opposition 'memory-consciousness', but

also: 'memory-perception'. Let us align Ibis new opposition with
ano1her hypothesis, derived from Freud's rumina1ions on the problem
of memory, and noted in the margin of the 1904 edition of The
PJychopathology of &eryday Ufe:

Normal forgetting takes place by way of condensation. In this way it

becomes the basis for the formation of concepts. What is isolated is
perceived clearly. ( Freud (1901b) SE VI 134 n2)

Perhaps con<:epts arise instead of memory traces of perceptions, just

IU Freud was later to rework the opposition of memory and conscious-
ness into a formula whereby consciousness rtplac1s memory. There
would thus seem to be an alignment of'conceprs' wi1h 'consciousness',
both products of the elfacement of the trace 1ha1 constitutes memory.
We might even venture a hypothesis that infan1ile amnr~ia is in large
Grammar 135
pan due to the fact that the speech residues an: built out of sensory
expcrieooe of that epoch. Just as learning in general - concept-
formation - takes place 1.h rough forgeuing. so a very special son of
learning. that of speech, goes hand in band with a .-cry special son of
forgclling. We could view such a hypothesis as an alternative fonnu-
lation of Freud's argument in the Proj•ct, whereby the scream
characterizes a pain-giving object that otherwise could not become a
subject of thought: what it is not possible to recollect, what is vigorously
defended against, causes the first conscious. verbal thought. (Cf. Bion,
1967, pp. 110- 19).
Be that as it may, it would seem to be on this level. meshed with
·concepts' and ·consciousness", that we should situn te the speech of
analysis. As are they, so is it opposed to the permanent mark of
unconscious memory. Indeed, one might say that not only the traumatic
/oru of memory, represented in the insistent and repetitious marking of
that memory. but a kind of memory itself disappears in the speech of
Such a paradollical statement would appear to contradict one of
Freud's criteria for the successful end of an analysis: the 'filling in' of all
the gaps in the patient"s memory. But, as we shall see later in this
chapter. this criterion refers to amnesias conceived as duplicating. as it
were negatively, the symptoms of the patient. At no point did Freud
conceive of the experienc• of recalling a memory as being the same as
bringing a memory qua trace into consciousness. We have already
touched on this in clarifying the two notions of 'remembering· with
which Freud worked. His radical critique of a conception of recollection
us a subjective mirroring of objectively recorded truces of ·events" is
perhaps most clearly seen in the last paragraph of his paper on 'Screcn-
It may indeed be questioned whether we have any memories a.t all
from our childhood: memories relating to our childhood may be all
that we possess.... In the periods of arousal [of memories) the
childhood memories did not. as people arc accustomed to say,
tmcrgr. they wcreforml!d at that time. ( Freud (1899a) SE Ill 322)

Memories arc cons!ructed. not recorded. Again. at a meeting of the

Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in February 1909. he affirmed his radical
position on memory:
... all chi Idhood recollections are created al a later period. the
genuine ones as well as the others. (.4,fim11ts II p. I 59)
136 Languag• and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
In consequence, then, the criteria for the genuineness of a memory
must be souaht elsewhere than in the fidelity with which a recollection
reproduces the trace.
We may conclude, then. that the speech uuered in analysis must be
efficacious in so far as it partakes of the character ofconsciousness, with
its lack of permanence and its ephemcralily, over and 'against' the
permanence of memory, which is here the correlate or symptom.
Freud's labours, if nothing else, were a perpetual witness to the force
of memory; but, if psychoanalysis aimed al bringing this force into ever
incrCJlsing evidence, it also aimed at going beyond memory, at finding
the royal road 10 forgetting.

[Unconscious wishes1share this character or indestructibility with all

other mental acts which are truly unconscious.... These are paths
which have been laid down once and for all. which never fall into
disuse and, which, whenever an unconscious excitation re-<:athects
them. arc always ready to conduct the excitatory process to
discharge .... Processes which arc dependent on the preconscious
system arc destructible in quite another sense. The psychotherapy or
the neuroses is based on this distinction. (Freud ( 1900a) SE V 553 nl )

But earlier. on page 132, I mentioned another characteristic or the

speech of analysis, namely that it is efficacious only in so far as it is not
an act. Just as the good man dreams what the evil man will do, so the
analysand brings into his discourse what the neurotic lets fall into the
silence of the symptom (cf. Ibid. SE V 620). But, we may well a.sk, what is
wrong with the silence of the symptom? In the first place it isn't really
silem: the repressed may be, but its return is noisy enough. ' 2 The effects
of its return arc not only 'noisy' - pain. obsessive thoughts, delusional
formations - they also represent the consequences of the ·first lie' that
forms the kernel of the neurosis." Symptoms represent the con-
sequence orties. What the speech of analysis will allow that an ·act' does
not is the possibility of lying without ba\ing to aoccpt the normal
consequences of a lie. The symptom oppresses the subject insofar as he
is. in consequence of it. 'living a lie. After all. lying 1s a dimension of
truth. not of reality. And. when the analytical rule asks of the patient to
say whatever comes into his head, the expectation, at any rate aft<r the
seduction theory bad been exploded, was that these first things would be
'lies'. It is only through such lies, those transitional objects through
which one is obliged to pass en route, that any "truth' becomes
possible. .. It is only through the medium or speech that 8 lie can open
Gra1>1nJ1Jr 137
out onto the truth. Veritll$ non in u. std in dirto NJnsistit." And only
insofar as this series oflies do not bttomc lived. do not become acts. can
the SP«Ch of anal}'Sis attain its goat••
Our discussion bas led us, via the concept of memory, to consider
speech as essentially opposed to the pcnnancnt mark or trace that
constitutes the basis of memory, even if the psychoanalytic concept of
memory is to be clearly distinguished from this mark. In some manner
that is still unclear, speech is the agent by which permanent marks that
lead to the sulTering of the symptom arc dissolved, forgo lien. If the aim
of analysis is a recollecting which lead> to l'orgc11ing, th rough a
bringing-into-consciousness, it is language that is the agent of con-
sciousness, the agent by which consciousness elTects this aim. A curious
reversal of commonplaces associated with the properties of language is
the consequence of this argument. Instead of language being the
suppon of all symbolic pennanence, the means by which human beings
preurvc the past - indeed, create the 'past' - and thus derive their
humanity from the capacity of languagc to make this ' thing', through
the mark it bears, have an existence before, speech is now the means by
which the marl: wruch language introduces can be dissolved,
transformed - and forgotten. If language is the means by wruch
pcnnancncc and memory qua insistent reminiscence come to be found
at the bean of the symptom, it is via the ephcmerality of speecb-
consciousness that a symptom can be dissolved, worn away - and
forgollen. It is as if the possibility of a symptom is also based on that
feature that makes language possible: iterability.' ' And yet it is the
function or speech in analysis to try and unmake this very possibility
that makes possible its own existence, insofar as speech is the means by
which the clTects of language can be undone. Such a seemingly
paradoxical fonnulation may not satisfy; but perhaps its paradoxical
character simply reflects all those other paradoxes in psychoanalysis:
lhe concept of the unconscious itself, and the tensions we have noted
between 'forgetting' (repression) and ·forgetting' (wearing away),
between 'remembering' (insistent reminiscences) and 'remembering'
(the dissipation of the symptom by discharging it in verbal recollection).
Having made somewhat clearer the difference between the •P«Ch of
analysis and the symptom. we should now move on 10 consider the fact,
and a no1orious fact it is, that the pa1icn1's speech its~lfis a symptom.
There arc a number of dilTerent ways in which this is true: it becomes
important 10 distinguish them. Firstly, a whole series of verbal 'acts' are
constructed like symptoms: slips of the tongue. dreams.jokes. In other
words, they 'say' what c.ould be said. but in 'in other words'. The
J 38 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
relation between such symptomatic 'speech-acts' and the talk that
func.tions as cure is not different from that between the ostensibly more
remarkable symptoms of con version, lodged in the body, and the early
conception of the talking-cure. But what these symptoms of talk
indicate is how the talk of the patient is itself an index of the progress of
analysis. All symptoms appear eventually in the talk of analysis, even if
only negatively, even if only in the absence of talk. In conversion
hysteria, what takes up a place in the body is Jacking from the discourse
of the patient. Hence, theoretically speaking, one would be able to infer
the symptoms from the 'absences' in the discourse. It is these absences
that certainly mark the self-description of hysterics:

I cannot help wondering how it is that the authorities can produce

such smooth and precise histories in cases of hysteria. As a matter of
fact the patients are incapable of giving such reports about
themselves. ... The connections - even the ostensible ones - arc for
the most part incoherent, and the sequence of different events is
uncertain .... The patients' inability to give an ordered history of
their illness is not merely characteristic of the neurosis. It also
possesses a great theoretical significance. (Freud (190Se) SE Vil

Freud moved easily from this observation to the idea that these gaps
and incoherences in the patients' self-descriptions were the counterpart
of the memories that bad been lost to consciousness through being used
to construct neurotic symptoms. From whence the idea of a double
c-riterion for their cure: either the removal of the symptoms or the
restoration of these memories to the consciousness of the patient (and
we can here note the tension between this criterion and the psycho-
analytic conception of memory, as discussed above).

Whereas the practical aim of the treatment is to remove all possible

symptoms and to replace them by conscious thoughts, we may regard
it as a second and theoretical aim to repair all the damages to the
patient's memory. These two aims are coincident. When one is
reached, so is the other; and the same path leads to them both. (Ibid.
SE VII 18)

The tal king cure is thus not only acureforthesymptoms: it is a cure of

the patient's talk, according to a criterion which, at its simplest, require.s
that the patient's account ofhirnself 'makes sense'. The consistency and
Grammar 139
coherence or a lire story can thus serve as a means or differential

In my first hour with the patient I got her 10 tell me her history herself.
When the story came out perfectly clearly. in spite of the remarkable
events it dealt with. I told myself that the case could not be one or
hysteria. and immediately 1nsu1uted a careful physical examination.
This led to the diagnosis of a not very advanced stage of
tabes ... ( Ibid. SE VII 16 n2)

A curious inversion is taking place here: instead or examining the

'symptoms' of the patient. using the traditional methods of the neur-
ologist. Freud began to concentrate more and more on the story the
patient bad to tell. The symptom seems 10 slide into the background,
only appearing negatively in the examination of discourse. From a
concern with a symptom and its determinants, Freud turned more and
more to the s1ruc1urt of the story the patients had to tell. This
development was later given an imponant place in the history of
psychoanalysis: the change from the cathaniccure, with its emphasis on
the abreaction of the psychic clements associated directly with the
symptom. to the method of analysis of resistances. Freud explained the
method 10 Pfister in a lencr of 1910:

You have seen correctly that the association technique [of Jung] is
suitable for a first orientation but not for carrying out the treatment.
for with each new stimulus word you put to the patient you interrupt
him and cut off the ftow. The spontaneous production of word series
you use in analysis is certainly incomparably belier. but it does not
give a good picture or clear insights, and it seems 10 me to save no
time. Where the patient is able to produce such a series, he would
certainly have been capable or producing whole speeches. This would
have been slower only in appearance, and would have produced a
clear picture of the resistances into the bargain. The production or
word series is only n wny or circumventing the resistance. and for that
I have no use whatever: I neglect the complexes for the resistances
and try to approach the latter direct. (Freud (1963a), 5 May 1910, p.
39) 1 "

The resistances are thus made manifest through the structure of the
patient's talk. and it i> this stru<:ture that becomes the object of the
analyst's attention. Of course. it is only ·when the patient descends to
140 l.Anguage and the Origiru of Ps}"<hoanalysls
minute details from the abstractions which are their surrogate' (Ibid.
p. 38). that the analysis really gets going; but it is his auention to the
Structure or lalk that allows the anal)'Sl tO aid this pr~.
Such minute observation of the patient's 1alk goes back to the first
psychoanalyiic works. In Studies on Hysteria, Freud gave the foUowing
account of his first interview with Frau Emmy von N. in 1889:

What she told me was perfectly coherent and revealed an unusual

degree of education and intelligence. This made it seem all the more
strange when every two or three minutes she suddenly broke off,
contorted her face into an expression of horror and disgust, stretched
out her hands towards me, spreading and crooki ng her lingers. and
exclaimed, in a changed voice, charged with anxiety: ' Keep still! -
Don't say anything! - Don' t touch me!' She was probably under the
inOuence ofsome recurrent hallucination of a horrifying kind and was
keeping the intruding material at bay with this formula. (Breuer and
Freud ( I89Sd) SE LI 49)

This 'symptom' displays many of1he features we wish to focus upon:

its rq>etitive chardcter, its lack of connectedness to any parts of her
conversation that came before or after, its figurative and stereotypical
qualuies. Or, again. from the analysis of Frau Emmy von N.: in one
session. Freud asked her 10 ·work on' this pro1<e1ive formula under
hypnosis. Four events. widely separated in time, came 10 herc.o nsdous-
ness as a consequence. Freud commented:

Though these fo ur instances were so widely separated in time, she

told me 1hem in a single sentence and in such rapid succession that
they migl11 have been a single episode in four ac1s. lncidc.ntally, all the
accoun1s she gave of traumas arranged like these in groups began
with a ' how', the component traumas being separated by an ·and'.
( Ibid. SE II 57)

Obsessional neurosis prO\'ided the training ground for much or the

in1ricate verbal juggling that Freud found to be n«:essary in the analysis
or symptoms. From very early on in his theorizing. ·self·r<proach' was a
primary element or the aetiology and con lent of obsessional symptoms.
(Freud ( 19SOa) Origins p. 136; ( l 950a) SE I 22JIT: ( l896b) SE II I 184).
Starting from a primary self-reproach. dis1or1ions and lransformations.
ac1ing upon 1he words 1hat constitu1ed the selr-rcproach, gave rise to the
symptoms. In 1896 he argued:
Grammar 141
The obsessional ideas. when their intimate meaning has been
recognized by analysis, when they have been reduced, as it were, 10
their simplest expression, arc nothing other then reproaches ad-
dressed to the subject by himsetr on account of this anticipated sexual
enjoyment, but reproaches distorted by an unconscious psychical
work of transformation and substitution. (Freud ( 1896a) SE II!

The 'simplest expression' forms the kernel of the neurosis. finding

itself repeated in the derivative or compromise symptoms, or again at
the next stage of secondary defensive symptoms. These reproaches must
be brought into the spca:.h of the patient. When they ha"ebccn spoken,
the work of dissolving them into the discourse of analysis can start_
Whether it is a question of a bodily symptom or a symptom displayed in
the tall:. of the patient, it is this rigid linguistic stcucturc, continually
repeated, that forms the focus of analysis. And this structure is either a
linguistic phrase or must be paraphrased by such a phrase. The
infinitude of possible combinations that is the privilege of human
language has been sacrificed by the neurotic, sacrificed and replaced by
a monotonous insistence.
The permanence and repetitiveness or the symptomatic fo rmations
will now be the object of our study. Psychoanal)~ic theory developed
two alternative modes of conceptualizing these structures: that which I
will follow in this chapter. which turns around the grammatical variants
of certain key phrases or sentences - what Freud had called 'their
simplest expression'; and another, which highlighted the seminal
importance of a phantasy that forms the template for later experiences
and upon which symptomatic products arc constructed, as a building is
built upon its foundations. (Cf. Klein 1915,passim. and Laplanche and
Pontalis, 1968)


Wl>at will now concern us is a certain mode of analysis, which ! wiU call
propositional or grammatical analysis. that Froud and other early
psychoanalysts 20 found useful in the explication of the permanence that
characterizes neurosis. That this mode of analysis was never rigorously
defined will be apparent from our discussion; that it owed its attraction
to a 'primith·c' concept of grammar may also be apparent. But that it
offered a means of linking the concept of instinct, lying as it seemed to
142 longuogt am! tht Origins of Ps)'rhoanal)'sis
on the borderline of biology. with the prcoocupations with language
that had marked psychoanalysis at a theoretical and practical level from
the beginning, will also perhaps explain its perennial allure. That it
could be abandoned as circumstances warranted might also sanction a
low estimation of its importance; but that ii served as the mainstay for
some fundamental hypotheses of psychoanalysis also witnesses to its
II will come as no surprise to find that the terms 'subject' and 'object'
were a fundamental part of the conceptual armoury which Freud
supplied 10 psychoanalysis. But it may be more surprising to sketch out
10 what extent lhcsc terms had a grammatical, rather than a logical or
epistemological, reference. Obviously, as concepts, these terms had a
relative independence of any given proposition. But. as working
concepts. they more of\en than not found their most satisfactory
reference in the parts of given sentences 10 which they, qua grammatical
terms, could apply. More intriguingly, we find that the ·verb' that links
the subject and the object was treated as being equivalent to what in
ps)choanalylic theory is called ·an instinct'. Having said this. we find
that a neurosis will be the ·psychic structure' equivalent to a proposition
or a SCI Of proposiliOllS and their transformed dorivativcs.
Now this is an altogether more ambitious daim than that put forward
in Studies ,,,, H)•steria, where specific symptoms were taken to be the
equivalents of certain phrases, or figures of speech. We find ourselves at
an altogether more sophisticated theoretical level : instead of the
symptom, the visible and surface manifestation of a hidden 'disease' or
;cause'; and instead of a peculiar ph rase or figure, n simple proposition.
The movement of theory is parallel to that mapped out in Chapter 3: an
increasing complexity of interpretation coupled with an increasing
simplification at the level of 'first causes'. We move from n haphazard
and heterogcnous collection of phrases, in which the more complex the
neurosis the greater number of such phrases will have to be uncoverod,
to one or a few propositions, which we might call 'primal sentences'.
The thesis in question, then, is that a neurosis is formod around a
·core proposition·. whose structure is grammatically simple. consisting
in a subject. a verb and an object. The relation between subject and
object is defined by the verb. The verb itself corresponds to the instiOCl,
or, more strictly, each component-instinct corresponds to a dass of
verbs. For example. the 'oral instinct' corresponds to a class of verbs
including 'suck', 'bite' and, at a more sophisticatod level of analysis,
'whistle', 'froth'. The class to which a given verb belongs characterizes
the sexual uim of the component instinct (or, as Freud defined it in 1905,
Grammar 143
'lhe act towards whic,h the instinct tends' (Freud ( 190Sd) SE VII 135- 6).
Lei us look al one example of how modifications or 'vicissitudes' of the
subject ""rb- object sysiem gi- rise 10 importanl 'psychicar con·

(a) Sadism consists in the exercise of violence or power upon some

other person as objecL
(b) This object is given up and replaced by the subject'ssclf. Wi1b the
turning round upon the selflbe change from an active to a passive
instinctual aim is also effec1ed.
(c) An exiraneous person is once more sough1 as object; lhis person,
in consequence of the alteralion which has rnkcn place in the
instinclual aim, has 10 1ake over 1hc role of the subjcc1. ( Freud
(191Sc) SE XIV 127)

The relation between subject and object revolves around the active
charac:1er of 1.he verb. The 'instinct' behaves here as all verbs do in
language: a verb is &Clive unless qualified in mood by modal auxiliary
verbs. The subject takes on a qualiiy when the verb takes on a mood or a
lime. Defensi"" transformation such as ·1uming round upon the
subject's self' are effected by specific transfonnations of 1be indicative
fonn of the verb. The above schema receives its instantiation in
the following set of transformations pcrfonned upon a simple sen-
I. I am beating him Active voice
2. I am bea1ing myself Middle voice"
3. He is beating me Passive vojcc
Each of the sentences I. 2 and 3 iscorrelolcd wi1h a certain instinctual
position. upon which a neurosis or a perversion could be buih. But
furihcr lransforms can be derived from these senlenccs. Obviously, the
following sentence is derived in some way from the primitive sado-
masochistic positions of I, 2 and 3:
4. My father is beating (the child). (whom I hale).
II was around this latter proposition that Freud centred bis analysis
of a pbantasy expressed by a number of pa1ients as: ·a child is being
bca1en •. That paper was an important s1ep in 1he formula1ioo of a new
1heory of masochism which could supplement, or perhaps supplanl, the
accoun1 derived from the passage from' Instincts and their Vicissitudes'
quoted above. (Sec Freud ( I924c)). Since bo1h papcl'll made use of the
144 liJJrguogt and tht Origins of Ps)'rhoonolysls
me1hod of propositions, ii will be of in1<rcs1 lo sec how - or wbether -
one c;in link up lhc sci of propositions elaborated in ' Instincts with the
more clinical material discussed in· " A child is being bea1en"'.
Lei us first set out what Freud called the three 'phases· of the beating
phantaJy that he believed lo have uncov<rcd:
4. My father is beating {the child), (whom I hate)
S. My father is beating me
6. A child is being beaten
How could we envisage proceeding from the propositions I, 2 and 3
to No. 4. or. going further, to the proposition, actually spoken in
analysis, ·a child is being beaten'? Obviously, 1here ore o number of
differenl transformations. each of them grammatically simple and
perhaps analytically plausible, which could serve as means by which to
genera1e these propositions. For instance, a replaocment of the subject
of I. - an 'identification' - by " my father" would result in the Following:
4a. My father is beating (him)
or. alternatively. the extraneous person (/rtmd P~rson) could be
identified as ·my father (in 3.), giving:
Sa. My father is beating me.
Following upon such an identification, a displacement of the object
from the self to a similar gives:
6a. My father is beating the child
Such might have been the procedure to be followed if tho method of
' lnstincls and lheir Vicissitudes' were being followed. But F reud wrote
"'A Child Is Being Beaten" ' partially in order to demonstrate that the
derivation of beating phantasics was more complicated than the
discussion ofsado-rnasocbism of' lnstincts .. : might have led one to
believe. The propositions 4a and 6a lack an essential element of the
healing phantasy; they lack the element ·1ovcfha1e'. Freud made the
following comment as to the revelation of this clement:

The first phase of Lhe beating-pbantasy is therefore completely

represented by the phrase: ·My fathtr is Mating the child'. I am
betraying a great deal of what is to be brought forward later when
ins1ead of this I say: ' M y father is beating tht child. M"hom I hate.'
(Freud (1919e) SE XVII 185)
Grammar 145
We art not dealing here with the pure sadistic component-instinct. as
Freud intimated one could in ' Instincts and their V1cissi1udts'. Rather.
the beating-phantasy involvts love and rune, signs under which the
Oedipus complex comts 10 dominate the instinctual \icissitudts, a
domination at which we might have guessed as soon as 'the father' took
a pan in the phantasy. whether by identification (as in 4a) - the
standard defensive transformation adopted in the resolution of the
Oedipus complex (Freud (1924d)) - or by other means. Tbe introduc-
tion oft he Oedipus complex entails a prolifcrntion of complications for
the method of propositional analysis. What the Oedipus complex
amounts 10 is a recognition 1ha1 all ins1inc1uul propositions are
co11di1io11al. Simply put. the propositions ' I love my mother and ' I
hate/fear my father' are dependent upon another: they cannot be
1rea1ed as independent propositions. It is this clemeol of interdepen-
dence that makes the first phase, ' My father is beating the child. • ·hom I
halt', of crucial importance, thus inducing Freud 10 write the paper on
bcating-pbantasics, in order to clarify the nature of masochism via its
inl~rprctation in the light of the ever-increasing importance of the
Oedipus complex. The proposition ·sconditionaJ character entails that it
cannot be broken down into two simples - ·My father is beating the
child' and ' I hate the child" - without losing an essential clement of their
interdependence. Thus what is important in the beating clement of 4. is
that it is in the service of a more important instinctual current: love of
the father. Indeed, Freud gave the following proposition as being
equivalent 10. as being a simpler, perhaps less distorted, version of,
proposition 4:
1. My father does not love this other child, he lor>es 011/y me. (Freud
( 1919c) SE XVII 187)
But clearly this is not the full translation of 4., since it gives no weight
10 the 'beating' compooeo1. Alternatively, we can say 1ha1 "beating' docs
not here have an erotic or specifically sadistic connotation: ii sen·es only
10 exclude others from the field of the father's possible objects. One
might even doubt 'whether the phantasy ought 10 be described as purely
..sexual .., nor can one venture to call it ..sadistic.. '(Ibid.).
What mtroduces an eroticcomponent into the beating phantasy is the
revival or a precocious sadistic constitution. when the \\·ave: or guilt that
is both heir 10 the Oedipus complex and the means for its repression
transforms the love that the subject has for its father into denial of this
love. Being beaten by the father thus rcpr<scnls the fusion of the trend
representing guilt and the trend representing the erotic and now sado-
146 language and 1he Origins of Psychoana/>'sis
masochistic - pleasure derived from the relationship with the father.
That is:

MY~ " t>e.u:ng,.,.

My lath• lova me
Mv f1th• dottn't love '"4

Pre Oedipal Po11Otdlpal

As Freud noted, on the face of things, one would appear to be able to

move from 'phase I' (our proposition 4) - 'My father is beating the
child. whom I hate' - to phase 3 (our proposition 6) - 'A child is being
beaten' - by placing all the emphasis on the main clause and omittiog
the dependent clause. Such a procedure would give no explanation of
the decidedly erotic element that accompanies the evocation of the
phantasy (phase 3). How can one take account of this 'affect' in the
formulation of the proposition?
To dojust that we must make the detour that we have outlined above:
demonstrate that the passage from propositions 4 to 6 passes by the
unconscious masochistic phantasy of being beaten by the father, a
phantasy which represents both the repression of the Oedipal love and
its ·return', its satisfaction on the level of the anal-sadistic orgaoiz.
ntion." In contrast, then. with the schema set out in ' Instincts and their
Vicissitudes', the sequence of transformation that occupies the centre of
the stage is that associated with love/hate, beating only entering in as
rcprcsen1ing egotis1ical interests. or as a means. revived •after the
event'. of endowing this guilt-sponsored proposition with a pleasurable
component. M asoc:hism is a spin·otf of the vicissitudes of the Oedipus
complex: its propositional analysis is entirely dependent upon the
v!Ossitudes of propositions representing Oedipal love.
Freud had foreshadowed the dominance of the Oedipus complex in
his paper of 1915. when be bad discussed the restriction of the term
'love' to a 'mature'. perhaps even 'genital'. relation of the ego to the
objcc1. concluding 1hat:

The fact that we arc not in the habit of saying of a single sexual
instinct that ii loves its object, but regard the relation of the ego to its
sexual object as the most appropriate case in which to employ the
Grammar 147
word ' love' - this fact teaches us that the word can only begin to be
applied in this rcl:ltion after there has been a synthesis of all the
component instinclS of sexuality under the primacy of the genitals
and in the service of the reproductive function. (Freud ( 1915c) SE
XJV 137- 8)

With love restricted to the arena of the genital and that of the 'wbole-
cgo'. the dominance of the Oedipus complex. as an extension of the
'int.rests' of the ego. entails a lesser emphasis on the vicissitudes of the
component instincts. Hence the shift of emphasis we have found, from
' lnstinclS . . .'to '"A child is being beaten"'. In the former, a simple
proposition, representing a component-instinct, sadism, suffers a series
of grammatical lnl.nsformations ( 1- 3). thus giving rise to masochism. In
the paper on beating phantasics, all such component-instincts must be
subordinated 10 the Oedipus complex, with its dominant 'instinct', love.
Let us now layout, in a schema, thewholcofthesct of propositions that
arc necessary in order to gi"e rise to ·a child is being beaten'.
Trrnd A Trtnd 8

A1 t tow mv lelhfl' Bl l~t him

A2 My l11hf!r IO\'t!l nll 82 t bNt mvself

A3 My ta1htr IO't'ft onlv m.e 83 He ls beating me

~f hlte 1h1 Olhtr child

A31. My ltthet h b111lno jI "
A3t>.Mv lither
'"' chiJd• ...mom t h•tt f do"n'1
I tovt me

A4. My '""" It b<.~nt-•,,_,.,., 8 4 / " " ' I• buli"l me

ABS. (My ftth.,. is bt111lng • d'!Ucl)

A86. A ctuld fl being beaten

Trtnd A • Ari egotliltlctt. OtC:ltP911nd 01fth1l 1rtnd

Tr~ 8•A..,lscC1.nd trotic ttn

No1t Freud's basic schema was:

I. My father is beating the child (whom I hate) • A3a

2. My father is beating me = A4 plus 84
3. A child is beating beaten • AB6
148 language and the Origins of Psycltoonalysls
The sequence B can only give rise to masochism when combined with
sequence A. The vicissitudes of'love' take on the supreme position: all
other instinctual propositions have to be read as clauses conditional
upon the lo'e and the hate that the subject brings to his first true objects,
mother and father.
We can now return to the sequence that Freud took u his starting
point: AJa via A4/B4 to AB6. Our diagram indicates that this sequence
is not the result or a straightforward linear series of transformations.
Freud's text had shown that further propositions (e.g. AJ) have to be
introduced in order to make sense.of the sequence. Freud was obviously
attracted to the notion or a simple linear sequence or transformations,
such a sequence being both clinically plausible and grammatically
appealing. His own demonstration, while making USC or further
proposit.ions to demonstrate the 'logic' of the clinically derived
sequence ( though bow clinically based this sequence was we shall
examine in some detail shonly), thus undermined the idea that these
sequences had come about by simple linear transformation. We thus
perceive a struggle between the desire for a grammatically simple and a
clinically verifiable sequence. The idea set out in ' Instincts and their
Vicissitudes-. set out there with grammar in mind. proved 10 be
inadequate to the complications introduced by the Oedipus complex.
Or. rather. we could say that the notion of grammatically simple
sequencing could be made to •fit' the data, but only at the cost of the
over-formal clarification we have given. Freud, perhaps wisely. es-
chewed the formalism that the idea of grammatical transformation
leads to, being able to order bis clinical material and his instinctual
hypotheses without its aid at all stages or the argument. But there is no
doubt that be staned the paper by giving the impression that the
conscious beating pbantasy was 1he end product of a si mple sequence of
iransformations. When he came to examine this sequence. he found it to
be inadequate. Not only was there a clause missing - ' .. . whom I
hate' - that betrayed a confluence of Oedipal and sadistic currents, but
the imponant phase 2 - lhat is, A4 'My father is beating me' - does not
arise dirCC11y from the first phase. As we sec from the schema. they both
arise from a more primary proposition: ·My father loves only me.
H.-ing given this reconstruction of the method of propositional
analysis employed by Freud, we should take account of the change that
this brings to the practice or analysis. In Chapter 3, WC saw that the
introduction or the Oedipus complex as the central txpla1101ory concept
of psychoanalysis put somewhat at a distance the detail that makes
analysis 'convincing' or ' intelligible', putting a premium on the
Grammar 149
simplifica1ioo- perhaps even 1he reductionism - that the mooo1onous
story of mama and papa auains. II is on Ibis level. the level of
simplification and explanation. rather 1han lhe level of de1ail and
io1crprctatioo, that the propositional analysis is found. To say that the
Oedipus complex came to take a central place in a.II psychoanalytical
work is 10 fail to highlight the sub1lc change in psychoanalysis: 'clinical'
papers came lo take on a more and more abs1ract quality, in which 1he
mc1hod of proposilional analysis was a wooden horse by which 1he
Oedipus complex was introduced iolo the citadel of1he neurosis, while
giving the impression tha1 one remained close 10 1hc clinical material.
But, as we have seen, in so far as the Oedipus complex entailed that all
propositions include a conditional clause, ii in1roduccd complica1ions
for a propositional analysi.s, complica1ions such 1ha1 1he method
became 100 clumsy 10 handle. In consequence, we mi,ght hypo1hcsize
1ha1 1hc initial explicit use of 1he method was never 1uroed to great
accoun1 in lhe mid 1920s and later precisely because ii would have
proved 100 unwieldy. lo addition, we should note 1ha1 the melhod gives
rise to a series of questions which prove difficuh 10 answer. for example,
what is the ' ma1crial' out of which these proposi1ions arc constructed,
such that one can treat them as linguis1ic propositions? In languages
which display a very diJTercnt syn1actical s1ructurc. how is one 10 make
1hc rules of uansformatioo apply? Arc we 10 expect that the 'mechan-
isms of defence wiU be differen1 in different languages?
What we have called proposi1ional analysis bears an inlerestiog
rcla1ion to wha t Freud, in a ·late paper, called the ' method of
If. in accounts of analytic technique, so liulc is said about 'construc-
tions' that is because ' interpretations' and their effects arc spoken of
instead. But I think tha1 'construction' is by fur the more appropriate
description. ' Interpretation' applies 10 some1hing that one does 10
some single clement of the material, such as an associa1ion or a
parapraxis. Bui ii is a 'construction' when one lays bare before lhc
subject of 1be analysis a piece of his early bis1ory lhal be bas
fo rgouen ... (Freud (1937d) SE XX lll 261)
We might express the relation between the 1wo methods as follows:
propositional analysis is to lhc me1hod or constructions what lhc
mc1hod of constructions is 10 in1erpre1a1ion. Jus1 as a construction is
meant to unify into one account, into one narrative, a number of
incidcn1s. which each reprcsen1 ·ins1inc1ual positions'. and each of
which has been arrived a1 by one or more in1crprcrn1ions, so does
I SO langlltl(/t and tk Origins of P1yd1oanalysis
propositional analysis attempt to synthesize a number of constructions
into one sequence. The hypothesized propositions will hopefully cover a
class of analytic 'types' - for instance, masochists - being intended as a
gmeralized account of the transforms needed to pass from an cartier
position to a later. Both constructions and propositional analysis put
themselves at a distance· from empirical detail, in the interests of
generalization. With this distance from 'the facts' came a difference in
the conditions which the proposed explanation was required to meet.
Quoting again from• "A child is being beaten"':

This second phase ' I am bei.n g beaten by my father' is the most

important and the most momentous of all. But we may say of it in a
certain sense that it has never had a real existence. It is never
remembered, it has never succeeded in becoming conscious. It is a
construction of analysis, but it is no less a necessity on that account.
(Freud (1919c) SE XVII 185)

Just as the Oedipus complex began to take on an importance,

regardless or its immediate applicability to the individual case (or. in
later disputes. to an individual culture). so the propositioDS posited as
giving rise 10 or representing clinical material seem 10 lack empirical
confirmation, but nonetheless are 'necessary'. A similar sort or necessity
belongs 10 the l"YChoanalytic theory or the phases or the development
of the libido:

It was only with the help of the psychoanalytic investigation of the

neuroses that it became possible to discern the still earlier [pre-
genital] phases of the development of the libido. These are notb.ing
but constructions. to be sure, but if you carry out psychoanalysis in
practice, you will find that they are necessary and useful construc-
tions. (Freud (1916- 17) SE XVI 326)

In the light of our equation between the simple proposition's verb and
an iDStinct, to which wiU CO<TeSpond a phase of libidinal devclopmmt,
we sec the 'closeness of fit' between the necessity for postulating a
certain phase in ·"A child is being beaten" · and the n=ity for
postulating tbesc stages of the development or the libido.
But what sort of ncc..Sity is thls? Let us bricfly cxaminc the different
modes of explanatory necessity that Freud employed. In his papers of
the 1890s. he invoked a fonn of necessity pertaining to an economy of
explanation of the manifest signs or symptoms of a neurosis, particu-
Grammar 151
larly when be spoke of !be facl lha1 sympioms have a meaning. He
Sl8led in 1896:

... 1be aetiological preiensioos of the infan1ilc scenes rest not only
on lhe regularity of !heir appearance in the anamncscs of hyslerics,
bul. above all, on the evidence of there being associative and logical
tics belwecn those scenes and the hyslcrical symploms. (Freud
(1896c) SE Ill 210)

Jn order to explain why lhe symptoms toke 1he form !hey do, ii is
necessary to embark upon a prolonged inquiry into the mea11i11g of the
symptom. From ibis. arises whal we might call 'hcrmeneulic necessily':
the long and arduous search for the meaning of a symp1om will ensue in
a necessity being altributed to the clements 1ha11oge1her go 10 make up
lhc s1ory or incidents that the symptom recounts. ' Hermeneutic
neccssi1y' bears much upon the details of a case.
The second type of neccssiiy also appears to arise out of close work
with detail, wi1b the products of inlerpretatioo. This second form arose
naturally out of !be first, although they arc logically quite dislioct. This
second form pertains to a 1emporal order: certain prehistoric events not
only appear to be inextricably bound up with the character of
symptoms, but also appear to function as 'necessary conditions' for
their coming into being. These events appear not only to be hermeneutic
factors, but also aeliological factors. But lhe relationship between these
events and the symptoms is not a simple causal one, as the concept of
Nac/11r/Jgllchkei1 indicates. But this form of neccssi1y docs seem to be of
a 1cmporal order, even if we would not wish 10 speak of it as causal
necessity. An example. of lhis form of necessity would be lhe manner in
which Freud suggested to the Ratman that he had indulged in
masturbation in his infancy, a suggestion that was meant to explain a
peculiar midnighl ritual and which then eliciled a memory of his infancy
in which he had ftown into a rage with bis fa1her.1hc putative prohibitor
oftbe masturbation and thus a suitable object for rage. (Freud (1909d)
SEX 204- 5.)
Such necessity belongs to the order ofconstruction. Construction and
interpretation both share those forms of necessity pertaining to the
manner in which an array of evidence is meshed wilh certain ex-
plana1ory entities - whether the latter be 'meanings' in general {Dora's
jewel-case and re1iculc arc cx:plaioed in a loose manner by being referred
to thought-activity concerning her genitals) or pas1 incidents (the Wolf
Man's dreams refer to a set of events, none of which can be brought
152 la11guage and the Origins of Ps)>ehoanalysis
(back) to consciousness, these dreams acting as the witnesses for
positing that these events 'took place', even to the point where the
conviction of the patient will be the phenomenological correlate of this
explanatory necessity).
But we are concerned more with yet another form of necessity, for
which 'empirical considerations· arc of secondary importance. This
necessity arises from the need to find a simple sequence of the basic
propositions of the neurosis. Ao incomplete S<quence of propositions
would be of little value. Hence it becomes nec<.~ry to postulate the
existence of intermediary and. perhaps more importantly, 'junction'
propositions. Freud's problem in the paper on beat ing phnntasics was
simple: how can one demonstrate the sequence by which beating. at first
only egotist ical in character. could become an erotic event. His answer
was to postulate the existence of an intermediary proposition that could
also function as thejunction between two different instinctual trends. In
this way. ' M y father is beating me' came lo function as a 'switch·
proposition': but not in the patient's associations this time, rather in the
analyst's theoretical schema. Without the constructed proposition, one
cannot inject the necessary erotic component into the idea of beating;
without the constructed propositions one cannot pass in an unbroken
sequence from one proposition to another. We might call this type of
necessity. 'architectonic' or 'structural' necessity.
It is clear that ' architectonic necessity' can be of importance when an
analyst olTcrs his patient a construction. Freud intimated as much when
he spoke of the 'false combinations (irrige Kombina1iont11)' that the
analyst is q uitc likely lo offer. When an analyst conjectures that the birth
of a sibling occasioned the transfer of alTections from the mother to the
father, he is obviously postulating an event in accordance with certain
constraints arising from the propositions or early instinctual positions
that have already been established. together with constraints stemming
from a theory concerning what sort of early events might conceivably be
an intermediary stage between those phases already known to be of
importance in any given case. With propositional analysis. the influence
of theoretical constraints is that much more marked. 11 is the proximity
of the basic propositions to the level of instincts that both acts as an
incentive to the development of propositional analysis. and acts as a
constraint upon the sort of propositions and sort of transformations
that might be acoeptablc in its employment. We will return to this topic
at the end of the chapter. in ordertoclarifywhat might be the criteria for
acccpling a proposition as 'primal '.
Let us here return to the manner in which these three varieties of
Grammar 153
ncccssily bear upon lheconcretee.i<ample oflhc beating·phanlasies. ll is
clear thal Freud took very liule account of lhe manifesl symptoma·
tology of the cases be used to construct the prOJ>O$itional sequence
engendering the 'neutral' phantasy acrually found in analysis. He gives
linle or no empirical justification in and of itself for pos1ulating phase 2
(proposition 5). ln other words. neither 'temporal' nor ' hermeneutic'
necessity plays a significant role in lhe analysis of the phantasy
structure. As Freud observed,
The nnalytic physician is obliged to admit to himself that to a great
extent these phanlasies subsist apart from the rest of the content of
the neurosis, and find no proper place in its structure. (Freud (19 I 9e)
SE XV!I 183)
We can conclude that the form of nccessily pertaining to the mode of
explanation found in S1udies on Hys1eria and the earlier works on lhe
neuroses. namely the postulation of certain uncon!iCious elemen1s in
order to unify diverse manifest signs of a neurosis, plays liulc part in the
analysis of the beating-phantasies. What is of importance is the
ncccssity imposed. on the one hand. by the theory of the instincts and
lheir different developmental phases, and. on the other hand, by a
principle of architeclonic simplici1y, whose concomi1an1 is a concern
wilh the order of grammatical transforma1ions performed upon lhe
'primal' instinctual representatives.
These different forms of'nccessi1y' correspond to dilTerenl forms of
explanalion found in psychoanaly1ic work. Thus. when we lalk of
dilTercnl forms of'neccssi1y' being used, we are referring to lhe mixlure
of modes of explanation thal migh1 make up any given piece of
psychonnalytic work. That dilTerent types of explanalion may be
combined when at work on a specific piece of ma1erial should come as
no surprise. Whal our inves1iga1ion here shows is lhot one type of
·nccessily', pertaining lo an inlcmal logic of an explanation which is
concerned with the relations bclween construc1cd propositions, was the
dominanl mode in ·"A child is being bca1cn" · and perhaps in other
papers where the propositional logic of lhc neurosis was al the
forefront. The internal logic refers to lhe sequence of lransfortnations
pcrfonned upon a given instinctual position.
Such lransformalions correspond lo the mechanisms of defence. One
otlcn infers their existence upon most indirect C\'idcncc, in accordance
wi1h criteria of simplici1y and uniformi1y. The procedure is parallel to
lhal adopled in explaining lhe genesis or certain manifest forms of
spoken language: a grammar is posiled lhOl governs the possible
I S4 Language and the Origins of PJ~hoana/yJis
transfonnations of a given sentence. More pointedly. givc:o the concept
of 'corutruction' in psychoanalysis. the grammarian infers an inter-
mediate fonn, or set ofsuch forms, between a 'primitive' sentence and a
manifest one. And such intermediate forms would never be attributed to
the con!ciou•ncss of native speakers. Note that any subsequent
temporal articulation of these distinct forms upon a chronological
dimension is predicated upon their first having been ordered according
to the admi5'ible laws of transformation.
The parallelism of method between the grammarian and the psycho-
analyst is not the most interesting feature of our discussion. Rather,
the fact thlll the analyst's objects are sentences - either ones that have
been spoken in analysis, or ones that represent the ideal types of
numerous similar sentences-justifies our treating the activity of
construction and interpretation as - 10 coin a term - a 'metagram-
matical' one.
But metagrammatical analysis is not primarily focused on the
patient's uneraoces - indeed, one hardly needs 10 refer to the patient's
utterances. The examples we have analysed arc schemata correspond-
ing. perhaps, to 'inSlinC1ual representatives', rather than being pivotal
moments in the discourse of analysis. Cenainly the analyst would like
the patient 10 be able to incorporate the propositions into his own
speech, to recognize them as the clearest po5'ible statement of what he
had repressed, and 10 be able to accept them as such, in order to judge
them and hence forget them, instead of repressing them anew and thus
'remembering' them. Such a passage from saying to judging would then
mark a psychic full-stop 10 that episode of rhetorical persuasion on
behalf of the analysand. A further example of the method of pro-
positional analysis, or mctagrammatical con5truc1ion, will indicate both
the fertility of the method and its distance from any analysis of the
speech of the patient.
The startiiig-point of the analysis of bcating-phantasics was a
scn1cnoc spoken in analysis: ' a child is being beaten', From there, the
analytic argument leaves all reference to the speech of the patient to one
side, following out the implications of a propositional analysis. lo the
case-history of President Schreber, there is not even this spoken (or
written) starting-point. Propositional analysis acts strictly at the level of
a dedue1ive stn1C1ure of the paranoia, with only the most general
reference to the clinical detail. Freud's proposiuonal model was
intended 10 contribute to a general theory of the paranoiac psychoses.
All of these, he thought, arise from the repression of a primary ' idea', a
'primal sentence', expressive of homosexual love. The idea that suffers
Grammar 155
repression and subsequent transformation can best be expressed in the
form of a simple sentence: ·1 love him". The return or the repressed
ncccssanl)' takes the form of a compromise between the force attached
to this idea and the force of the censoring ego: the means by which this
compromise is effected arc the grammatical transformation or the
primal sentence. Each of the three elements of the sentence might be the
point or application of this grammatical operation . But each of these
three operations must give rise to a proposition that is in conformity
with a principle peculiar to paranoia, namely, that the repressed should
return rrom ' without'.
One way lo formulate this principle is lo say that the mechanism of
'projection' is the defence mechanism proper to paranoia. But, as we
shall sec. the mechanism of projection is not a necessary condition for
this group of transformations. Rather, one might wish to couch the
principle as follows: admissible transformations of the primal s.ntence
must not include the ruhjttt as first fNrson of tht statt mem." The most
common means by which this principle asserts itself in ·practice' is
through the replacement of the fiBt pcBOn pronominal subject ('I') by
the third person pronominal subject ('he', 'she or "1t'). ll is this
procedure that Freud followed in his discussion of the Schreber case.
(a) Firstly. the verb can be transformed, and, as is so onen the case wit I\
Freud's more formal considerations of defence mechanisms. the
fundamental transformation is "turning into its opposote'. Thus the verb
'love· becomes 'h.ate':
I. I love him I 2 • Defence: Turning

2. I hnte him 24
} into its opposite
2- 3 • 'Projection'. or Principle
3. He hates me ...
therefore I bate him 25
} of the exclusion of the
fiBl person subject

The coosequeoce of this double transformation is the classic clinical

form of paranoia: delusions of persecution.
(b) S«ondly, the objec1 can be transformed:
I. I love him } 1- 2 - Defence: Turning into
its opposite
2. I love lrer
2- 3 = Principle of the exclusion
3. She loves me ...
therefore I love her } of the Rru person subject
I 56 Language and the Origins of Psyrhoanalysis
The clinical picture arising from this transforma11on of 1he objcc1 of
1he sentence is <rotoma11ia: compulsive falling in love wilh objcclS of 1he
opposiir sex. The clinical picture corresponds 10 2. Bui each of these
oompulsive affairs. F reud noted. stans 001 with an interior perception
of loving. bul wi1h an external perception of being loved. Thus 1he fully
'projcc1cd' sentence, no. 3, chronologically precedes 1he full c~njcal
pic1urc. The 11ccen1 falls o n the activily of 1he subjcc1 ('/love /,.r'). in a
way thnt is not the case in paranoia. where persecution is more
prominent than the subjcc1's hatred of1hc persccu1ors. Freud explained
1his by pointing o ul 1ha1 ' the in1ermedia1e proposition " I love her'' can
also become conscious, because the contradiction bctv.1cc11 it and the
o rig.inal proposition is no1 a diametrical one. not so irreconcilable as
1h111 b<:1wccn love and hate: it is, after all, possible 10 love her as well as
him.' (Freud (191 lc) SEXll 63.) In other words. when it is a question of
transformation of objects, the principle of the exclusion of the first
person subject is not rigorously binding.
(c) Thirdly, the subject of the sentence can be transformed:
I. I love him 1- 2 = Defence: Turning into iis

2. She loves him

} opposite
2- 3 = Projection, or Principle of

(3. She lovea him) } the exclusion of the first

person subject
Since this proposition already includes the third person as subject -
i.e. ii is couched in the form of an external perceptio n - ii requires no
further transformation beyond slage 2. Thal is, this is 1he form of
' paranoia' 1ha1 docs no1 involve projection, allhough ii still conforms 10
1he principle of 1he exclusion of the ftrsl perso n subjec1. The symp1oms
produced by 1his lransformation are 1hose of pathological jealousy.
(d) Fourihly. 1hc whole scn1enoe can be 1ransformcd, 1hus highligh1ing
1he distinction be1ween the subjec1 of 1he enuncia1ion and the subject of
the s1a1emcn1 tha1 is implicit in the principle of exclusion of the first
person subject:

Now. ii might be supposed that a proposition consisting of three

1ermssuch as '//ouhim", could only becon1radictcd in 1httcdilfere01
ways. Delusions of jealousy contradict 1he subject, delusions of
persccu1ion con1radict the verb, and ero1omania con1radicts the
object. But in fact a founh kind ofcontradiction is possible. - namely,
o ne which rejecls the proposition as a whole: ' / tlo 1101 Juve at all- I do
no1 /011e°''J'
CH1e'. And since, after all one's libido must go somewhere,
Granimar 157
this proposition seems to be the psychological equivalent of the
proposition: ' I love only mysclr'. ( Ibid., SE XII 64- 5)

h is interesting to ti)' and reformulat< the rath<r crude principle that

Freud made use of her<: 'ones libido must go somcwh<r<'. In terms of
the distinction we have made between the subject of the statement and
the subject of the enunciation, ' rejection of the proposition as a whole' is
equivalent to the refusal of the subject of the enunciation 10 'enounce'.
This refusal can take two forms, corresponding to two different
'r<adings' of the proposition, ' I love only mysclr'. The first reading
conforms to the principle of the exclusion of the first person subject,
being equivalen t to a radical rupture of the relation between the subjec.t
of the enunciation and the subject of the statement ('the ego' in this
example): ' He (my ego) loves only himself'. This would correspond to
what Freud called ·sexual overvaluation of the ego'. and would be the
·noisy' version of megalomania - it is as if the libido of the subject is
trapped within the ego, compktdy lacking a relation 10 the subject of
the enunciation. Such a reading of ·cxtrove"· megalomania would
cmphaStze the manner in which the frenzied proclamation of selfhood,
oft he ' r. forecloses the subject from any place in the order oflanguage.
The second reading would correspond to a refusal to recognize the
possibility of there being any di.r1inc1i()I! between the subject of the
statement and the subject of the enunciation; this time it is the subject of
the statement that suffers foreclosure. Such a situation is altogether
more difficult to represent in a proposition: the following version may
give some hint of this confused, unordered situation: ' I (that is. me) love
only myself (that is, me)'. The introverted side of megalomania -
carn1onic silence - corresponds to 1his refusal 10 come out of an order
1hai has collapsed the essential dualism of language into a homogeneous
reality, where ()Iffy self-referring ontological units arc permissible, and
which thus refuses the absence around which language is built. Such a
position might correspond to the 'ejacula1oiy speech' that Jackson
contrasted with 'propositionizing'.
With this example drawn from the Schreber case, ii is quite clear that
the method or propositional analysis can be employed completely
independently of the direct speech of the analysand. The system of
propositions and their grammatical transformations correspond to the
nucleus of the neurosis and govern its rigid and repetitive structure. But
the grammar of the neurosis and the speech of the patient can be
brought close to one another: the phrase ·a child is being beaten· was the
spoken starting-point for analysis. tr we now turn to an example that
158 language and the Origin.t of Psychoanal)'sis
was never analysed as formally as those we have been discussing up to
now. we will see more clearly the manner in which transformations of a
'primal sentence' can both pervade the structure of behaviour and be
analysed by its appearance in spoken analysis.
It is a question of a sentence that formed a nodal point in Freud'sself-
analysis. Three of the most important dreams in The lni.rpretation of
Drtanu were dreams of self-justification: the 'dream of Irma's injec-
tion', the 'dream o f the botanical monograph', nnd the 'Non Vixit'
dream. The need for self-justification stemmed of\en from disputes with
colleagues, from feelings of guilt about professional j udgements, from
mortifying comparisons with admired friends and colleagues - men
who of\en had not Lived to fulfil the pro mise that Freud had seen fo r
them and which he had inherited from them. ' 6 The infantile experience
that formed the back-drop for all these later dreams involved a dispute
with his nephew John, a year older than himself, when he was four.
The curiously roundabout character of the account Freud gave of the
incident. having already broken up the analysis ofthe· Non Vixlt' dream
into two portions, separated by sixty pages of text, indicates a degree of
distortion, indeed of grammatical transformation, active even as he
"'rote the account. Bearing in mind the argument of this chapter, the
switch in the narrative from the third to the first pcnon is especially of
note: it perhaps corresponds to a "Victory' over the Principle of
Exclusion of the First Person Subject, to a mastery of the tendency to
justify oneself by n ·projection' of lhe subject of the deeds in question, to
a reversal of the vilificatio n of others by which self-j ustificution achieves
its ends.
For the p urpose of dream-interpretation let us assume that a
childhood memo ry arose, or was constructed in phantusy, with some
such content as the following. The two children had a dispute about
some object. (What the object was may be lef\ an open question,
though the memory or the pseudo-memory had a quite specific one in
view.) Each of them claimed to have got there before the other aod
therefore to have a bener right to it. They came to blows and might
prevailed over right. On theevidenccofthedrca m, I may myself have
been aware that I was in the wrong. However, this time I was stronger
and remained in possession of lhe field. The vanquished party hurried
to his grandfather - my father - and complained about me, and I
defended myself in the words which I know from my father's account:
' I hit him 'cos he hit me'. {Freud (1900a) SE V 483)
T he sentence, ' I hit him 'cos he hit me' - '/ch habe /1111 gelagt , weil er
Grammar 159
mich gt/ag1 hat' - is the 'intermediate element in the dream-thoughts,
which gathered up the emotions raging in them as a well collects the
water that ftows into it'. (Ibid .. 484.) Its very baldness, its very
inability to be misconstrued, DOCC$Sitated the distortions that made up
the dream, represented in condensed form by the replacement of the
living letter ·v· by the dead lcner 'x' in the inscription, Non Vivi1. The
distortions of later years. found in the analyses of the dreams, are again
transformations of the grammatical simplicity of the original sentence.
Thus they move from the compensatory equality of the original, with its
symmetry and its punitive causality (introduced by ·,.·ei/'), to the
egotistic finality of ' It serves you ri&ht if you have to make way for me.
Why did you try and push mt out ofthewdy? I don't need you, I can easily
find someone else to play with.' And from there to the ne.tt level of
distortion, a colloqualism from a foreign language. thus two removes
from thcclarityof thechildish claim fortalionjuslicc: 'Ote-toi qULje m 'y
mellt.' The final transformation of this sentence is a pure CJtamplc of
sublimation, that auempt 10 freeze desire into cultural form: 'As he was
ambitious, I slew him.' ( Ibid .. pp. 423- 5.)
The discomfort we reel when confronted by the belligerent child is
replaced, at fo urth remove, by the exquisitely judged conceit of a man
whose right to decide life and death, if tortured, at least cannot be
denied. We can hypothesize that, when the 14-year-old Sigismund came
to play Brutus to the 'vanquished party's' Caesar, the 'cadence' (Klang)
of the speech he uttered led him back. to that other sentence, uttered
when he was three years old, and, at that very moment, a movemem of
distortion, of disguise, operated, and continued to operate, so that those
words of Brutus' would become a permanent and obscurely evocative
memorial to an event whose meaning now lay hidden. Freud's
consequent identification with the slayer of Caesar. represented by the
intense aesthetic value altachcd 10 the words from Shakespeare, would
be the conscious and symptomatic evidence of both the prehistoric event
and its repression. Ycl bow are we to trace this distortion, if not by the
subtle shills of grammatical structure - which sometime go under the
name or style - the thread that runs from the bald simplicity of the
nursery rhyme to the metaphysical gossamer web that the poet spins.
Or, alternatively, to the disarming dishonesty of the witticism:

I was delighted to survive, and I gave expression to my delight with all

the naive egoism shown in the anecdote of the married couple one of
whom said to the other: 'Ifone of us dies, I shall move to Paris.'(lbid.,
p. 485)
160 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
Each of these "allusions' that make up the series of associations is
structured OD the model Of the infantile sentence "I hit him "cos he hit
me". What unites them is a single 'deep' grammatical structure - what
Freud called their ·Satrbm/ - through which a retributive egotism can
be cAprcssed. A conditional clause provides reasons for the act whose
•true· reason always lies elsewhere, indeed whose 'true' reason seems to
be overshadowed by the absolute quality of its assertion. The mode
of constructicm" is the connecting link between all these dilTerent
associations: the form of thought, also the same in these examples. is
inseparably linked to the grammatical structure. such that we may
regard the series of associations as transforms performed upon this one
Dul how 'primal' is this sentence. ' I hit him 'cos he hit me'? Freud
certainly gave the impressicn in The Int•rpretat/011 of Dreams that this
proposition forms the core of the dream·t.houghts, the infantile residue
that allows the dream to take place. And the theme of the dream, male
friendship. is well CO\ered by the sentence. But what of Jin le Pauline, the
third member of the triangle. who might ,..ell be covered by the tcnn
'object'. if not oo that specific occasion. ccnainly on many others?"
Perhaf>$ there arc deeper layers waiting for interpretation. as indicated
when Freud came to repeat the allusion to Julius Catsar in a note added
to the case-history of the Ratman: •... these words (Brutus· speech]
strike us as rather strange, and fo r the very reason that we had imagined
Brutus's feeling for Caesar as something deeper." (Freud (1909d) SE X
180.)' 0 Are we to conclude, then, that the primal sentence is not primal,
because there are hints of ·something deeper' that underlies 1he
attenuated fo rm fo und in Shakespeare. and, also, by implication, in its
original nursery form?
So what isa pri mal sentence. or, more precisely, what weight does the
lcrm 'primal' have'/ In the discussion of the four examples we have used
in this chapter. the primal senlence was tak<n to be the first sentence in a
sequence of transfonna1ioos. This seems to have been Freud's practice
whtn ht discussed the uaosfonnation of sadism into masochism. and of
voyeurism into exhibitionism in 'lostincts and th<ir Vicissiludes'. It is
ccnainly true 1hat transformations always ha•e a temporal dimension;
1ransformation from p to q can quite generally be used to eAplain why
q followed p. This temporal dimension. ho1<-cvcr. is not always the
dimension of theoretical imponaocc. along which a lransformation
opera1es. What is some1imes of more int<rcst for instance in the
Schrcbcr case- is the dimension from 'deep' unconscious to conscious.
Indeed, in his discussion of the transformations in 1he Schreber case,
Grammar 161
Freud gave no temporal marking at all, indicating no temporal location
for the sequence by which Scbrebcr's paranoia was produced. We thus
ha,·e two dimensions of theoretical int<rest upon which transform-
ational sequencing takes place: unconscious to conscious, and early to
late in the subject's development. In 'Instincts'. both of these dimen-
sion!! were left unspecified, so that we are presented solely with the
transformational apparatus itself. In the Schrcbcr case. the focus is
entirely on the dimension of'depth', from unconscious to conscious. In
'"A child is being beaten'", the transformational sequence receives
spccificntion along both the temporal and the depth dimensions. And in
the example drawn from the No11 Vi.ril dream, both dimensions are
again involved in a complex way. The obvious temporal ordering of'!
hit him 'cos he hit me· as earlier than 'As he wus nmbitious, I slew him'
serves as a ground for taking the thoughts concerned with the 'I hit
him .. .' as deeper in the processes underlying the formation of the
For transformations from depth to surface, it would seem that what is
pnmal is what is 'deep'. And for 1ransformations from early to late. it
would seem that what is ·first" is primal. We can now sec that the method
of transformational sequencing involves an abstraction - or. as in
' Instincts'. an under-specification - leaving to one side these two
dimensions of'depth' and 'time'. With this abstract and formal notion
of transformational sequence go two formal or abstrnct t'ritcria for what
is primal in a sequence of transformations: •cJoscncss to instinct' and
·grnmmaticul simplicity'. Because of the proximity of the notion of
Jnstinct 11s ·deep' and instinct as •early', 'closeness to instinct' gi\'CS a
criterion of primality which maps on to the dimension of depth and on
10 that or temporali1y. Grammatical simplicity is itself a purely formal
characteristic applicable to the base or any transformalional system.
But the 'closeness of fit' between a simple grammatical sentence and a
basic instinctual position as defined by Preud in ' Instincts' again
provides a criterion of 1he primal which coincides very closely with that
den\ed from the criterion of 'closeness to instinct'. Primal sen1enccs
would seem to correspond cl=ly to the dcfiniuon that Freud gave of
instinct when v.·c conceive of this definition in ·grammatical. terms:
pressure (essential Characteristic Of the \'Crh), Object, source and aim
(the latter two specifying the ·content" of the verb). We would certainly
not now accep1 as primal any sentence 1hat was couched on anything
other than the indicative, a criterion that approaches close to the
seemingly independent notion that the 'primal system'. that under the
sway ofthc primary process, knows no distinction between past, preseni
162 Language and th• Origins of Psychoanalysis
and future. lxtween wish and reality. lxtween optali\'e and indicative
(Freud (1900a) SE V 534-5. cf. (1909d) SEX 178 9).' 0 Thc grammar of
the unconscious has neither modes nor tcnSC$. And the idea of the
pnmal sentence including a conditional clause. although. 3'$ wc have
seen, necessitated by or equivalent lo the Oedipus complex (pro,idcd
that one of the clauses contains a direct derivnti\'e of the instine1 ually
ambisuous verbs, 'love' or 'hate'), would seem to lie on the borderline of
the primal. After all. we cannot expect the unconscious to 'if' or "but",
we cannot expect it to countenance an onric heterogeneity in its
reality. "
From our discussion of 1he deriva tives of a prima l sentence. still
unk nown. fo und in the Non Vi.<it dream. we observe that these
\ransformntions emerge in the guise of rationalizations, self·
justifications. the Aow of fine poetry and the underhand >ub1lcty of the
hon mot. Primal sentences become tran>formed into the later deriva-
tives that appear 10 consciousness through a process of distortion and
the introduction of syntactical complexity. The simple and childlike
ban le of wdls becomes in later life a play in which the knife 10 the back
takes place off stage. becomes a displaced shadowy web of half-
expresscd animosities.
But our analysis of"As be was ambitious, I slew him" involved great
ancntion to the 'spoken· set of associations derived from the given
dream-elements. The propositions were not ·constructions' of analysis.
What bound these elements together was their common grammatical
structure, a structure that thus corresponds to the core (or one of the
cores) of Freud's 'neurosis". But now this core has become mani fest in
the 'ta lk ' of analysis (or, in Freud's case, in his publications): il now
permeates that very clement that is supposed to free the subject of his
neurosis. Between the dialectical freedom of speech and the analytical
fixity of neurosis, a third and intermediate sort of language emerges: a
speech that is structured in the same manner as the neurosis. By 11otiog
this fact. that sometimes the propositions formulated bytheorycoincide
with the sentences spoken in the session. we make clear the true
innovation of the /and the it, found in the 1923structural reformulation
of the metapsychology. The first person subject of a sentence. the ·r.
docs not cover our true nature: rather. dns Es. the grammatical term
which Nietzsche "habitually used •.• for whatc\tr in our nature is
impersonal and. so to speak. subject 10 natural law· (Freud (1923b) SE
XIX 23 n. 3). must Ix taken as the ·true· subject, a subject which will
occur unexpectedly in the unerances spoken in analysis: a fairy story
suffused by the mysterious phrase. ·1t came about that .. .'. or the
Grammar 163
emergence in language of a realm always beyond the ·r. when one says,
·Es triiumt mir .• :."The I and the it form the bridge between the
language of neurosis and the speech of analysis.
But the most important theoretical bridge between the unspoken
neurosis and the f= speech of the patient does not lie in the over-
lapping of "theoretical" and "observational" languages. Rather. it lies
in the transference. It is in the transference that the propos.itional
structure of the neurosis is translated into spoken words and thus forms
the intermediate stage between the neurosis and the cure.
One way in which Freud conceived of the transference runs as
follows. The transference represented a new edition of an old text
(Freud (1905e) SE VII 116). The new edition is ollen a 'euphemistic
transformation· or ·sublimation· (as Freud called it in his "Dora' case
history). lo so far as transferences are new editions of the Urttxt of tbe
neurosis. they are the most suitable material for the construction and
reconstrw:tion of the primal sentences that determine the structure of
the neurosis. Transferences owe their great importance to a number of
features; here, I wish to sel<et one: their recent origin. They arc the
activation of the ' permanent text' of the neurosis in a ·novel' form.
Certainly their ptrsuasi<t function in analysis is paramount ( Freud
(1912b) SE XII 108). But, according to Freud. they should be restricted
as far as possible to the sphere of language rather than that of action.
Recollection (in words) must predominate over acting out. And this is
precisely because of two features of acting out: firstly, it is not reflected
upon, whereas the canons of reflexivity are built into spoken language.
Secondly, any actin,g out that does take place must be translated back
into trains of verbal thought. We might lake us our exemplar of this
procedure the analysis of bungled actions set out in The Psycho-
pathology of £ver»day Life. One such example involved Freud
picking up a tuning fork from his desk, instead of the hammer be
intended to take hold of. The interpretation ran:

The =or of picking up the tuning fork instead of the hammer could
thus be translated into words as follows: "You idiot ! You ass! PuU
yourself together this time. and see that )'Ou don ·1 diagnose hysteria
again where thcrc·s an incurable illness, as you did, years ago with the
poor man from the same placer . . .. II will be observed that this
time it was the voice of self-criticism which was making itself heard in
the bungled action. (Freud (1901b) SE VI 166)

The action is only understood when a verbal 1rnnsla1ion of its

164 Language and the Origi111 of P•y<hoatta/J'Jis
meaning has been given. Jo addition, the action only becomes a
'significant action', of the sort psychoanalysis deals in, owing toa verbal
chain that can find suitable expression in the bungled action. Otherwise,
we arc dealing with a mistake. and there is no more to be said. This
phenomenon involves what Freud called "linguisiiccompliancc·. assum-
ing great importance in another passage in The PJychopathology:

Every time we make a slip in talking or writing we may infer that there
hns been a disturbance due to mental processes lying outside our
intention. but it must be admitted that slips of the tongue and of the
pen often obey the laws of resemblances, of indolence or of the
tendency to haste, without the disturbing element succeeding in
imposing any part of its own character on the resulting mistake in
speech or writing. It is the compliance of the linguistic material which
alone makes the determining of the mistakes possible and at the same
time sets the limits up to which the determining can go. (Ibid .. pp.
221 - 2.)H

Herc Freud indicates that the limits of the field of anal)'>is are set by
the field oflanguagc: what is not within that field docs not admit of a
signifirant connection between cause and effect, only its 'necessary
conditions' being spcci6cable. Ae'ting out must be brought within the
field of language; as much as possible of the transference must be said,
not acted. In other words, emphasis upon the transference corresponds
ton fi•ing of the limits of the field of analysis as those oflanguage. What
was previously the sile~t object of analysis - the symptom, putatively
structured by transformations of primal sentences - is replaced by the
transference neurosis (Freud (1914g) SEXll 154). But this new neurosis
must be made to 'talk' if its creation is to be marked as a gain. The
advantage of the transference neurosis is that the phantasy·slructure
generated by the deformations of the primal sentences coalesces around
the object that is present, 10 which the seducing words are impotently
offered. A dialogue can ensure that these words do not once again
become frozen into symptoms. so that the ephemeral character ofwords
is restored to them. so that they will no longer be emblcmatically fixed -
no matter with \\•hat serious loving int~nt - to imaginary objects. J•
Perhaps we can now reformulate the dl\ergencc wnb which "'e
opened this chapter by drawing upon the grammatical mode of analysis
we have discussed. The language of the symptom could be conceived of
as a set of marks that arc structured b)' derivative) of pr; mu I sentences -
the core of the neurosis. T he la nguage that is spoken. when it is not itself
Gramnwr 165
symptomatic - when it is 001 the ctiche. 1he repe1i1ion of words heard
and 1endentiously forgonen. when ii is 001 complacen1ly and fearfully
rigid. in other words, when it does not retain the structure of 1he primal
scnlence - rejoices in its epbemerality, which it is hoped will allow it
some =ape from the blind insistence that characterizes the trans-
formed derivatives of the unconscious primal scnlenccs. Whal is said in
and by this spirit. this spirit embodied in Gtistlgk t/t». always bas 1he
charnc1er of a movement, impelled by powerful and invisible forces:
the change that 'saying it aloud"' engenders bears witness to the
ine~plicablc efficacy of speech in subverting a permanence that, before it
is dissolved, appears to be constitutive of the subject. Or, to return to the
simple beginnings, to the Studies°'' Hysteria, 'it is only with the last
words of the analysis that the whole clinica l picture vanishes'. ( Breuer
and Freud (I 895d) SE II 299.)
5 Philology
I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the
daughters of earth and things are the sons of heaven.
Dr Johnson'

How can man be the subject of a language 1ha1 fori ho usands of years
has been formed without him, a language whose o rganiu11ion escapes
him, whose meaning sleeps an almosl invincible sleep in the words be
momenlarily activates by means of disco urse, and within which be is
obliged. from the very outset, to lodge bis speech and though1. as
1hough Ibey were doing oo more than anima1c, for a brief period, one
ses-ni of lha1 web of innumerable possibili1ics?
Michel Foucaull (1966/70) p. 323

By now. our discussion has given rise 10 a backlog of only partially

answered ques1ions. Let us try to make some of them explicit. If
psychoanalysis was at its inceptio n so much concerned with language,
what were its relations with those sciences whose explicit aim was the
study of language? A reading of any psychoanalytic work of Freud's- a
dream-analysis, a case-history- would convince us of the great serious·
ness and importance attached to a playing wi1h words, to plays on
words, to the veering off of meaning that every analysis reveals. Was 1his
preoccupa1ion something to do with Freud's o wn individual make-up,
his own mental bent? Was it something peculiar to him tha1 allowcd all
1hcsc clevernesses? One answer would perhaps be that all ' thai' is a
nooessaryconscquencc of the nature of the unconscious. so that we can
a11ribu1c the uncomfonable preponderance of wha1 has to do with
words o••<r what has 10 do wi1h things to the hegemony of the
unconscious that the firs t psychoanalyst was the first to discover. Or arc
we 10 look elsewhere for the capacity 10 perceive as sigruficaot such
irresponsible playing with words?
II is a commonplace of the history of 1he human sciences in the
nineteenth century that biological or organic terms came lo dominate
many of the theories of society, of language, of psychology - either as
Philology 167
guiding metaphors or as working models.' h is less widely recognized
1ha1 the sciences of language - philology, exegetical sciences, compara-
tive linguistics. historical linguistics, call them Whal we will- played a
parallel and sometimes opposed role in lhe dcvclopmenl of lhe human
sciences.> John Burrow, in an article entitled 'The uses or philology in
Victorian England' (Burrow, 1967), argues lha1 the philological sciences
and the biological sciences were in a stale ofeompcliLion as to which was
to become Lhe dominant model fo r the human sciences. Analogies from
biology gave rise 10 a social evolutionist positivism, whereas a non-
ma1crialis1, non-progressionis1 trend of socia l thought gained i1s
support from philology and ils sister disciplines. Philology was the one
disciplino 1ha1 could provide an altema1ivc to 1he organic evolutionism
or the later nineteenth century, or lo the functionalist natural history or
the earlier half.
An altogether more ambitious historical hypothesis is lo be found in
Michel Foucault's w nuns et Its chous. Foucault argu"" that, with the
creation of the concept of ·man· al 1he beginning of the ninelcenlh
century, replacing the central ·category' of ·represcnlalion' lhrough
which eighteenth century sciences gained their unity. three scienccs -
biology. economics and philology- were constiluled that could each
provide possible models for the study of the new object. man. Thus
psychology was constituted on the basis of 1he pair of concepts
' function{norm', derived from biology; sociology was grounded on the
pair ·conflicl/rule', derived from economics: and the sciences of
lileraiurc were founded upon the pair 'signification/system', derived
from philology. Foucault also argues that borrowings from the other
1wo models could enrich the conceptual apparatus of a given
human science, and it is the possibility of these borrowings that permits
the debates between human scientists as 10 the proper foundations of a
given human science.
Foucaull gives a lime-scale for the period of dominance of each of
these three models: the organic model was obviously dominant in lbc
first hair or the century. as all tbe histories of sociology have argued.
Wilh Marx, the economic model is seen to become dominant. And, so
Foucault argues.· Freud more than anyone <lse brought the k.nowledge
of ma.n closest to its philological and linguistic modtl: ( Foucault.
1966/10. p. 361.) The exact time-scale of these •take-overs is of
relatively minor importance. Whal is clear is that a science of man could
take its concepts from one or more of these three disciplines. What of
h was the field oft he philological sciences that acted as a source and
168 language and thL Origins of Psychoanalysis
in.spiration for Freud's and psychoanalysis' preoccupation with Ian·
guage. This is not to deny the faC1 that Freud made nearly all his
discoveries with the material supplied to him by his neurotic patients.
But in this chapter we will find that the quality that Freud claimed was
1hc foundation of his discoveries - a certain courage. a certain bravery -
sccmed to nttd a certain mobilization. and that it was the philological
sciences that served for this purpose: they offered him a support in
external reality to which he could tum when plagued with doubt as to
the value of the discoveries he was making in mental reality. We will
discuss one example of the loss of nerve that was connected with one
episode in his use of philological evidence, and we will see in another
example that the audacity to follow out the logic of psychoanalytic
discoveries was intimately tied to the possibility of philological support
for this logic. Freud"s courage undoubtedly went much deeper than a
faith that ·someone has already said all this". But the exercise of h.is
courage was ofien inextricably bound up with a philology that
attempted to retrieve the hidden meanings of all that bad ever been said.
Having demonstrated in tbe previous four diapteri tbe preoccu-
pation of psychoanalysis with language, we shall now shift our focus
away from ps)-.:boanalysis for a while. to look at these philological
sciences and the models they engendered, returning to psychoanalysis at
times to sec the manner in which certain strands or theses found in
psychoanalytic work gained their validity from their affinity with the
philological background. To say that psychoanalysis was preoccupied
with language is, as we have seen, to say many things at once. Similarly,
10 employ the phrase ' philological sciences' is to cover a multitude of
forms of knowledge with a category that only reveals its validity
thro ugh an argument of justification.•


The end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth
century =rkcd a revolutionary phase in thought about language and in
the study of languages. At the empirical level. o ne trend was of
fundamental importance: an enormously increased concern with non·
Classical languages. This trend gained force from an intellectual
movement very directly associated with that mt langc of romanticism
and historicism centred in Germany; its dirCC1 antecedent and con-
seq uence was the concern of scholari with the relations between
languages. The delicate balance that was to be found in historicism.
P/Jilo/ogy 169
between the uniqueness that is characteristic or a specific historical
fonnation, and the set or laws that, once discovered. characterizes that
formation through the series or temporal transformations that they
describe, is found most clearly represented in lhc study or language.
With Humboldt '. Herder ( 1772) and Hegel (1910) we find an emphasis
on the inner crcati\'c force that is peculiar to language and peculiar to
each language: with Bopp, Rask and Grimm (and, earlier, the work of Sir
William Jones), we find an attempt to demonstrate 1bc laws by which
one language becomes another, in 1hc course of a time now undefined by
an ex1crnal chronology, a time in accord wi1h the sequences laid down
by 1he inner logic of language's developmen1, ra1her lhan as marked by
those 'external' events whose veryexternali1y was brought in1oques1ion
by 1he new science or language. • II was Grimm's Law. regulating the
transformations of consonants from Sanskri1, through Greek and
Latin, to German, English and French, 1ha1 was 10 capture the
imperialistic imaginings or the sciences of man, just as Cuvier's law of
the correlation or parts and the law of supply and demand could sustain
01hcr and parallel hopes as to the rule of law over man.
The ideal orlaws that act forever below the surface or what is spoken,
determining what can be spoken without recourse to what can be
represented, was the goal of the new philologists. When language's
relation to the world became something that could be investigated as
problematic, rather than assumed. language itselr 1ook on a new weight,
a new densily and opacity, a certain strangeness. Comparative linguists
turned 10 a formalistic account or language that sheered the system of
sounds off from any system of the world. In this sense, the Saussurian
accounl or the arbitrariness and selr-sufficiency or the signifier with
respect LO the signified was lhe achievemenl or a century of striving to
map OUI lhe independenl Jaws or sound-lransfornialion. 1 The overall
effcc1 or lhc preoccupation or philologists wilh 1hc in1ernal laws or
language was to detach language off from 01her histories, lo turn it in
upon itselr, 10 make it the object or a science 1hat no longer conrused
itsclr with a science of thought, or the science of representation.
In consequence, language found its own history. Each language, the
product of a unique and specific creative force, possessed ao individual
chronology. its own cycle ofbinh and death, of youth and old age, or,
later in the century. was subject to an efflorescence and a demise
according to its success in the struggle for linguistic survival.' And each
family of languages, and thus, conceivably, all languages, received its
own in1crnal chronology, as defined by 1he sequences or transform-
n1ions that bound them together as a family. but which seemed to define
170 language and the Origins of Ps>oehoa11alysis
1hem as a family first and foremos1 through their common historical
derivation. fl was at this point thal the Humbold1ian >train could fuse
wi1h the more formal studies. giving rise to the no1ion of a unified field
of e•prcss1on. uniquely determined by the morphological la"s that
de1ermincd the structure of a language, that was specific 10 a race, a
culture. a people indeed. that was. in the last anal)'1is. the distinctive
defining feature of that culture. With the Grimms, with the Schlegels,
with Herder, the study of linguistic transformations was continuous
wi1h the collation and organization of a cultur-JI ' heritage••: the fairy
tales, the mythologies. the 'folklore' of a ·nation' that was defined by a
limited nnd homogeneous field of expression made distinguishable by
lhc laws of phone1ic transformation.
T he study of lllnguages in the 19th century demonstrated the same
fusion of the unique and the compara1ivc that students of historicism ••
have made familiar: each language revealed a uniqueness and specificity
I hat guaranteed its separateness, while the comparative method acted as
the means by which the complete field oflanguagcscould be covered. ''
This common double characteristic may explain the adjacency oficn
credi1cd in this period to history and philology. Adding a third clement.
rehgion. a conceptual grouping charactenstic of 1he great 'humanistic'
projects of the century emerged:

All history of the religious consciousness mus1 repose upon language.

nol only because it is the historical record, but also because it is the
primordial work of the human inicllect."

T he study of language took on a great imporiancc in the quest for

what was primordial: fi n;1ly. because the production of language was Lhe
oldest trace of the primitive origins of man's intellect; secondly. because
language was the human artifact that lay closes! to the pure forms of

The structure orthougbt rc"ealed by its deposits 1n language precedes

all other coinage of human intelligence. u

The thin red line that distinguished thought from its products could
be reduced to a minimum by studying the product that lay closest 10
thought. that always seemed to lie closor to thought than any metaphors
of mirroring or moulding could capture. All the metaphors that are
normally employed 10 characterize the rehuion of language to thought
Philology 171
railed to capture the inexorable necessity reh by many linguists in the
ninetccoth century for assuming that thought could be adequately
seized by language.
We thus find in historical lingutttics a curious mixture of a cultural
relativism and a rigorous idealism. First, one detached a language from
the category, common to all languages, of 'represeotation-of-thc-
world", in order to demonstrate its peculiar uniqueness. Then one could
demonstrate bow this language expressed a thought that, through its
strangeness, might reveal the strangeness or thought itself.•• But the laws
or comparative linguistics indicated how these unique systems of
thought could be bound together into one or a few systems of
transformation of form, so that thought itself would find its own unity in
what gave languages their own unity. One detached language from the
history of man, only to return it, once bound by its own laws. to found a
new history, in which not only its age, but also its adjacency to the
cognitive categories, guaranteed it pride or place.
Two categories of experience served as the principal objects of
philological analysis: myth and religion. The school of Higher Criticism.
represented by Strauss and Renan, undenook the examination of the
various texts of the Judaic and Christian religions. Their aim was
twofold: to employ philological methods to establish what w-as ·mythi-
cal" in the histories there set out; and then. having eliminated what
was mythical. to establish a 'historical' life of Jesus. One secs here the
double movement of philology: establish the separate history ap-
propriate to words. through whose aid, both positive and negative, a
history of one man or of men in general cou ld be rewritten. The
chronology accorded to words precedes and determines the chronology
of life.
Such a method was applicable to ·myth' as well; indeed, myth and
religion dissolved into one another insofar as philological analysis
undermined the sacred innocence oft he word. lfchc final arbitration of
language by 'history' was continually postponed, as it tended to be in
the analyses of those texts talccn to be purely mythical, a natural 'first
cause· or an event that formed thc roc.k-bottom of the analysis of the
mythic d1stonion of reality failed to emerae as the new repository of
religion; u1,all)'. philology could always postpone the excavation of the
historical exemplars that might serve again as tbc foundation of
religion. When analysing a Babylonian creation myth it might not be of
value to attempt to disco\'rr the event or person represented in a
distorted fashion by the myth, although nearly every philologist might
have recourse to such an explanation if need be. h was quite good
172 language and the Origi1is of Psyrhoanal)'Sl•
practice 10 remain con1en1 wi1h lhe linguislic reduc1ion of miracle 10
illusion. of m)'lh 10 melaphor.
Bui Ibis original even1 was oflen lo relUm, as if lhc compara1ive
philologis1s could never be coo1en110 leave !he synonyms and reduc1ive
chains ofsignificalion hanging in lhin air. We do no1 have far 10 go. from
lhe recons1ruction of the life of lhe his1orical Jesus. 10 lhe recons1ruc-
1ion of lhe dealh of lhe primal fa1her. And. if such o cominuum seems
ques1ionnble, we may possibly give ii more body by looking al lhc
intermediate terms, s uch as Prometheus, or Moses.
ll was nol only from lhe side ofChris1iani1y lhal lhe coupling of mylh
and religion was encouraged. Humbold1ian e1hnology und work such as
Rask's on the Old Norse languages highligh1ed holh lhe importance of
the non-European languages and 1he necessi1y lo s1udy previously
ignored lan,guages. oolb living and dead, in order lo establish lhe full
field of wh.ich compara1ive linguis1ics was lhe science, even if lhe final
inleresl of the researcher would still remain lhe Germanic longues. Nol
only were Greek and Lalin demo1ed in favour of Sanskrit, bul also
Old Irish, Norse, Old Danish, Cle., look up a place equal in scientific
value lo 1hc languages of Cicero and Homer. And, if Cicero and Homer
mighl s1ill supply lhe texts for lhe s1udy of 1he morphology and
phonology oflhcir respective languages, where "ere 1he lexls for Old
Irish ond Danish 10 come from, if no1 from 1he sagas and m)'lhs. 1he
' his1ories" of those languages? The mc1hodologicnl necessilies pre-
scribed lha1 1he linguisls exleod lheir in1ercs1s far beyond lhosc of 1he
form of words. How does one eslablisha homology be1wecn lhe form of
1wo words unless one has a parameler lhal ac1s as a media1ing lhird
term? The achievemen1 of Champollion is lhe paradigm of lhis process
of decoding: in order lo begin work on lhe syntux. morphology and
phonology of a language, one must have a base line, and this base line is
suppl ied by an idenlily or meaning. The inquiry into meaning cannot be
separalcd from lhc inquiry inlo form. Hence, in order lo establish lhe
unily of law-like transformations between a set of languages, lhc
linguislS were required 10 undertake an ever more detailed inquiry in10
lhe nuances of meaning of lhc basic texts. In other words. Ibey
undertook 10 es1ablish !he web of iden1it1es and differences thal made
up lhe my1bological sys1ems lha1 lhesc lex1s reprcsen1cd. ll became as
impera1ive lo eslablish the exact significa1ion of lhe heroic exploits
recoun1cd in Sanskril as il was lo trace the possible fa1c of1hc lishermcn
from Galilee.
Even if lht philologi.s1s finally came lo the end of lhcir analyses and
established an end lha1 was also lhedcfinitive beginning. lhis mighl no1
Philology 173
be a historically pro,•cn event. It might have an altogether different
character. while still being the end and achievement or the analysis.
Thus the chain of transformations by which the Assyrian· Yonf became
the E11glisb · l>fDTy·, when retraced by Thomas Inman " . indicated the
primal feminine significance of the number 'one'. And this number,
when coupled " ith the number 'thrtt', representing the masculine. could
be shown to underly all mythology and religion, Christianity included.
Both Bopp and Schleicher were concerned to demonstrate that the
reconstructed language proto-lndo-Europcan resided upon a pure
triadic base-structure of vowels: ' a', ·r. ' u'. 1• Obviously this end-point
was not one of pure signification; rather, it was the opposite: an end-
point that could be guaranteed by reference to the physiology of the
organs by which sounds were produced." Or, again, we may take
another example from the work of Franz Bopp, who could demonstrate
that the primitive verb-form of the Inda-European languages was a
suffix, '-•', signifying the primal verb ' to be'. !Bopp (1816); Pedersen,
1931. p. 257).
Now these arc extreme examples, in which a universal origin or a
point or absolute linguistic plenitude (cf Lovejoy. 1936) was the
immanent principle by which a unification or the manifold forms or a
'word' could be attained. On a smaller scale, a reference to a stable point
or reference. the signification of a word-form, was always necessary. if
the changes from one language-system to another wcr< to be shown to
be lawlikc. An identity of sound (or or ccnsonantal form in more
obscure areas, particularly with Hebrew) might serve as evidence for the
development of neighbouring forms from one another. But the
coincidence of forms was not usually enough - and could never be
enough if it were a question of series of such identities - to guarantee the
law. A semantic element was necessary to cstoblish that this identity was
more than a 'coincidence'. So the more obscure and fragmented the
evidence with which linguists had to work, the further into the semantic
complexities of myth and custom were they led. Thus Max Miillcr's
translation of the Rig-Vedas, his exposition of the Hindu cosmology
and mythology, and bis research into the structure of Sanskrit were all
part or one esseotially linguistic project (Chaudhuri. 1974: Muller. 1864.
1875. 1902).
Hence we can sec clearly the manner in which the two main
characteristics of nineteenth century linguistics were interdependent.
The first characteristic was the sc3rch for the laws which governed the
transformation of phonetic, morphological and syntactical forms from
one language to another. The second characteristic was the search for
174 language and the Origin.1 of Psychoanalysis
e1ymological trees. for the genealogy of significa1ion, a genealogy tha1
found iis evidenlial specification in lhe 'irraiional' dimension of myth,
religion and folklore, and which could be generalized. under lhe pen of
the renegade philologist Nie1ZSCbe, into a ·genealogy or morals".
Etymoloay employed differences of form only 10 subsume 1hcse under
an identity ofsignification. Or, to put it another way, differences of form
enabled one 10 recognize difference of significa1ion. As 1he dis1ine1ion
between semantics and synmx became firmer, their mutual in1erdepen·
dcncc became more prono unced. If a continuous series or transform·
ations of a phonetic or mo rphological character could be demonstrated,
the resulting chain of terms promised to bear a rich frui t when an inquiry
into the meanings thus interlinked was undertaken. The larger the
system of words brought into the system oflawlikc transformations, the
more it was likely to be able to find a ·significant' set of displacements of
meaning thus sanctioned. A new ambitious project became feasible: the
mapping out or tbe key significations for a given group or languages,
corresponding to the primary forms of thought expressed in that
language. And, as oflc.n as not, 1hcse original forms of1hought were 1he
expression of a fundamenml intuition of God's existence, so that the
regressive analysis conducted via phonology and e1ymology led to tbc
foundations or religion.

The power of the mind which enables us to sec lhe genus in lhe
individual. lhe whole in the many and to form a word by connecting a
subject and a predicate, is essentially the same which leadsmen to find
God in the Universe and the Universe in God. Language and religion
arc 1hc 1wo poles of our consciousness mutiu1l1y presupposing each
ot her. 11

Or, as Muller confessed in his Autobiography (1887), his life work

followed 'the thread that connects the origin of thought and languages
with th• origin of mythology and religion.' ( Muller. 1901. p. 3). ••For
Muller. and for many other linguisis, the thread or language led to a
systc.m of roots. what he called basic 'phonetic types produced by a
PD" er inherent in the human spirit, ... roois created by
nature, ... and we hasten to add that by nature we understand the
hand or God'. ( Miillcr, 1864, p. 486). Curtius defined the root as th•
significat1ve residue that remains once one had cut away from the word
all that has been added to the primitive sound (Cunius. 1886 I p. 47).
Thus the chain or transformations of form and of meaning met in the
root. Not only was the root the metaphysical pre-requisite fo r the theory
Philology 175
that conferred a 1ransandental unity upon a group oflanguages. i1 was
also the prercquisile for establishing the poinl at which man's con-
sciousness opened up on to 'infihration · from on other realm, whether
1ha1 realm be that of religion, of 1hought. or of ·meaning'.
The root promised access to the primary uni1s of thought. Let us
return 10 1hc question we asked in Chap1er 3 viJ·tl-vis 1he symbol: for
whom? One answer, tba1 of Muller and Bunsen. was: a divine subject,
ins1allcd wilhin man al the beginning of 1hings, and conferring upon
langu:1ge the characteristic of being a barrier to the na1uralism of
Darwinian evolutionary theory, a barrier scpara1ing the na1ural from
!he divine, scpara1ing nature and man. 20 Bui another answer, less
marked by the coarse oppositions between science and religion of mid
nineteenth century Britain, was olTered by those linguis1s who founded
Vii/kerpsJ•·hologie: Lazarus, S1einthal and their followers."
Viilkerpsychologie was an auempl to extend Hcrbarlian dynamic
psychology from the individual to the collcc1ive. Such a project had
been foreshadowed by Herbart himself. who had claimed 1ha1 the statics
and dynamics of the collective mind (the State) would prove 10 obey the
same laws as the individual mind, upon which lus sys1cm had
concentrated. Lazarus and S1cinthal set ou1 10 ind1ca1c the ways in
whteh the categories of individual psychology reappeared at 1he level of
1he collective: the category of image reappeared as art. emotion as
religion. judgement as codes of conduct . But 1heir Herbartian project
only became possible as a consequence of the binding concept of
language. 1he third term that media led between each of the individual
ca 1egories and its collec1ive correlate. II was through 1hc media1ion of
language that collcc1ivity was p<>ssible. Al one level. 1hcn, language was
a con1cntlcss form upon which colkc1ivecontcn1s could be gr<>undcd -
·a conlcntless connection of consciousnt'llSCs' (S1cin1hal. 1855, p. 333).
Bui language was itself grounded in a further calcgory 1ha1 both
specified the charac1er of a language and. in the final analysis, owed its
own characterization lo the laws of 1ha1 language: the Volksgelu. Such a
concept. bom>wing much from the dialcaic of 1he Geist aDd of language
in Hegel's Phiinommologie des Geis1es. was 1he lynch-pin of collective
psychology. Lazarus and Steinthal charaC1cri7ed it as the subject of 1he
collective products Sludied by V6/kerpsyrho/O(l1t. ID which i1 corres-
ponded to Muller's divine subject. It is the Volksg•iJt thal is 1he subject
of language. With 1bis diC1um, with 1his weaving of Sproche and
l'olksgr/st together. 1he analysis of Volktrpsycliologi• 1hrough 1he
diverse produc1s of folklore, an. religion and myth was assured of a
collcc1ivc characler independent of the individual.
176 language and 1he Origins of Psyrhoanolysis
The concept of the Volksgeist was to be transformed into others.
more panicularly the concept of rare that came to dominate a large part
or ethnological and linguistic science in the latter half oft he century. But
at the stan. and in many orits lat<r forms (<.g. Boas; cf. Stocking, 1968),
it could be actively opposed to a naturalism that tried to unify biological
"givens· with philological findings (see Prichard. 1833). Such an
opposition was onen accomplished by specifying the ·contents" of the
Vo/ksg•lst as being essentially linguistic in character. It was firs t and
foremost etymological studies of mythological and religious texts that
established thesetontents. as we might have guessed from the title of the
journal that Lazarus and Steinthal csrnblished: Zeitsdiriji fur
V1ilkl'rp.1ydro/ogie u11d ::.prachwi.<re11.rclwj1 ( 1861 - 90). In this journal
and in monographs, we !ind allcmpts to solve the key religious and
historical problems through a strictly linguistic analysis. For example,
much energy was devoted to a debate as to the relationship between the
lndogcrmanic and the Semitic groups of languages and the peoples
whose spirits were expressed in these languages. On• much debated
hypothesis was that the lndogermanic pooples/languages were in-
herontly polytheistic. whereas the Semitic languag~pooplcs were
inherently monotheistic. Oswald, in his Dasgrommotlsch• Geschl•ct wuJ
stint sprochlich• Bedeutwig (1866), anompted to resolve the qucstion as
to the essential nature or Christianity, whoso hnguistie "roots' lay
equally in both lndogermanic and Semitic tongues. by an examination
of grammatical gonder. His monograph elicited the following cautions
response from Steinthal:

Language is formed from the Geist, not the Geist from language. We
must crystallize the Geist out from language, but also fro m many
other sources. (Stcinthal, 1868, p. 103)

Despite such a qualification. which belied its own stated aim by

restating clearly the basic 11o"orking hypothesis of the philologists, the
primacy of evidence drawn from studies of language was clear in
Steinthal"s 0 " n work. Abraham cited such an examplt. approvingly, in
his Traum und i\f) rhos( 1909): in his paptr, ·Die Sogt ron S1111wn· ( 1862),
Stemthal argued that the oxpression ·g/rich,..ir" (as !/) has wrought th•
most proround change 10 the intellectual dovolopmont of mankind.
proving his contention wtth philological cvidenct (Sttinthal. I862b pp.
170fT.: Abraham ( 1909) p. 184). On the other hand, Lazarus and
Stein thul"s Slated aim was 10 draw from linguistic science a colloctive
psychology. to go beyond what philologists normnlly atlempted. Their
Philology 177
programme, stated in 1861, was 'to study languages not as philology or
empirical linguistics does, but to discov<r, with th< aid or physiology,
th< psychological laws of language'. (Lai:arus and Steinthal. 1861, pp.
4fT) . But the psychological laws of language - i.<. the cat<gories of
thought, the 'as ifs' or the collcctiv< mind - were often round to be as
much tied to language as they were the resultant or the parallelogram or
psychical forces, or the side-effects or physiology. They recognized that
the development orconsciousness is only possible with the development
oflanguage, and employed the latter as their index of the former. The
project or Volkerpsyclrologie was to go beyond the work or o ther
philologis1s and linguisls insofar as it anempted to eswblish the laws or
s~1110111ics as well as the laws or phonetics. Such a project was to remain
an ideal for many philologists throughout thecen1ury." It reappears in
many works. for example, in Gomme's Folk-lore as an Historical
Scienet' (1908). christened by a friend the 'grammar or folk-lore', in
which it was claimed that fol k-lore may be accounlcd for 'by some law
aruilogous to Grimm's law in the study of language' (Gomme. 1908. p.
159)." The chains of etymological substitu1ion, the evidence or the
connectedness of superficially unconncc1ed words, kept this hope alive:
they v.erc the empirical evidence that might one day prove•usccptible or
a hig.hcr·lcvcl theoretical organization.
Some such organization was essayed in Max M uller's work, despite
his abrogation of the ideal or semantic laws. M ii lier wished to exercise a
two-fold reduction upon the languages making up the lndo-Germanic
tongues. Firstly. in company with many other comparative linguistics,
he wished to show the fundamental unity of these tongues, combining
the pho netic laws and the e\•idence Of semantic continuity to prove this.
Secondly, in consequence or the first reduction, he could proceed to
show that all the words of these languages could be traced back to 800
roots. in tum expressive or 120 concepts. 'These one hundred and
1wenty concepts are really t he rivers that feed the whole ocean or
thought 11nd speech.' ( Muller, 1888b, p. 32.)
We have already encountered a psychoanalytic argument that
employed philological means in order to gain a similar end: Ernest
Jones' conception of symbolism. which cmplo)cd philology to indicate
that the ideas capable of being represented in symbolic form were
limi1cd 10 those concerned with death. birth. sexual activities, rclati>cs,
etc. (Sec above, Chapter 3, pages 125- 9). As we noted there, Jones
hoped to be able to give an exclusively philological proof or such a
limitation, although he also had a quasi-biological conception through
which such a prior limitation or the possible objects or representations
178 Languag• and the Origins of Ps)'choanal)'sis
might be enforced. When the psychoanalyst$ ' 'enturcd into the field of
mythology and religion - the field that, as we have seen, presented them
with the problem of symbolism to which their theory of drC'am-symbols
was a solution - they entered a field already occupied by philologists
such as MUiier, Frazer, Kuhn, Bastian, Winckler. Stuckcn ~' ul.1 ' In
their struggle to secure the specifically psychoanalytic theory of myth,
they sought both to present themselves as living under the same roof as
the philologists, while at the same time providing the latter with a key
that could stop all the wrangles between partisans of dilfering mytbo·
logical systems, the functionalists versus the naturalists. the advocates of
creation my1hs against chose who looked to heaven for the final point of
reference of all mythology. (See Rank, 1909/ 1964).
But. before we tum to a closer look at the relationships of psycho-
analysis 10 philology. we must complete our account of 1hc conceptual
furniture wi1h which the philologis1s furnished out 1hc house that was
often claimed to be the Temple of the Sciences of Man. We have noted
the connocuon that was established between 1he Hegelian GC'ist and the
philologists' Spracht. One consequence of this accommodation was the
r<infon:cment of the Hurnboldtian theme oft be immanent eharactcrof
the creative activity of language. For Humbold1, language obeyed an
inntr law of development and decay. The history of a language was
made up of two periods:
One in which the sound-creating force of the language is still in
growth and living activity; 1he other in which an apparent standstill
takes place afler complete formation of at least the external form of
lhe language and lhen a visible decline of thUl creative, sensual force
follows. (Humboldt, 1836, p. 63)
An ideal language would acewith a necessity imposed on it by its own
[In perfect languages) the formation of words and constructions
undergoes no other limitations than arc necessary to combine
regularity with freedom, that is. to assure for freedom its own
existence through limitation. (Ibid., p. 64)
Such a theme meshed well with the notion of a Vo/ksgtist, giving an
absolute activity to language, placing each speaker in a passive relation
to language; it neutralized the arbitrariness of the individual speaker.
Such a theme is of course also to be found in ocher linguistics: one might
even say it is the abiding theme of theorists oflanguage since Humboldt,
from the formalistic determinations of the structuralists to the immense
J>hilology 179
apparatus of transformational rules that the Chomskyans impute to the
2 year old.,. But. before the concept of ·system· came to dominate
linguistics. this hegemony oflanguage o~r the subject was conceil'ed of
in terms of an inner creative forct. 2 • In 1his way.just as the concept of
·nature· became for many Darwinians the representation of an active
force. for some blind, for some endowed with powers of choice and
sclect1on (Young. 1971), so each ·language· became the embodiment of
social 'activity'. endowed with an independence which its speakers did
not share.
It has been argued by some historians of psychoanalysis that the
'dynamic' aspect of the play of ideas from the unconscious to the
conscious, fo r the understanding of which repression is the key concept,
is historically derived from the imponant place that Herban·s math·
ematical meiaphors gave to the dynamic play of ideas above and below
the threshold of consciousness." This argument has borne lilllc weight.
perhaps because it takes no account of the strange displacements of
meaning that arc almost always the correlate of the dynamic psychic
forces that Freud invoked. 21 Or, to put this point more exactly, in
Herbartian psychology there is no hint of the fact that it is 'unexpected"
and •bizarre' ideatiooal products, seemingly derived from another
psychical epoch. that are brought to consciousncu by the play of mental
forces. Now. if we place together, as the VolktrpS)'<'hologischtn did, the
inner creative force oflanguage emphasized by Humboldt. the notion or
u Hcrbartian statics and dynamics of the collective psyche ruling the
play of fo rces acting 'below' consciousness 20 and the methodological
privilege they acxordcd to deriving the manifcsl and irrational forms of
myth and language from ancient chains of linguistic signification along
which these psychic forces play, we derive a model that is much more
akin to the Freudian unconscious. Herbarrian menta l dynamics in·
eluded a cooccpt of unconscious ideas and forces, but no hint of the
strangeness, the 'different psychical locality' that distingui.shes the un·
conscious from the preconscious (Freud. 1950a, Origins, p. 244; 1900a
SE IV 48, SE V 536). But the investigation oflanguage led one group of
Herbartians to a parallel recognition of the strangeness of what lies
below the surface. this strangencu being related to the layering or
languages and their different meanings. each receiving an ascription to
an undated prehistorical epoch in which meanings were made as well as
The activity oftbe unconscious would seem to have b""n borrowed as
much from the creative and archaic activity of language as from a
conception of biological forces overflowing into the psychic. A tension
180 language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
between the individual and the collective - a tension hidden but not
dissipated in the nolion of a biological base for the psyche - always, as
we have seen in previous chapters. cbarac1eri2ed psychoanalytical
concepts. One more way of representing this now occurs 10 us. staniog
from che notion of a creative force of language. Did Freud have lhe
audacity lo ascribe a creative function of language 10 the individual
neurotic. a creative function that. with Breuer, he could at times
rccogni:.c only as an 'arbi1rary', 'crazy' play with words? Or would be
have the audacity - and again 1be word is his 10 ascribe to some
hypothetical and nidden relation between men, a new version of 1he
Volksgeist, tbc burden of explanation for the displaccmcn1s of signifi-
cucion 1ha1 psychoanalysis always revealed'/ T heorists of language
a Iways templed him towards the second choice. And ii seemed as if
drnwing upon the history of language could always supply psycho-
anal)•sis with 1he evidence ii needed, when even 1he psychoanalys1could
not bring bimsclf101rus11he lies of lhc neurotic. Hc 1umed 10 philology
when be bad lost his ncr"c, when he could no longer carry on alone
wi1hou1 evidential support from elsewhere. The way seems to have been
prepared for psychoanalysis by a Herbanian philology lhal bad
elaboraced a SCI of concepls belonging lo the same family as those of
psychoanalysis, even if lhey did not belong 10 che same generation. Bui
to specify further the rclalions of psycboanalysi.s and philology we mus1
now cum 10 some psycboanalylic 1ex1s.



Freud gave a flrsl account of bis 'psycho-biography' or Leonardo da

Vinci in a paper prcscnced 10 the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society on I
December 1909. The clement in bis argument 1ba1Iwish10 discuss here
is best introduced by Leonardo's earliest rcoollec1ion: 'ii seems 10 me as
though a \•ullure had flown down 10 me, opened my mouth with his tail,
and scver•I limes beaten ii 10 and fro between my lips'. (M inutes II
p. 340.)'° Fn:ud 6rs1 noted that dreams or flying 'originally have
invariably the meaning: "I can mate (/dr kann rogrln ~ I am a bird, I am
sexually mature."' (Ibid. p. 341) He continued:
Now, there is another slrangc path Iha! leads a lillle slcp funhcr into
1he story. In hieroglyphic writing, lhe vullure stands for somclhing
qui1cdclini1c - i.e. the mother - and indeed the pronunciation ortha1
character is "mut''. If we anempt 10 insert this inio 1he fan1asy. then ii
would mean 1ha1 his mother bent over him, pu1 her penis into his
Philology 181
mou1h and there moved it to and fro several limes .... the
Egyptians bad a deity that was called Alut and was represented as
having a vulture's bead. Now. there is no other Egyptian deity that
has been so frequently represented as an androgync (lhat is, with a
pc:nis). The primitive idea of the child, which ascri~ a penis to the
molhcr (infantile sexual theory), has also remained alive in folk
experience. {Ibid., p. 341)
The essence of Freud's argument consisted in establishing a connec-
tion between the vulture of the phanlasy recollection and the penis of
the mother. What sort of evidence did he use? The Egyp1ian material
furnished a number of lines of argument. Firs1ly, lhc vulture-headed
goddess represents the mother, as lhc sound of the name 'proves'.
Secondly, this goddess is often androgynous: its 'tail' is a penis - a fac1
tbal is supported (independently?) by the infantile sexual theory in
which all beings, and especially the mo1her, arc assigned penises. Heooe
the Egyptian evidence, of hieroglyph and s1a1uc. furnished sufficient
evidence for the equation: 'vulture's lail • mo1her's penis'.
We can regard this equation as being made up i1sclf of two subsidiary
equa1ions: firstly. 'tail =penis'. which we can establish by translating
from the phan1asy's 'own special language into words lhat arc generally
understood'. {Freud (1910c) SE XI SS.)
A tail, 'roda', is one of the mos1 familiar symbols and substitutive
expressions for the male organ, in Italian no less than in other
languages.... (Ibid.)
Let us start our interrogation of1he lcxl a1 lhis point. Freud had here
cited linguistic and (seemingly) non-linguisiic evidence: he spoke of
'substitutive expressions' and also of the lail being a 'familiar symbol'.
Whal he did not say was that lhe tail was an obvious 'natural' symbol for
the male organ, an argument that might seem 'obvious'. Rather. he
referred to linguistic evidence, and, bearing in mind what we learnt in
Chap1er 3 Symbolism. even the symbolic cqua1ion '!ail-penis' was. for
him. based on 'lingui~.ic evidence'.
The argument for the second subsidiary equa1ion.
' mother • vulture', was introduced in the published essay in the
following manner:
Al this point a thought comes to mind from such a remote quarter
lhat it would be tempting to set it aside. In 1he hieroglyphics of the
ancient Egyptians the mother is represented by a picture of a
vulture.... (Ibid., SE XI 88)
182 Language and the Origins of Psyclroanalysis
And. as be bad remarked before to the Society, the goddess called
/.{111 was a mother.

There is, then, some rcal ('l)conna:tion between vulture and mother -
but what help is that to us? For have we any right to expect Leonardo
to know or it. seeing that the first man who succeeded in reading
hieroglyphics was Fran~ois Champollion? (Ibid.)

Thus, having established the 'real connection' between the mother

and the vulture, Freud perceived a problem in the movement of
meaning from the Ancient Egyptian language to Renaissance Italian,
even though be could ask, rhetorically, 'Can the similarity to the sound
of our word Muller be merely a coincidence?' (Ibid .) The lack of a
pathway from Egyptian to Italian could be partially circumvented by a
tracing or Greek and Roman textual inftueoocs upon Leonardo, through
which Freud felt able lo conclude that Leonardo became aware that the
Ancients regarded the vulture as a bird that could give birth without
intercourse with a male. Leaning upon his rcco!Ulruction of the details
of Leonardo's early life. Freud felt able to conclude that Leonardo bad
made the connection (when? how?): 'vulture• mother'."
Let us clarify the structure of the argument that Freud used:

Till "'-1111

·-· .. ·--

"Viti of
Philology 183
If we consider the more complicated equation 111 first, we note that
Freud conceived of four indcptndent argumtnts to support it. But,
having set them out, be recognized that the sources of infonnation
which Leonardo bad at bis disposal might have been limited. Having
investigated the Renaissance availability of sources cooocrning the
Egyptians. he concluded that Leonardo was almost certainly aware
through his reading of Horapollo that the vulture was an Egyptian
symbol." But Horapollo's text only yields sufficient information to
warrant two of the four arguments that Freud presents: b., that the
hieroglyphic image for mother is a vulture, and d., that the Egyptians
believed that there are only female vultures, procrea tion taki ng place
through fertillzation by the wind. The arguments a 1 and c receive no
further discussion as to their availability to Leonardo. Indeed. Freud's
final conjectural historical sequence was as follows: Leonardo read of
the virgin vulture's procreative capacity in one of the Church Fathers.
and, solely from tllis piece of evidence (roughly equivalent to d. in the
diagram), equated the vulture and the mother.
It would seem that, judged simply from a historical point of view, the
arguments about bierog)ypbics, the sound of the Egyptian goddess'
name. and the representations of the androgynous goddess" arc strictly
irrelevant to the point at issue: Leonardo's conception of the vulture.>•
Of course, as we have Sttn, Freud introduced a further. seemingly
non-philological clement, derived from his paper on the sexual theories
of children, the theory that the nipple and the penis arc equated in
phantasy, and that the endowment of the mother with a penis is a
common infantile theory. The former throws light upon equation I,
'tail • penis', and the latterthrows light on borh the peculiar androgyny
of the Egyptian goddess and upon the c.ombination of the two
equations, 'tail =penis', 'mother =vulture', into the final equation,
·mother's penis = vulture's tail' (Freud ( 191 Oc) SE X 197). But, since the
phallic appurtenances of the Egyptian vulture goddess were ' unknown·
to Leonardo. this argument only has force for the step in the argument
from 'tail - penis' to 'tail c morher's penis'. Indeed, we can now
recognize that the whole argumtnt concerning the Egyptian vulture-
hcaded goddess is irrelevant - a fact arrived at by an alternative route
by Maelagcn (1923), Schapiro (1956), Strachcy (SE XI 60-2) and
Spector (1972).
As the Editors of the Standard Edition note, once one recognizes that
the bird named in Leonardo's recollection is a kite and not a vulture,
one has to recognize the consequent irrelevance of the Egyptian
material - 'though this nevertheless retains much of itS independent
184 Language and 1/re Origins of Ps,.choanolysls
value· (SE XI 62). Bui. through our claritica1ion of the form of Freud's
argument. we ha•ecome to see 1ha1 nearly all of1he Egyptian material is
irrelevant. •·ha1er:er the correct 1raosla1ion of'nlbio'. Only the step from
the virgin vulture to the mother was recognized by Freud as 'known· by
L<onardo: th< resl of the Egyptian mat<rial only serves to assert a
gentral connection between the vulture. I.fut. hieroglyphics. and
androgynous mother-goddesses. As wediscninngle thcst arguments, we
find that the brunt now falls upon the infantile sex ual theory of the
phallic mother.-" The admiuedly fascinating Egyptian material seems
to have no purl 10 play - a1 least in Leonardo's case!•
So whal purpose does the Egyptian material serve. given that even
Freud recognized, admittedly in passing, and wi1hou1 undue emphasis,
1hn1 it docs not contribute significantly 10 the argument concerning
Leonardo's pbantasy-recollection? With Spector. we could argue that it
served a selr·analytic function for Freud, expressive. in some manner, of
his personal complexes; we might even say that, having pared away
what is superfluous to lhe solution or Leonardo ·s personal equation. the
residue represents what belongs to Freud"s personal equation. Bui I
prefer to sec it5 function as that of a significant survival. a pointer,
towards an argument that Freud •ishedto make. We could hypothesize
further that Freud believed that be should substantiate his conclusion as
10 the phallic significance of the tail and the maternal significance of the
vulture voa a plulological inquiry that he recapitulated in the lecture,
and, with slightly more rigour. in the published paper. Thal his
ques1 ioning us lo the existence of the links between 1hc Egyptian and the
RenaisSllnce texts was subsequent 10 his certainty or the correctness of
his philological conclusions would also seem likely. Bui. as a result of his
self-questioning. apres coup. he found himself forced 10 rely upon
another argument, less philological, referring only 10 the thought·
connections of infancy, rather than to the 1hough1-conncc1ions laid
down by 'folk experience'. Instead of the continuum of symbolic forms
extending from the Egyptians to Leonardo's phan1asy - vulture hiero-
glyphic. /o.fu1-,\1u11tr. phallic goddess reprcsenlalions. vullurc·s tail -
Freud "as forced. by the uncomfortable gaps in lhe lustoncal record. to
explain both the Egyptian and ·11alian' symbolic forms by reference to a
·common source - the sexual theories of childhood. From the manner
in which Freud prcsemcd his argument. one can •urmisc 1ha1 he would
have preferred to have established a s1raigh1forwardly philologically·
grounded reconstruction of Leonardo's ·Egyptian· phaniasy, so 1ha1 the
argument would nol have to depend upon the prior validity of the
infantile theory of the maternal phallus. (Perhaps even ii was myiholo-
Philology 185
gical evidence, such as that offered by the Egyptian symbols, that
formed the evidence for that the,o ry.) Freud would have preferred to
argue from the sustained vitality of ·folk experience·. rather than
having to invoke theories about childhood. As it is, the evidence drawn
from •folk experience' was pure.ly circumstantial and evocative-
though one has to read very carefully to realize that such is the case -
rathcr than furnishing the essential links (associations) in a train starting
with the vulture and ending with the phallic mother. Certainly the
purely circumstantial character of this evidence is masked by the form
of argument Freud employed.
But why have we invoked this particular episode in our discussion of
philology? Freud's first argument, derived from the Eg)'J)tian material -
an argument that I wish to call the philological one - broke down in the
face or a confused but honest anention to the problem of tradition.
Freud recognized that there was a break in the continuity of the tra-
dition from the Egyptians to the Renaissance - a break in the se-
quence of markus of meaning. If be had been able to establish the
continuity of the tradition. he would not have had to rely upon the in-
fantile theories of sexuality. It would appear plausible that Freud
assumed that such a continuity existed: exactly the assumption that the
concept of the Volksgeisr embodied. His critical anention to the actual
evidence for this continuity arrived too late to save his account from the
inconsistencies that we have been able to point up. It is as if the breaks in
the continuity of tradition. having been papered over. reappeared as
breaks in the continuity of Freud's argument. To save his argument, he
introduced an ahistorical cause that produced, independently. and at
different points in history, the repetition of 1he markers of signification
that could retrospectively j ustify his discussion of Egyptian hiero-
glyphics and symbolism.
With the concept of infantile sexuality a.nd the related concept of
phantasy. Freud was supplying what the philologists had themselves
always been searching for: a means for tying the dispersed elements or
myth. art and religion together. He was supplying the psychological
theory that Stcinthal and Lazarus had aimed for. and which. as we can
sec from the paper on Leonardo, filled in the evidential gaps when
etymological chains or 'external" evidences of the transfer of signifi-
cations were lacking. In this way, the theory of infantile sexuality
supplied a 'primitive language' that corresponded to other languages
proposed by philologists in order to codify and comprehend mythical
discourse: Muller's 200 roots. or the basic clements of the celestial
universe that astral mythologists appealed 10. And this primitive
186 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
language, by definition, d.id not have to take acoount or1he gaps in the
historical record. The fact that, even though supplied with such a trans-
historical explanatory recourse, Freud wished to draw so much from the
dispersed signi6cations Egyptian, German and Italian only proves to
us how much more be would have prererred to give a complete
philological proor as well as those derived from the theory or inrantile
sexuality, rather than being forced to rely almost completely upon the
phantasies or children.
But there was something unsatisfactory to Freud about this solution
to the pro blem of tradition. This unease was one or the reasons why he
becume more and more interested in a ' Lamarckian' solution to the
problem. That it was indeed a problem, and recognized as such in terms
familiar first and fo remost to philologists, can be gauged from the long
discussions upon the subject, 10 be found in Moses and /lfon orheism
(1934- 8). In his preliminary discussion in that work, Freud argued for
the parallel emcacy and occasional primacy or oral as compared with
written tradition. The analogy or the efficacy or the 'memories' or
Minoan civilization amongst the Hellenic peoples, where very Jillie
written record or the former civilization was to be round, was brought
forward to suppon this argument (Freud (1939a) SE XXlll 70-1). But
the problem ran deeper than the power and perma~ncc or oral
Oral tradition did not seem to be able to account for the enormous
·arter-elfect' or events that had taken place long berore, and which bad
almost cenainly passed out of 'folk-memory'. 1.n casting about for
solutions to this problem or the preservation or traces, Freud first
considered the universal symbolism be had uncovered in language
(Ibid., SE XXlll 98). He then turned to the 'archaic heritage' of
neuro tics and children, uncovered in cases such as that of the Wolrman
( Ibid., SE XXlll 99; Freud (1918b) SE XVll 11 9- 21). Freud then
addressed the problem in its most general form, rather than considering
the question with respect to this or that inherited contents.

On fun her reftection I must admit that I have behaved for a long time
as though the inheritance of memory-traces of the expe.riencc or our
ances1ors. independently or direct communication and or the in-
ftuence of education by the setting or an example, were established
beyond question. When I spoke or the survival ora tradition among a
people or or the fo rmation or a people's character, I had mostly in
mind an inherited tradition of this kind and not o ne transmitted by
communication. Or at least I made no distinction between the two
Philology 187
and was not clearly aware of my audacity in ncglcc:ting to do so.
(Freud (1939a) SE XXlll 99-100)

One feels that the surpri.se at his own audacity concealed the fact that
the q uestion had been al issue for a long time. Aner all, it was precisely
lack of audacity that made Freud step back from asserting the
continuity or signili<:ation between the Egyptian godd='s phallus and
Leonardo's vulture's tail. Now, late in his life, he took the step of
guaranteeing the continuity of symbolic forms, witho ut relying either
upon the evidence of written traditions or upon the imputations of
' invisible' o ra.1 tradition, and could immediately assert that, in con-
sequence, 'we have bridged the gulf between individual and group
psychology'. ( Ibid:, SE XX 111 I 00.) And, as if to underline the
importance of bridging this gap, he then argued that, since group
psychology must be amenable to some sort of analysis, ' the audacity
cannot be avoided' (Ibid.).
The curious feature about Lhis argument concerning the inheritance
of mental characteristics. which bas come to be associated. in the
twentieth century, with the biological debate between ' Lamarckian ·and
·oa,,.,inian· theories, is that it was mobilized in order to solve a
historical or psychological problem: tradition and the continuity oftbe
contents or the mental register. Freud never associated the argument
with the name of Lamarck. whose theories were put to another, though
related, use for a brief period in the F irst Wo rld War. Freud, in fact,
knew his Lamarck better than those who described the theory of the
inheritance of acq uired characteristics as ·Lamarckian ' - when such a
theory was held equally by Darwin and most other biologists in the
period 1865- 1930. Remembering this, we will not be led astray into
thinking that the 'inheritance' of acquired characteristics pertains to the
biological founda tions of psychoanalysis.n Rather. it arose out of
Freud·s relation to the accepted conceptual armoury of philological
research in the nineteenth century, which would often pay scant
anention to the vicissitudes of time and space in the link:ing of word-
forms. In the essay on Leonardo, Freud backed away from such
audacity, only to find out later that be had 10 restore at least one form of
such an argument, since psychoanalysis. as much as philology, had need
of the temporal and spatial continuity that the concept of tradition
secured. Just as the Volksgei.st, relying on its primary manifestation.
language, tr.lllscended the individual (whether it be individual society or
indi vidual speaker), liccocing the linking of diverse word·forms from
one epoch to another, so did Freud feel o bliged to introduce a parallel
188 language and t!N. Origins of Psychoonalysis
conecpt of the continuity of tradition, the continuity of ·folk-memory',
at exactly those points where philological and linguutic research
focused mosl sharply: the continuity and singulari1y of reference of

One might argue that Freud's psychoanalysis replaced the concept or

tradition" by giving each individual a set of psychic schemas by which
he could produce from "within', as it were. the phenomena analogous to
those discovered by philological analysis to have occurred at dilTerent
times nod places. Certainly the infantile theory of 1he phallic mother
served this function in the explication of Leonardo"s phnn1asy, once
Freud had cul 1he link that connected Egypl and 1he Renaissance. But
Freud wus aware that the individualistic, sui ge11erls solution 10 all
problems of inter-psychic relations might not be sufficient. He bad
explici1ly addressed 1his point in M oses and Afonothelsm; and. his
prortic~ in the analysis of Leonardo's childhood recollection. whatever
1he final recourse to infantile sexual theories might suggest, indica1cd
lhat he though1 it would be preferable to employ a philological
argument. if one existed, relying as such arguments did on evidence I.hat
caooellcd out. almosl a priori. the accidental discontinuilies I.hat were
the special insignia of an individual subject. It is thus s1range 10 see I.he
path by which one theme in I.he development of psychoanalysis, thal
which followed out the logic of a philological methodology in order to
secure a broader evidential base upon which to secure 1he 'intimate
detail" with which psychoanalysis must work, found itself exaclly in
contradiction with another theme, namely that which looks to the
accidental discontinuities of the subject's relation to his symbolic
universe for the clue to the symptomatology he olTers.


It is in this cootcKt that we can again recall Frcud"s insistence that

dream-symbols be based upon 'linguistic usage'. Linguistic usage
represented, in a sense. the accumulated and collecti\'e syntheses of free
associations. What free association provided for the analysis of the
individual, linguistic usages provided for the analysis of the collective.
But, as has orten been noted with surprise, an individual's free
associations may provide I.he clue to the meaning of a collective
phenomena. And. inversely, when the topic of dream-symbolism
became an important issue, linguistic usage could stand in the place or
free association as evidence for the meaning of the symbol.
Philology 189
We do not have space to give a detailed example of the manner in
which free association and philological evidence could freely stand in
for one another in a detailed psychoanalytical argument. Suffice it to
point to one extremely interesting example in which this could be s hown
to be the case: the theme of the relation of one man to three women, first
adumbrated in the 'specimen dream or psychoanalysis',., the dream of
Irma's iajection, and ' reworked', to different self-analytic ends, in the
191 3 paper. ' Das Motivder Kiitsclrenwahl'.'0 Jn lhe first 'version', in the
dream. the evidence is drawn entirely from Freud's free associations,
and. despite this, the theme is never overtly approached. But we have the
evidence of a lcuer Freud wrote 10 Abraham in 1908 as 10 what he
regarded al that time as the central theme of the dream:

Sexual megalomania is hidden behind it, the three women, Mathilde,

Sophie and Anna are my daughter's god-mothers, and I have them
all! There would be one simple therapy for widowhood, of course.
(Freud, I96Sa. 9 Jan 1908, p. 20)

A sexual relation with three women. Indeed, the number ·3· figures
largely in the dream. both in the manifest con1<:n1 and in the associations
Freud gave to the latter, but nowhere more ·symbolically' than in the
chemical formula which Freud saw'printcd in heavy lypc' - the formula
for trimcthylamin":

/ .........-"
N~ C'~
T he dream-analysis that we find in The lnttrprttation ofDrtams (Freud
(1900a) SE IV 106-20) centred around a wish for self-vindication. a
wish that entailed the vilification of others. We have already en-
countered chis theme and one version ofi1selabon11ion in the · Non Vixit'
dream (Chapter 4. p. IS8fT above). All the dreams of self-justification
rC<lcived unconscious suppon from the infantile memory that we
discussed there: Sigismund's anempt at self-justification in the face of
parental justice, following the banle of wills with his playmate, John,
over an unspecified object that, we surmise. in some way represented
190 Language and 1/re Origins of Psychoonalysis
Pauline, the third member of the playgroup. The recurrent 'symbolic
slructurc tha1 rcprcscn1cd this insistent pattern of wish-fullilling
1hougb1s consisted in four terms: Freud (self). a rival or fellow-
conspirator, a j udicial representative of the older. parental order, and
the object, a woman or her representative.
According 10 the account Freud gave in his lcncr. 1hen. we find this
"object', explicitly sexual now. replicated three times in the dream. lo
fact, i1 is not only the object that is 'triplicated'; we find 1ha1 each of the
01her1crms of the 'self-justificatory' infan1ile scene figures in the dream-
analysis under 1hrec different guises:
(i) as au1hori1ies, Dr M. (Breuer), whose judgemcnl is shown to be
absurd and shortsighted, as well as being in confticl wilh the
dreamer's; FleischJ, 1be friend who had poisoned himself with
cocaine (sich mit Kokain Vt!rgifte1 hot), and concerning whose death
Freud was oflen to foci a need fo r self-jus1ification, as if he bad been
responsible for this dca1b of an ideal; and Freud's 'cider bro1her'
(mein im Auslundt lebendtr iilterer Bruder), who, for the purposc:s of
the dream·s aim. had been assimilalcd 10 Dr M. as being 100
·s1upid' to accept Freud's suggestions or 1hcorics.
(ii) filling the posts of conspirator and compc1itor, we find 0110 (Oskar
Ric). who was compared unfavourably 10 Leopold (Ludwig
Roscnslein). another medical colleague; and, finally, we find Flicss,
who had supplied Freud with the fo rmula 1hat we can now use to re-
rcprescnl. in a cu..,.ory form. as did F reud in his dream•'. the
' meaning' of the dream:"
Philology 191
We thus find the theme of the relation 10 the three women embedded
in the symbolic structure of the dream, modelled upon an infantile
scene, and represented in a 'pure' symbolic form: a chemical formula.
One could even. as did Lacan and Anzicu. discover the sexual theme of
the three women without knowing of Freud's letter to Abraham. since ii
is the underlying triadic structure which organizes all of Freud's
associations. But, we will now leave aside the themes of the rival and tbe
authority in order 10 follow Freud as he pursued the theme of the tbrcc
women-daugh1ers-w1dows-pa1ien1s in 'The Motives for the Choice of a
Casket' (1913)."
In this second version. Freud staned by examining the choice to
wbicb Bassanio must submit in order 10 gain Ponia 's band in The
Merchant of IImice. a cboioe b<twccn three caskets. Freud argued that
this choice is homologous to Lear's ·choice' b<twecn his three daugh-
ters. lo this wdl known paper''. Fr<ud argued, via a range of
mythological soun:es.., that Lear's refusal 10 choose his third and
youngest daughter, the daughter who r<presents death, is equivalent 10
an intellectual triumph over death, a triumph that ends in tragedy, since

it is in vain that an old man yearns for the love of woman as he had it
first from his mother: the third of the Fates alone, the silent Goddess
of Death. will take him into her arms. (Freud (1913f) SE XII 301)

We may surmise tha11hc 1heme oflhc threc women found in both the
dream of Irma's injection and in the theme of the choice of a casket was
central 10 Freud's self-analysis. Bui one of the versions employs
material derived from free association as its evidential base, while the
other employs an ahogether different sort of material, but one entirely
familiar lo philologists: the close-reading of two Renaissance plays,
East European and Grncco-Roman myths, and Germanic folklore.
Insofar as they referred 10 the same theme, these two modes of
argument seemed 10 be intcrchaneeable. Indeed. in the text of 'The
Motive for the Choice of a Casket'. there were only three points al
which Freud called upon specifically psychoanalytic areumcnts: to take
the step from the theme of the choice b<twecn caskets 10 that of a choice
between women, via the symbolic equation, well known 10 b< a
significant feature of Freud's own symbolic map, ·casket= woman'.,;
secondly. to demonstrate the equation 'dumbness= death', for which
demonstration dream-interpretation proved in fact to be insufficient.
necessitating recourse 10 1he category of linguistic usage. mythology
and folklore (in this case. 1wo of the Grimms' /.fiirch~n): thirdly. to
192 language and tk Origins of Psychoanalysis
r<solvc 1wo contradictions. the first of which arises when one notes that
!he woman who represents death bas all the characteristics ofa beautiful
and lo••ed one". the second of which arises from 1he facl that both the
plays and the myths replace the inerirabiliry of dea1h by the choice of a

Wahl sttht an drr Sttllt von Notwendigktit, von Vtrhiingnis. So

Oberwindtt der t.fensch tkn Tod. den er in seinnn Denktn anerkannt
liar. Es ist kein sriirkerer Triumph der IYunsclierfiil/ung ilenkbar.
[Choice s1ands in the place of necessily, of dcs1iny. In this way man
overcomes death. which he had come to recognize through thought.
No greater 1riumph of wish fulfilment is thinkah/e.) (Freud ( 1913f)
SE XII 299; tran.s lation modified: my emphasis).

Such psychoanalytic arguments were not even far removed from

modes of reasoning employed by philologists: replacing the cw;kcts by
women was the sort of symbolic subs1i1u1ion wilh which the work of
S1e1nthal. Kuhn and S1ucken was rife and, as we shall sec. it was !heir
wor·k !hat ofien sanctioned such substitutions. Even the conccpl of
ambivalence embodied in the woman who is bo1h loved and represents
dcaih could find no better represenlation than those of Kali. the creator
and destroyer.
We have the feeling, in analysing lhese 1wo episodes in the history of
psychoanalysis, 1hat there is a s1rict parallelism be1wecn what !he
paticnl uucrs and what can be found to be of significance in the field of
cultunt l represcma1ions. ln olherwords, lhe method of free association,
seemingly specific to psychoanalysis, is parallel 10 and in1ercha11geable
wilh a philological collatio n of collective ' associa1ions'. So lhat if we
return 10 lhc question: wha1 is specifically psychoannly1ic about the
argumcnl in ' The Mo1ivc for the Choice of a Caskcl', we find it difficult
to find an answer. Certainly ii was nol 1he Iheme actually worked
1hrough in the paper, which Freud called, perhaps over-harshly,
'superficial and aUegorical''9 • nor !he evidence broughl to bear at each
s1age of the argument, nor even !hose crucial stages in the argumcnl
where philologists would not have been able 10 tread 1he path that
Freud trod. One theme only was specifically drawn from psychoan-
alysis: the no1ion thal representing death as a choice ins1ead of the
ineluctable dcs1iny it aclually is is lhe mosl complete wish-fulfilmcnl
possible. !he acme of mythopcic though!. But the connection with the
dream of Irma's injcc1ion indicates 1ha1 another specific fea1ure of
psychoanalysis is less unassailably peculiar: free association. If we
Philology 193
regard Freud's sexual megalomania and Lear's refusal of death as
developments of the one theme, we could well imagine a reversal of the
evidential forms employed in unfolding its development. When F reud
sanctioned the possibility of substituting 'linguistic usage' for free
aS$0Ciation, bis choice could not but rebound b.tck onto the evidential
status of free association. And such an effect might not have been wholly
out of keeping with a conception of free association as a specialized.
microcosmic variant of the collection of philological data. At the mo-
ment, it is not possible to go beyond such a formulation of the
interrelatedness of free association and philological evidence. But the
wo uld seem to make plausible the suggestion that free association was in
some way intimately tied to the philological methods generated in the
nineteenth century for the investigation of the hidden centre. the hidden
meaning of language.


We arc now in a position to throw light upon an enigmatic feature of the

history of psychoanalysis that we noted in passing. when we considered
the development of the theory of symbolism in Chapter 3. We noted
there that Freud's followers - in panicular Rank, Abraham and Jun,g -
were championing Freud's theory of dream-symbolism long before it
was published. What was their source of kno wledge of this theory? Why
did they make so much of a theory that was, at best, incidental to, at
worst, in conflict with Freud's own theory of dreams, as set out in The
Interpretation of Dreams? We can allow Jung 10 clarify this problem for
us. quoting fro m a I 908 paper:

T he public can forgive Freud least of all for his sexual symbolism. In
my view he is really easiest to follow here, because this is just where
mythology, expressing the fantasy-thinking of all races. bas p.reparcd
the ground in the most instructive way. I would only mention the
writings of Stcinthal in the 1860s. which prove the existence of a
widespread sexual symbolism in the mythological records and the
history of language.... The Freudian symbol and its interpret-
ation is therefore nothing unheard of. it is merely unusual for us psy-
chiatrists. (Jung ( 1908) CW IV 23-4)

194 Language and the Origins of P•J'<hoanolysls
Wha l wc can sunnisc is the following; the psychoanalytic lhcory of lhe
symbol was created as much by Freud's followel'$ as by Freud, and for a
'cry good reason: it was one departmenl of the inner life of mankind's
history that bad already recei\'ed much exposure from lhc researches of
philologists and mythologisls. For any "psychia1rist" convcn<anl with the
philological sciences, sexual symbolism was a source of respectable
support fo r Freud's interpretative me1hods. which. much to Jung's
indigna1ion. had come in for many "cheap philological criticisms· (Ibid.
CW IV 17). •0 Thescxual symbolism that was one of the major findings of
philology and mythology became grafted 0010 Freud's method. And the
appurcm all1nity of Freud's method with those employed by philologists
perhaps accounls for lhe fact that those philologically-minded
psychoanalysts - Rank. Jung, Abraham, Ferenczi, Stekel. Jones, to
mention only the besl-known,a list to which wc will retum in a moment -
could confuse findi ngs whioh were almost exclusively philological in
character with those thal were more properly psychoanalytical.
But who were these philologically minded psychoanalysts? Al lhe bead
of the list, we must place Freud. We ba'·e already seen, in Chapter 3.
'Symbolism'. the uses to ,..hicb Freud could put philology and some oflhe
modes of philological reasoning he employed. Here ,.e will simply note a
few more aspects of his philological bent. He drew a large number of
comparisons between the dream-work and linguistic mechanisms. lhus,
by implication, pointing lowards linguistic mechanisms as the
appropriate a rea in which to find the spccificcharac1cristic:s of the action
or the unconscious, though the linguistic mechanisms in question might
either be present-day ones. or ones appropriate 10 the development of
language o r those belonging to a hypothesized primitive language."
For example. he called upon philological evidence to suppon his
account of lhe transformation of the first giji, a child's faeces, into lhose
highly valued faecal substitutes. gold and m oney. o n the one hand, and
baby and penis on thcother(Freud (l933a) SE XXll 100). When Freud
wished to indicate profitable areas of application for psychoanalysis, he
turned firs1 to philology (Freud (1913j) SE XIII 165- 90; (1924f) SE
XIX 20SIT). But the rela1ion was more one of disciplinary contiguity
than of a possible assimilation of philology to psychoanalysis: as we
no1ed above (p. 98). Freud went out of his way to indicate to the other
analysts that they had much to learn from a study of philology. And it
was lo lhc philological sciences that he looked lo provide a more
adequate lraining fo r the psychoanalyst than could medicine when he
wro1e. on 71re Q11esrio11 of Loy Analysis:
Philology 195
... analytic inslrUClion [in a college of psychoanalysis] would include
branches of knowledge which are remote from medicine and which
the doe1or does not come across in his praC1ice: the history of
civilization, mythology. the psychology of rcligJon and the science of
literature. Unless he is well at home in these subjects. an analyst can
make nothing or a large amount of his material. By way of
compensation, the great mass or what is taught io medical schools is
of no use lo him fo r his purposes. ( Freud (1926e) SE XX 246)

Freud by no means regarded himself as an CX!)trt in philological

mailers. His period of collaboration with Jung was rich in philological
researches, but it was clear that Jung's erudition in that sphere was
vastly superior to Freud's, and Jung was to keep the relation of depth
psychology to philology a close one. when the psychoanalysts had
turned away. after the First World War, from philological researches
1owards sociology and ego-psychology. Bui in 1he period of'splendcd
isolauon · before 1he formation of other analysis had begun. it appears
1hat Flicss. along with bis many other talents. along with the many other
functions be fulfilled for Freud, was ·,,.,;n sprtxhgtkhrttr Frtwul' of
Tht lnttrprttation of Drtams (Freud (1900a) SE V 466). Flicss thus
combined in himself two intellectual traditions. that of romantic biology
and that of'romantic' philology, preoccupations that fused, perhaps for
both Flicss and Freud, in the fervour with which they searched for the
meeting-point of the arbitrariness or chance, or numbers, with the
determinism derived from a hidden temporal order.
But, along with Fliess, Freud also had his favourite philological
authors, foremost amongst whom we must place Rudolf Kleinpaul,
who, with Rank, appears to have been ;hou~·philologist' for the early
psychoanalysts." In a letter to Fliess, dated I 2 December 1897, Freud
recommended he read Kleinpaul's Die Lelwndigtn und di• Toten
(1898)." It seems likely that the followin,g paragraph from the same
leuer owed something to Kleinpaul's stimulus:

Can you imagine what "cndopsyd1ic myths" arc? They are the latest
product of my mental Jabour. The dim inner perception of ones own
psychical apparatus stimulates illusions, which arc naturally pro-
jected outwards, and characteristically into the future and a world
beyond. Immortality. retribution, the world after death. are all
reflections of our inner psyche . .. psychomythology. (Freud ( 1950a)
Origins, 12 Dec 1897, p. 237)
196 Language and 11!. Origins of PsJv:hoanalysis
Was ii again only a coincidence 1ha1 1he nexl leuer 10 Flicss. written
1en days later. venlured into the area that supplied 1he s1ock-io-Lrade of
Kleinpaul and the 01her philologists: 1he double meaning of words?

... in 1he case of obsessional ideas the mos1 dispara1e things tend
to be broughl together under a word wilh more than o ne
meaning.... A girl au ending a sewing class which was soon coming
to an end was troubled by the obsession: .. No, you mustn't go yet, you
haven 't finished, you must do [mache11) some more, you must learn all
that it is possible to learn.·· Behind this was the memory of childhood
scenes; when she was put on the pol, she did not want to stay o n it and
was subjected to the same compulsion: .. You mustn't go yet, you
haven't finished. you must do some more." The word "do" permi1s
identification of the later with the infantile situa1ion. (Ibid .• (22 D«.
1897) SE I 272- 3)

It migh1 be said that this concern with double meanings is nol

connected wi1h the double meanings of 1he philologisis. which, as we
saw in the first section of this chapter, were the empirical sin~quanon of
lhe construction of etymological genealogies, 1he other half of the
working principle ofc1ymology being 1he comparison of two words wilb
dilTcrent forms. via the intermediary of a single meaning. (As Bain bad
wriuen in 1870, to be cited by Abel and then by Freud in 1910: 'either
every name must have a double meaning, or else for every meaning
there must be two names'. (Freud (1910e) SE X I 159)) But it seems that
Freud was half-afraid - again, he lacked the audacity .. . - that this
'childish play with wo rds' (Freud ( 1905c) SE VIII 170) was too 'crazy
(ga11z toll)' (Freud (I 950a) SE I 273) to be valuable as a scientific finding:
ii evoked the fea r, perhaps, of being ace.used of pulling words into other
people's mouths - o r worse places.•• So the support ofa philologically-
based theory was very welcome; so welcome, indeed, thal it might even
have been lhe possibilily of such a 1heory 1hat allowed Freud 10
understand. even to discovec. the play with words that his patients

All tho.\ is not entirely arbitrary. The word machen has itself
undersonc a similar transformation of meaning. An old phantasy of
mine, which I should like to recommend to your linguistic pe.rception,
deals with the derivation of our verbs from such orig1nally copro-
erolic 1erms. (Freud (1950a) SE I 273)
Philology 197
Certainly a philological project on the grand scale. and one which
never came close to fruition. Tbedcfercncc to Fliess' linguistic talents"
strikes one as out of place. perhaps a pan of those other deferences.
numerological. nasal and otherwise, that comprised what has come to
be known as F reud's transference to Fliess. It occurs to us that these
references to grandiose philological schemes are of the same ilk as all the
other gr.1ndiosc schemes Freud proposed to Fliess: the Project for a
Scltntifo' Psychology. the projected book entitled Bis•.<uality in
Mon'°, 10 mention only 1he most slriking. These grandiose schemes
might have been the necessary correlale bo1h of Freud's self-analysis
and of the slow crystallization of psychoanalysis out from the slurry
formed by all those other sciences in epistemological adjacency to it; in
other words, they may have been necessary to the construction of the
epistemological space of psychoanalysis. If the detaching of psycho·
analysis from neurology hap~ed silently, its witness, af\er the event.
being Chapter VII of The lnrerprerarion of Drranu, the hopeful
fascination evoked by the prospect of support from philology waxed as
well as waned: a cycle one can observe in those eminently philological
works of the rum of the cenrury. Tht PsychoparholO(ly of£<.,yday Life
and Jokts and rheir Relation to rhe Unconscious, as well as in the sporadic
but regular references to philology across the entire corpus of F reud's
ps)'ehoanalytical work until his death.
Wladimir Gr.1noff has captured well the tone of Freud's hopeful
relation to philology:

... (in Freud's relation 10 science~ something functioned for him

along the lines of'Perhaps one day this issue will resolve itself, or be
resolved (dticidef. And, along this path, he invoked two sciences -
although it is beholden upon us 10stress1he fact thal he didn't invoke
them in the same manner. Two sciences, one of which was chemistry,
the other linguistics. Of chemistry, he invoked it in saying, 'Perhaps
one day... : To this hope. chemistry has replied with silence. As to
linguistics. one could say that it is l..acan who has made it answer.
(Granoff. 1975, p. 418)

What \\e can add to this remark of Granoff's is the diffcrcnl tense of
Freud's fontasy of scientifte support to be derived from these other
disciplines: chemistry was always invoked in the future tense. whereas
Freud believed. without really knowing the exact details. the exact
sources. that linguistics - philology - had already laid doM•n the scien-
tific base, the manifestations of which Freud was (re)discovering in
198 l.m1g11age and the Origins of Psy<:hoanalysis
another form; that all these audacious. ·arbitrary', 'crazy' confusions of
words were already there. Qn the unconscious? In a dusty and already
old volume of the Zeitsdirift flir Vofkerpsyd1ologie und Sprodn..is-
smschaft? In the 'history of the devclopmmt oflanguage'? In 'linguistic
usage'? Or. even, in the domain of k.nowledge possessed by those
transferential objects that Freud was more and more successfully
teaching himself to do without. even if such a withdrawal did involve the
rctrospcctivc phantasy of a splendid isolation?)
We can read the following passage from a lecture that Ferenczi gave
10 the Free School of the Social Sciences in Budapest in 1911:

[The psychoanalyst] takes on the part of the successful caricature,

Professor Tomb who. instead of Jelling poetical works in their
original form ioftueocehisstudents, takes them to pieces and murders
their beauties by his philological and aesthetic analysis.
Like every caricature, that of Professor Tomb has a core of
seriousness. What this tedious philologist does in all simplicity
namely, making what is beautiful dull by his analysis and thereby
producing a comic effect upon everyone, Professor Freud does quite
deliberately and uses it 10 obtain astonishing psychological
information.... The very method by which he set out to analyse wit
was an ingenious idea that, on the basis above mentioned, we might
call 'the method of the tedious philologist'. (Fercnczi (1911b) pp.
332- 3)

This characterization of Professor Freud - and, by implication,

psychoanalysis in general - certainly had a greater accuracy than the
occasional reference to the Talmudic or Kabbalistic character of
psychoanalytic interpretation, a characterization fully argued for, if not
convincingly, by Dakan ( Dakan, 1958, esp. pp. 220- 70). And ther< is
plenty of evidence 10 indicate that the role of the tedious philologist
could be comfortably shared by other psychoanalysts. Abraham, whose
first love had been languages, and who was always glad of the
opportunity that psychoanalysis ga"e him tn return to this first love''.
had been the fint of Freud's group to enter the field first mapped out for
Freud by the stimulation be received from Kleiopaul, in bis work
mtitled Traum und Mythos (1909). Abraham found that Frcud·s
method of free association could not be employed for the interpretation
of myths: be thus came to rely heavily on sexual symbolism, derived
from the researches of the Viilk erpsclrologisc/,.n and mythologists, and
upon his own reworking of the philological evidence th:it they put into
Philology 199
his hands. For example: one of the myths with which Abraham dealt
was the sun-god cycle found in both Semitic and Aryan accounts. the
best known representatives being Samson and Prometheus. Abraham's
sources were Cohen (1865/69), Kubo ( 1859/86) and Steinthal (1862a,
I862b). He focused bis account on the word Prometheus, showing how it
wiu derived from the Sanskrit Pram0111ha. itself derived from a term
describing an implement, a 'borer'. This borer was a stick that was
inserted into a bowl and rotated. generating fire. It was at the next level
of theorizing that controversies between mythologists were rife: why
was a myth elaborated around this technological device? Certain
mythologists (sometimes Frazer, certainly Tylor) argued that myths
such as these are a form of science distorted through ignorance, or
through employing false premises. Abraham. in company with other
psychoanalysts, found this rationalistic explanation unsatisfactory,
turning more towards a form of explanation to be found in MiiUer's
work: mythology arises from a distortion of language, mythology is an
abuse of language.
Muller and Kleinpaul both argued that mythology arose from an
earlier stage in the development of language. when language was more
'alive,'. Although Millier argued that neither language nor thought
could exist without the other, he admitted that 'language necessarily
reacts upon thought, and we sec in this reaction, in this refraction of the
rays of language, the real solution of the old riddle of mythology.'
(Muller, 1871, p. 593;cf. Kleiopaul, 1893, pp. 299ff). In the ' mythopeic
period', when language was still young, objects were named by their
characteristic auributes, thus giving rise to a complex system of
homonyms and synonyms, a system which could already open out onto
a play with in language, a metaphor. 'Words were heavy and unwieldy.
They said more than they ought to say . . .. ' ( Muller, 1881. p. 369;
quoted in Henson, 1971, p. 14). Myths were then generated, from these
first words which described objects in terms connoting human activity,
e.g. the sun is the "shiner', the river the "runner· (cf. •nverruo, past Eve
and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a
commodius vicus or recirculation back ... '). And such etymologies. as
James Joyce also knew, could be proved from an examination of
Sanskrit. Such a primal language having come into existence, the
precondition for the generation of myth wiu that the 'true' reference for
these words be Jost - a slidiog of meaning must take place - a process
that Muller described as the 'death' of language. when it had lost its
'etymological conscience'.
200 Uinguage and t~ Origins of Psyrhoa11ol)•Sis
It is the essential character of a true myth that it should no longer be
intelligible by a reference to the spoken language. ( Ibid., p. 376)

Miillers famous dictum, that mythology is a disease of language,

arose from bis conception that the 'true' meaning of words had bttn
·forgonen'. Abraham could thus easily graft the psychoanalytical
theory of repression onto this account of the genesis of myth: mythology
develops through repression acting within a language. And he could
find " further etytnology to add to the Prome1heus- Pro111t1111/w- borer
series: the ' borer' is also a synonym fo r ·penis' . Abraham undertook a
brief comparative survey oflanguages in order to indicate the generality
of this equation, as well as relying on the fact that the Sanskrit root
-111a11rlia has th is double meaning, this origin.••
In this way Abraham could argue that the myth was a distorted
representation of a sexual phantasy, a phantasy whereby the represen-
tations of the making of fire were sexualized. Implicit in this account
was a notion that the sexual meanings of words are not only the
cause of repression and subsequent mythic production. but also the
primary units of language. Abraham could amalgamate Freudian
psychoanalysis with Miillers and Kleinpaul's conception of myth as a
'disease of language', since, in assuming that th< first words designated
things sexual. he bad also laid down the reasons why language should
b«ome diseased.
We even find ao echo of this mythological etymology in a case-history
that Freud wrote in 1908,just after he had received the galley-proofs of
Abraham's essay (Freud, 1965a. p. 47). The key phantasy in this case-
history, that of liule Hans. concerned a plumber's borer:

l wus in the bath, and then the plumber came and unscrewed it Then
he took a big borer and stuck it into my stomach. (Freud ( 1909b) SEX

Here. as in the case of Leonardo's vulturc-phantasy, an interpretation

based on the directly represented content of the phantasy strikes
a ·post-Freudian' eye as obvious: a big borer representing a penis is
stuck into little Hans· stomach- a seemingly obvious representation of
sexual intercourse. Such an interpretation could have been very easily
integrated with those themes of pregnancy, castrntion and the anal
theory of childbirth with which the case-history is concerned. But.
strikingly. this interpretation was not made: Hans' father translated it as
Philology 201
I was in bed wi1b Mummy. Then Daddy came and drove me away.
With his big penis he pushed me oul of my place by Mummy. (Ibid.)

Freud uprcsscd reservations about Ibis in1erpretation. But these

reservations were not due to his having considered the •obvious•
interpre1a1ion we havejust menlioned, as whal follows clearly indicates.
Hans solved the problem for him by producing more material, which
allowed Freud to correct Hans' fa1hcr's in1erpr<1ation with evidence
from language, the evidence tha1 Freud regarded as bolh preferred and
At 1he end of the analysis the plumber reappeared inn phantasy 1ha1
represented Hans' final victory over his phobia:

The plumber came; and firs1 he took away my behind wi1h a pair of
pinoers, and then gave me another, and 1hen the same with my
widdler. ( Ibid., SE X 98}

h ans· father commented:

In 1he light of this, we may review the interpretation of Hans' earlier

phantasy.... The big bath meant a "behind". the borer or screw-
driver was a widdlcr. The two phantasies arc ideniical. (Ibid.)

Bui, following him, Freud had this 10 say:

Yes. the Doctor (the plumber) did come, he did take away his penis -
but only lo give a bigger one in exchange for it. (Ibid .. SE X 100}

Still, this phanlasy of castration feared and then overcome seemed to

contain more 1han the 'borer-penis' equation might lead one to believe.
True to Freudian psychoanalysis. let us ask 1he question: ' Whose
peni.s?' Once one asks such a question one sees 1ha1 the phantasies can
give two difTerent readings. with two very different effects upon the
resulting interpretation.
In tbc first phantasy. it \\Ould seem not to be a question of Hans'
penis. It is the ' plumber's' - bis father's (according to his father). And it
would seem that Hans is suffering an ac1 of aggression from this penis,
an act of aggression perhaps similar 10 those aggressive 'breaking
throughs' lo which bis own primitive gcni1al sensations seemed to lead.
There does not seem to be a question of cas1ra1ion here. But the next
moment of tho analysis resulted in the discovery that one of Hans'
202 Language and rill' Origins of PsJ'Choana/ysis
phobic symp1oms - bis fear of heavily loaded cam - corresponded to
"the fear of a heavily loaded stomach'. (Ibid., SEX 66.) And yel neither
Freud nor Hans· father made the conncct.i onytt bc1wccn the borer that
the plumber sluck into his stomach and 1his piece of knowledge tbal
Hans now rc,eaJcd: his fear of a stomach heavily loaded down . . . with
a baby.
In lhe second phan1asy, Hans" bouom and his widdlerwerelirst raken
away and then he received anolher pair. bigger and bcuer. 'ijke
Daddy's". In this triumphant phantasy, it appears 1hat Hans accepted
1hc reality or castration, which he had previously feared and rejected,
bu1 was able lo triumph over this fac1 by receiving from his caslrator a
new penis, like Daddy's - or, to pul it in terms familiar 10 us from
Freud's papers of the 1920s (Freud, I924d), he overcame his castration
fears by an identification wilh lhc father.
Bul there is more to this second phaniasy lhan meets the eye. ' It was
nol until laler lhat it was possible lo guess 1ba11his was a remoulding of
a phanra.ry or procreation, dis1orted by anxiety.' (Freud (1909b) SEX
128.) Freud introduced ibis Iheme of procreation in 1he following note
to 1he tcxl:
Perhaps, 100, the word 'borer' [Bohrer) was no1 chosen wi1bout
regard fo"r its connection with "born" [geborm I and birth [Geburri If
so. lhe child could have made no dis1ine1ion bc1ween "bored'
(gebohrt) and 'born' [geborm ]. I aecepl 1his sugges1ion, made by an
experienced fellow-worker, but I am no1 in a posi1ion 10 say whelher
we have before us here a deep and universal connec1ion between the
1wo ideas or merely the employment of a verbal coincidence peculiar
to German. Prometheus (Pramantha), the creator of man, is also
etymologically ' the borer'. (Cf. Abraham, Traum und Afytilus, 1909)
(Ibid., SE X 98 nl).
And. despite the •perhaps· with which he had inlroduced this
in1erpre1atioo. Freud concluded that lhe phantasy had the following
The big bath of water, in which Hans imagined himself, was his
mo1hcrs ... omb; the ·borer. wb.ich his fa1her had from the first
recogni2ed as a penis, o,.·ed iu mention to its connection with 'being
bom'. The interpretaiion that we are obliged to give 10 the pbao1asy
will of coun>c sound very curious: "With your big penis you ""bored"'
me' (i .e. ' gave birth to me') 'and put me in my molhers womb.' ( Ibid.,
SEX 128; my emphasis)
Philology 203
ut us take stock. The first feature we notice is the omission of a
cenain interpretative theme that was to figure largely in the case-history
of the Wolfman and that would Sttm 10 be of imponancc here: 1he
phantasy of sexual intercourse wi1h the fa1her, a.nd 1he wish for the
fa1her's baby ( =penis), a wish that en1ails 1he loss of his own penis
(castra1ion) (Freud (1918b) SE XVII 47, 63- 4, 100). Such an in1erpre1-
a1ion would mesh well with the seemingly obvious in1erpreta1ion of the
firs1 plumber pltantasy (borer in s1omach) as dcno1ing sexual inter-
course. In lhc lighl of such an in1erpre1a1ion, one would translate the
equation of 'borer' and 'born' - if one would ever arrive al such an
equation - as being equivalen1 to '(your) penis •(my) baby'. Such an
in1crprctation would lhus involve a certain licence with lhe actual
wording of the phantasy. But, whatever the reasons, Freud did not wish
10 introduce an interpretation of this kind, which would have involved
positing a strong passive-feminine component in little Hans' consti-
tu1ion. even though it would have made sense of the clement in 1be first
phan1asy. in which a borer is s1uc.k into linle Hans' stomach. He left
comple1ely to one side this interpretation. in favour of one that followed
more closely the linguistic evidence. a line of evidence that might have
seemed implausible to many another.
Freud ignored 1he passive homosexual Iheme of lhc analysis, in
favour of the interpretation 1ha1 little Hans had phantasi:tcd his o"·n
procreation." It was the bridge from ·borer to 'being born' thal
a1trac1cd his allention, since it involved the form of argument tha1 we
have come to recognize as akin to 1he argumen1s of the philologists. The
similorily in sound of 'geboltrt' and 'gebore11· was the path by which
Freud (and 1101 Hans' father) impu1ed to little Hans the means with
which to forge a link between the Iheme of 1hc penis and the theme of
procreation: 1he crucial link in the analysis. The sentence, ' Wi1h your
big penis you 'bored· me .. . 'docsn'1 mean 'With your big penis you
·fucked' me ... '; it means 'With your big penis you ·gave binh· to
me . . . '. In all probabili1y, i1 was Ono Rank. who was al that time, as
he wa.s to be lat<r. preoccupied with the Iheme of birth. who was the
·expenenced fellow-worker' who bad dra1<n Freud·s ancntion to the
link between the "'ords. And we can be almost ccnain that be derived
the connccuoo from bis philological researches into the mythology of
birth. Alongside of this philological soun."C. Freud could call on
Abraham's work in order to forge the link bc1wccn the 'borer and the
1hcme of procreation.•• So tha11he elymologics derived from the lndo-
Europcan languages seemed to ·Jead', to go on before, the material
clubora1cd in the case-history in the crucial passage from 1he theme of
204 Language and rhe Origins of Psychoo110/ysls
1he penis lo 1he Iheme of binh. II was as if 1he facili1a1ions laid down
bc1wccn ·Grbur( and "Bohrer·. bc1weeo ·pm;s·. "borrr. •Pramantha' and
•Promt1heu.J. were already io place, as a consequence of 1he exislence of
1hese words. Apart from 1he issueof1he gramnuuical discernments 1ha1
1hc linlc boy possessed. - an issue 1ha1 has rccen1ly perplexed 1rans-
rorma1ional grJ.mmarians, enticing them to postulate an innate set o f
gramma1icul ca1cgorics- we are al leas! forced to ponder lhc qucsiion
of a possible 'deep and universal connection bclwecn lhe 1wo ideas', a
ques1io n raised by 1be homophony of 1hc wo rds representing these
ideas. An ahcrnalivc solutio n lo that which would postulate an inner
connection between a group of ideas and their phonetic represen1ations
would be IO hypothesize a se1 of pal hways, ' nl rcady there', as a by·
product of the his1ory of language.
What we hope to have indicaled thro ugh this accounl ofliuJe Hans's
'plumber' phantasy is thal 1he crudal theme of birlh entered in by the
pa1h of a homopho ny sanctioned by philological evidence. We have
here a parallel 10 Leonardo's vulluro-phanwy: where a 'pos1-Freudian'
analyst mighl have assumed withou1 further ado lhal the vuhurc was a
mo1her-subsli1u1e, o r Lhal the borer pushed inlo Hans s1omach was a
represen1alive of sexual in1crcoursc, we find that Freud only produced
such interpretations when philological evidence - Egyptian mythology,
a possible "deep· linguistic connec1ion between 'gtbohrt' and
'gtbortn" - could vouchsafe such a s1cp. And in 1he lauer case, the
interpre!Ulion Freud gave was crucially deiermined as different from
1hn1 which another analyst might have offered, precisely by the
linguis1ic evidence lhat he employed: ' being born' ra1her 1han 'sexual
in1crcourse'. Freud's lranslatio n ofihe plumber phanwsy remains very
close 10 a homophony where meels 1hc babble of a Jin le boy and 1he
my1hologlc• I research of Rank and Abrah(lm; it docs nol cxlend
beyond whal the evidence oflanguage will allow. Indeed. ii follows the
evidence of language 10 the extent where a conclusion is reached tha1
would almosl certainly 001 have been reached via 1he s1raightforward
equa1jon upon which Freud was working al Lhai lime:
·penis • faeces = baby". As if1he past his1ory oflanguagecould no1 but
have us effec1 on 1he 4-year-old boy's auemp1 10 elabora1e 1he myth of
his own creation.
The bisloncal realism of 1be compara1ive linguis1s (Ardcncr, 1971)
seemed to necessitalc something more 1han 1he simple s1a1cment,
'These words were once spoken·. h seemed as if, o nce spoken. o ne could
never escape from their echo. Or. by believing one could. o ne was then
presenied wilh a neuro1ic, a primi1ivc man or a child who spoke a word
Philology 205
without a hiSlory. And such a word could have no meaning.

h always seems to us as ir meaning - compared with life - were the

younger event. because we assume, with some justification. that we
assign it of ourselves. and because we believe, equally rightly no
doubt, that lhe ucat world can get along Without being interpreted.
But how do we assign meaning'/ From what source, in the last
analysis. do we derive meaning? The fonns we use for assigning
meaning arc historical categories that reach back into the mists of
time a fact we do not take sufficient ly into account. Interpretations
make use of certain linguistic matrices that arc themselves derived
rrom primordial images. From whatever side WC approach this
question. everywhere we find ourselves confronted with the history of
language. with images and motifs that lead straight back to the
primitive wonder-world. ( Jung (1934/54) C \Y IX Part I 32- 3)

Such a recognition, here made explicit by Jung in 1934, was common

ground to both psychoanalysts and philologists. What was of import·
ancc in lhe history of language v.as two contradictory clements: the
movement of history itself. by,. hich one could hope to find an anchor
for meaning in a history finally bccamc perspicuous: and the startiog-
point, lhe momeot when a meaning and a word were created. Although
there seems no good reason for assig,ning this moment to any other
point in lime than 'now' - however that may be defined - the psycho-
analysts seem to struggle with a great fear. or perhaps a great
suspicion. of the seeming arbitrariness that such a turning·away from
pasl determinations might entail. In I897 Freud had said 'All this is not
entirely urbitrary,' with Kleinpaul's book at his elbow. In 1908
Abrnhnm wrote:

The objection that symbolism and the imponance ascribed to it exists

only in lhe imagination of a few biased theorists is untenable.
Klcinpaul expresses his opinion on this point emphatically and
incisively: symbols are not made, they jus1 exist: they are not
in,.. nted, but merely recognized. (Abr.. ham, 1909. p. 169)

How not to obey the pressure to push b;ick, to the beginnings, when
sexuality was represented directly and without ambiguity, when
language was as yet undistorted and not yet mythical. when one could
find 11 pre-mythical and pre-metaphorical state of language, when lhc
'original predicates·. the 'kinship relations' (K lcinpuul, 1916. p. 8) of the
206 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
first speech, were not yet coveted over, when one could find a state of
language that included as part of its raison d'itrt the incomprehensible
identities that analysis and philology relied upon for their continual
progress? And with this drive back into the history of language, t.he
problem of the prcKrvation of linguistic traces could not be avoided.
We have already hinted that there could be two solutions to this
problem. Let us now address them.
When we studied Freud's paper on Leonardo, we found that the
problem of the permanent prcKrvation of signification - i.e. the
problem of tradition - lay behind the contorted form of his argument.
The point of attack in Leonardo was the problem of the prCKrvation of
a word from one epoch to the next. Similarly, when he came to write his
essay on Moses. a similar opening Kerned possible: why not solve the
K<mingly intractable problem of the relation between the Egyptians
and the Jews by reference to one word that can cross the barrier? But
perhaps his not altogether happy experience with Leonardo had
forewarned him against such a simple solution.

The Jewish confession of faith, as is well known, runs:· SchemaJisroel

Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echod. • If it is not merely by chance that the
name of the Egyptian Aten (or A tum) sounds like the Hebrew word
Adonai and the name of the Syrian deity Adonis, but if it is due 10 a
primaeval kinship of speech and meaning, then the Jewish formula
might be translated thus: 'Hear, o Israel, our god Aten (Adonai) is a
s9le god.' ... But in all probability this is making things too easy for
us. (Freud (1939a) SE XXlll 25) 0 1

Such a solution, then. relying upon 'a primaeval kinship of speech

and meaning', is too easy. But what other option is there? It was at this
point that Freud turned to the more difficult path, which, as we have seen,
entailed a means for the preservation of tradition; a solution which
could only push further back the moment when a less than arbitrary
relation between speech and meaning, when a ' kinship' could be
found. 62 So we can recognize that it was the problem of the double
meaning of words, analysed and comprehended through the agency of
etymology or of free association, that drove philology and, following it,
psychoanalysis, 10 a cornering of meaning in a past moment that is made
present by a principle of subsistence that finds no bett<r explanation
than a reference to a concept SU<:h as the Volksgeist, or to tradition, or to
a 'polyglot unconscious'. 0 '
To round olT our account of the relations between philology and
Philology 207
psychoanalysis, we can return once again to the group or early analysts.
this time 10 the work of Ernest Jones. Jones may have been the outsider.
the sltob!Nth goy with the inexhaustible pen, but the path via which he
came to psychoanalysis was much like that of his codiJlciples: a training
as a neurologist. a distinct but uncbanncled interest in the medicine of
childhood and the peculiar combination of interests that I have tried to
highlight in this book: a twin interest in aphasia and philology.•• In bis
autobiography, he described the course of his intellectual development
as follows:

I was then [c. 1900] under the illusion 1ha1 [man's biological nature]
could best be studied in neurology, where ii would seem lha1 human
impulses and the control of them could well be examined . . .. No1
that I was in any way unaware of the philosophical problems
involved. On the contrary, I even conceived the idea that a profound
study of speech and language - the only mental function where some
coun1erpan can be localized in the conex of the brain - with their
disorders would be the most promising path 10 investigating the
relationship between mind and brain; with this end in view I did an
immense amount of work in that field, which remained for some years
one of my side inl<rests. Incidentally, it has a ccnain irony that lhe
only position I have ever held in the University of London is that of
membership of the Board of Studies for Comparative Philology.
(Jones. 1959. pp. 18- 19. er. Jones, 1907. 1908. 1909)

In this strange shit\ in Jones' account, from 1he neurology of speech

and language to the study of comparative philology, we find re-
capitulated the movement we have been studying in this work: fro m
neurology to philology. And how else can we fi II in this seeming gap in
Jones' train of1hough1 other than by pointing 10 psychoanalysis. which
occupied mos1 of Jones' life, and which bridges the gap between
neurology and philology with its central concern. language?•> And. in
addition, the fact that Jones held this particular academic position on
the Board of Studies for Comparati\'C Philology indicates to us 1ha1 be
W3$ no mere amateur when i1 came 10 the study of laoguages-
As Jones' io1ellectual biographer. Claude Girard. has noted. Jones'
psychoanalytic method consisted in ·rela11ng the analysis of 1he
charactensiics of his 1heme, i1s psychological meanings and their
symbolic relations 10 the differen1 forms of infon1ile sexuality. complc1-
ing 1hcsc givens with those of etymology' (Girard. 1972, p. 210).
Etymology could either be the means of discovery or hidden signili-
208 Uinguage and IN Origins of Psychoanalysis
cations. or a means of providing cvidenual support for these signifi-
cations. come upon elsewhere. His etymological researches made up the
bulk of bis work before bis analysis with Ferenczi in 1913. and made up
a significant portion throughout bis career. They show what Girard
calls a ·certain predilection· (Ibid.• p. 247) for the use of phonetic
associations combined with etymological arguments. It is as clear in
J ones· work as it is in Freud"s that etymological analysis functions as a
form of free association. in which the change of phonetic form and
meaning arc linked. although their transformations may not be parallel
at all times. And. again. as with Freud. psychoanalysis C-On either draw
upon etymology for its proofs, or contribute to etymology through
discovering in neurosis a series of etymological connections previously
undiscovered by philologists. For example. Jones attempted to throw
light upon the meaning of the Sanskrit root /.{ R. claiming in particular
that its R represented oral sadism (citing as evidence the fact that
French gentlewomen of the sixteenth century were not supposed to roU
their "r' s). From there he wished to tr•ce out an etymology for the word
MR, usually taken to mean "horse', by which it came to rcprescnt the
masturbation terror of the "nightmorr·. (Jones (1913) ).
Another paper of Jones' indicates clearly how the study of the his-
tory of languages and the psychoanalytic theory of the defence mech-
anisms could be drawn together. This paper. written in 1920, was
called "A linguistic factor in English characterology". Jones· starting-
point was the question: why arc the English so prudish? His answer
depended on the structure of the English language, a structure that
facili1a1cs repression. English contains three separate languages laid
over one another: at the base, Anglo·Saxon. upon which Norman
French has been imposed, followed by a coaling of Latin . As a result of
this heterogeneity, the language has an unequalled range of synonyms
and endows the English with an unparalleled freedom to indulge in
fastidiousness, through ·translation' from one stratum to another. The
suigcs of this process. exactly that of repression, can be traced in a large
number of examples. e.g. the Anglo-Saxon 'gut" was replaced by the
French "bo•·•I'. which. in Jones' day. had succumbed to the Latin
"inttJtinr' (Jones. 1920).
Both Jones and. as we saw, Abraham had manaaed to fuse Freud·s
early theory of repression as a ·failure of translation· with the
etymological method. so that what was translated were the distioc1
languages. found discovered in the collective unconscious or group
mind ( Vo/ksgei.rt). The 'radiation of meaning· (Jones. 1923, p. 354) that
formed the bread and butter of the psychoanalyst wus to be found in the
Philology 209
history of language and io childhood. so that J ones could rely oo
philology to make int.elligible and respectable ' the far-fetched associ-
ations we are accustomed to meet in the unconscious'. (£bid.) The
philologist was the pioneer when it came to the implausible radiation of
meaning that psychoanal)-sis came to rely on in the progressive
unveiling of what was said but not known (cf. Descombes, 1977).
Neither Jones nor Freud ever fully confronted the problem that the
philological method and the psychoanalytic investigation of the
neuroses raised, and which we have sc!co io this chapter come more and
more to the fore, namely, the problem of the preservation of traces that
'still' signify. To refer the problem to a collective system of represen-
tation. as did the Vo/kerpsychologischen with the concept of the
Volksgeist, or as did some psychoanalysts with the concept of the
collective unconscious, was only to crystallize the problem, to name it
rather than to solve it. Again, we have noted how Freud explicitly rec-
ogni~ the necessity for asswning a means for the 'survival of a tra-
dition' only late in his work, in Mos.sand Monotheism, although he had
implicitly assumed such a means throughout his work: psychoanaly-
sis, no more than philology, could not function without such a means.
Jones. for one. quarrelled with Freud over the mechanism for such a
survival, reading Freud's theory as a version of a biological theory
known as Lamarckianism, and, in the excessively 'Darwinian• atmos--
phere of Britain, finding such a theory unacccpcablc. But he himself, in
his more philological works, assumed that such a means fo r the
transference of word-forms and significations existed; and it was in this
dornain, rather than in the area of the preservation of ' instinctual'
impulses. that Freud and psychoanalysis required a means for preserv-
ing the effects of the past.
It was this unaccountable preservation of psychic traces that finally
put a wedge between psychoanalysis and archaeology, the analogy
between these sciences having be.en of some importance and significance
to Freud (Freud (1896c) SE Ill 196; Bcmfeld, Suzanne, 1951). In
contrast with the objects of archaeological research, 'it may, as we
know, be doubted whether any psychical structure can rcall)' be the
victim of total destruction.'(Freud(l9 37d)SE XXlll 260). It is things of
the m.ind that have an almost limitless power of preservation (Fl'1'ud
(1930a) SEXXI 71). And this doctrine. this finding, represents a curious
re•·ersal of commonplace opinions concerning the character of the
different sciences, namely, that subjectivity is peculiarly untrustworthy,
and that permanence is lo be found belier represented by the material
than by the psychic. We find a parallel notion io the discussion of chance
210 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
in Th# Psyrhopatholagyof E"'ryday Li/#, where Freud avowed that the
distinction between the superstitious man and the psychoanalyst resides
in the dilTcrent sense they give to 'determinism". For the superstitious
person, chance exists in the mind but not in the material world; whereas,
for the psychoanalyst, chance exists in the material world. but not in the
mind.•• Obviously this was a crucial dOC1rine for Freud. but also a
scnsiti\'e one, and Fliess chose to take it as the target of auack when be
broke with Freud, when he aocused Freud of being a 'thought-reader'; it
was also this aspect of the development of Freud's thought that Ernest
Jones found so disturbing: the question of telepathy. And it is towards
the limit question of telepathy that our whole argument points, a
question which we could reformulate as follows: if the contents of the
unconscious arc supra-individual in character, under what conditions is
the simultaneous realization of such contents in dilTercnl consciousness
possible? To Freud, the fact that this question brings one close 10 the
oocuh was a reason for treating ii with circumspection. but not for
refusing 10 ask it. 07 And perhaps we should sec the question of
telepathy, like the question of Moses, returning Freud to the probl<om of
the preservation of significative traces across those times and spaces not
yet proven 10 have been implicated in their transmission.
I used to have a morbid iden
that my parents knew my thoughts;
I explained this to myself
by supposing that I had SpQken
them out loud, without having heard
myself do it. l look on this
as the beginning of my illness. '

It will not have passed unnoticed that it will not be easy 10 find this work
a disciplinary niche. ls it a historical work, auempting 10 gel straight the
historical record, attempting to find a cenain 'reading' that could be
reiterated endlessly, and su11 remain a dclinitivc reading, as if, once
read, Freud would not have to be reread? Or is this work an aucmpt to
reformulate. via a his1orie<rconcep1ual argument, the foundations of
psychoanalysis, so that, where we oocc saw biology we now sec
philology. where we once saw symbolic decoding. we now sec phonetic
switching, where we once saw the discharge orfixated energy we now see
the rule-like transformations or a personal script?
I can deny neither or these ways or reading this work. But there is no
doubt that a third way of reading it is possible. We might call this
its Lacanian dimension. What may strike many readers is the
absence or the name ' Lacan' in a work that is devoted to the topic of
language and psychoanalysis. Such an absence could not but be a
deliberate act. an omission that owes its raison d'i1re to a series of
decisions. What results from these decisions can now be seen in one of
two ways: firstly, it is possible 10 demonstrate the fundamental nature of
the theory and practice of language and speech in psychoanalysis
without panaking of the beady prose, or the inc!Tablc ambiguities, of
Lacanian analysis. Secondly, we can read this work as the prolegomena
to a more direct approach 10 the Lacanian school or analysis, which, in
the 1950s, explicitly referred itself 10 a reading of Freud that runs
parallel to this thesis in its emphasis on the function of language in
analysis, in the talking-<:ure. To put it another way, if we read Freud this
212 Language and the Origins of Ps)'Choanal)'sis
,.,ay, i1 may help us 10 undentaod how i1 is possible for Lacan to
construct his theory under the banner of a return to Freud.
To conclude on such a nole may appear strange. Afier all, this work
makes historical claims. Bui it is as well to record the fact that these
historical claims were fir.It and foremos1 hypotheses arising out of a
close reading of Freud 's texts, rather than being 1he slowly accumula1ed
suspicions arising out of a general survey of late nineteenth century
eul1ure. If one can try to demons1ra1e a uni1y that encompasses
neurology and philology, it would cenainly be a difficult task if
psychoanalysis had never existed. 1 may have had to become acquainted
with that background, that context. that culture, in order to carry out
this study. But such an acquaintanceship was in the service of a desire to
throw light upon cenain obscurities in the psychoanalytic texts: jumps
in the argument, assumptions that seemed to be less demonstrable than
demonstrative. the specific form or a debate.' The issues that such
topics raised for me required the long detours tha1, when reorganized,
made linear. make up this work. Put simply, a 'slip' of Freud's pen was
the occasion for an inquiry into the constitution or the sciences or
language and mind in the nineteenth century. And "'e should not be
surprised that such strange detour.1 were necessary in order to 1ry and
discover what Freud could possibly have meant when he talked in 1890
of the 'magical power of words'.
So this work as history revolves around a corpus of writings 1hat -
need it be said? - remain the primary focus of psychoanalysis. And the
fact that our history looks 'forward' to Lucan, just as it looks
'back words" to Jackson and Kleinpaul, does not, I trust. make it a
historical monster, out of step eitber witb the past or witb the pr=nt. I
make no pretensions to writing the history of the past as if it were a self·
sufficient system of permanent traces that could be closed off by a
remark such as that of Ernest Jones', when he was assessing the
significance of Freud's self-analysis: ·once done. it is done for evcr." 3 In
this work I have tried to do nothing other than write the history of the
present. In history, as in psychoanalysis. one understands what comes
before through what came aftet.

I. Two ot her books on Freud have provided continual slimulation: Richard

Wollheim's Freud, and Philip Rietf's Frrud: 711• Ml11d of 1l1t Moralist.
2. Very similar ground to that covered in Lhe latter par I or Chapter 2 is covered
in Laffal (1964) and Marshall ( 1974). There are a large number of
commentaries that discuss Lbe fast seaion in Freud's paper on 'The
Unoonsciou5' (191.Se) where he linked consciousness 10 word· presentations
and unconsciousness to thing-prtstntations. Some or chese a.re cited in 1hc
btblioiraphy. A number of papett by Otto Marx have proved invaluable,
especially his paper on aphasia a:nd lingufstic theory in the ninclccnth
eentW)', discussed in Chapter S. Lit.,..;tz and U1ow11z (1977) attempt to
relate Freudian theory to oon1crnpo111ry (Cbomskycan) lin,uistics; they
also incluck a \Cl)' useful review or the h.stonca1 ttlations bc·t-.cen
psychoa.naJysi.s and linguistics. although their interests do not Q\"Crlap very
much with my O't\'D,
3. The m~t significant contributions to the history or psychoanalysis in recent
years bavccomc from the pen of Michel Foucault, dC$pitc the fact that. as
he adn1its1 he has never directly addressed the quntion of its history, all the
illuminatina remarks he has made appearing as asides within works that
have other' coaccm s. But it is clear that, from his earliest writings on - in
particul11r the ' Introduction' lo the French trt.tnslation of Ludwig
Binswangcr's u reve el l'e.<istence (19S4) esp. pp. 20- 7, 7S- 80 - he has
bctn concerned ~·ith the ' historico-.c:onceptual' plucc of psychoa11alys:is.
Despite thisconocrn, he has never dcah with psychoanalysis race on. B u t~ in
a series or~·ork.s. L "Hlstoire de fa Fofle, Lts Alots tt ltsChCJJ.'t.s, and the more
recent la volonti~ savoir. his ·contributions' to the history of psychoanaJy-
sis ba\'C nothing less than rc\'olutionary implicatJons. TheK implications
are orv.-idcr slgniftcane:c than can be dealt ~ith here. and I refer the reader
10 my article, 'Michel Foucault and the History of Psycboanaly.U'.
fonhcoming in History of Seim«. But let us juu note briclty tv•o
implications of Foucault's work: fi111ly, IhaI the po$Sib;li1y of psychoanaly-
sis was intimatdy rcla1cd to the employment of the model dcri,-cd from the
pbllolot>Cal scicOCC$ in the nineteenth century. We will dtJCUSS and expand
upon thi.J nolion at some length in Cha peer S. Secondly, Foucault points out
that the 'discourse OD sexuali1y' is Dot P«uhar to psychounalys1s. Rather. it
shoukj ~seen as part of a more broad.ranging compul.s1on to confess the
secret of secrets., a compulsion that has its roots in the rchgious tradition of
spiritual regula tion and 1hc bourgeois system of social control via the
construction of fie-Ids or tec-hnjcal expertise, fields of cs.oteric knowl·
214 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
edge. What lhese 1wo different arguments lead one to ponder a_~ the follow-
(i) The techruques of interpretation and of hermeneutic analysis are not
ori11.nal or specific to ps)'Choana.Jym. whose m1in ct1im 10 'originali1y"
might mide in a purification oftbesc phitoJoajcaJ 1echn1qucs and their
generalization to new areas~ in panjcuJar to the areu previowly under
the domination or a medic~biological model of disease; in other words
the originality of psychoanalysis must be seen in its application to the
expressive, sianificative or semantjc modes or the body.
(ii) tr the idea that S<l<uality is somehow hidden, unsp0kcn, crying out to be
spoken, if this idea is found to have a hjstory that stretches back 10 the
mid cig.hteenlh century, then the key feature or the interpretative
mnchinc that psychoanalysis sets in motion, namely, the discovery of
the meaningful that is also sc11:ual, and in some sense primary. this
feature is revealed to be simply a crystallization or tendencies that
doctors. teachers and moral leaders of one son or another bad been
work in& towards ror the century thac prcocdes chc moment when Freud
found bimK-lr conrroatcd by the sexual pantomimc..show for which
Cbarcot was the impresario.
To put the argurM:n1.s somcwha1 d1fTc.rcntly, Foueault's firsl argumcn~
from Th' Ordu of Things. will make or Tht ln1rrprt101lon of Drt4nlS an
oniinal 1ynthcsis or tbe categories or possible tnowlcdac available to the
human scimces in the ninetttnth and early twtntjetb centurin. without
findina there anything more than an in\•enion of conecpts that had scrv~
to furnish out the sciences or ethnology. ph1lol<>g) and mythology
throuahout the nineteenth century. Foucault's $econd ar1ument. from Lo
colon ti ti~ sut.·oir, will make or the Thrt' E.riiays on St.xuality nothing more
than a codification - and perhaps a neutralization - or the discourses on
pcrven1t ilnd abnormal sexuality that the institutions of organized and
scicntitlc sexual confession had progressively revealed and created from t he
eighteenth century on. The cogency and validicy of these historical theses is
still in question and require much furrher debate and research. But it is clear
that thc-.se arc the most challenging historical hypothc11cs on the history or
psychoanalysis since Freud wrote ·0n the history of 1hc p.s)'ChoanaJytical
moven1cn1·. (Soc aJJO the debate btt'4'CCn members oft he £colt Frnidiennt!
and Foucaul~ which took pla«: shortly after the publication or la &olonto
dt sor:oir in Ornit:ar?, JO, 1977, esp. pp. 76ff.)

I. One of the nama that Anna O ... Brcuer's first paltmt. ga\C to tht method
she had treated (Breuer and Freud (189$d) SE II 30). She emplo~cd the
English words. since. at that point in the course or her ncur0$.ls. she could
not speak German.
2. From the bcg:innin.g of his psychoanaJy1ic work, f'reud detached h1mself
from two doctrines. obviously related to cac:h other. th"-t we c.an call
Nores 215

'physicalism' and 'organicism·. The first had a more philosophical sense.

namely, the prescription that all possible medically explanatory entities had
a physical reference, a scientific exantinaLio1t of the other side of the implicit
dualism being either fruitless, impossible or. allo\\•ing of a complete
tf'.snslation into scientific languages which included no reference to 'mind'.
Jn 1890, Freud had noted the finding that 'in so1ne at least of 1hese (nervous)
patients the si.g ns of their illness origjnate from nothing other than a thange
in th~ action oftheir minds upon their h<><lies and that the immediate cause of
their disorder is to be looked for in their minds. What may be the remoter
causes of the disturbance which affects their minds is another questjon, with
which we need not now concern ourselves'. (( 1890a) SE VII 286), and the
continual postponement or any approach co a physicalisl reduction or 'the
action of the mind' throughout psychoanalytic writings is a ~· itness to the
;rreleoance of recourse to physical explanations. Apart Crom a short
flirtation with psychophysical parallelism, Freud was an unrepentant and
rather old~fashioned d ualist in his theory and in hls practice, if not on every
occasion when pressed to give an opinion concerning the fina l causes of the
phenomena thaL psychoanalysis discovered.
A s to organicism, this doctrine had a more specifically medical flavour,
being the general term to cover those theories or'disease'.' that presumed 10
find the explanato ry entities in the bodily o rgans , There was thus an
emphasis on the-spatjaJ locaUty of the causes. We might, indeed. contrast
physiealisr:n and organicism on thi.s point: physicalist theories were not
necessarily concerned \~rith the actuaJ l0<;us of a disease. For many
physicaJists, to speak of ·nervous fibres• o r even Jackson•s ' nervous
arrangements' wouJd qualify a theory as physicalist. But an organicist
would searc-h for specific loci: the searc.h for the specific ce.rebral anery
whose anaemia or hyperaemia had caused a certain disturbance of the
mental faculties would be a typically organicist projcx:t. In this sense, Freud
had renounced organicism in psychology by the time he published On
Aphasia buL was s till prepared to embark upon a physicalist programme in
the Projett, even if the units of ' matter in motion' soon got squeezed out of
what became an esscntiall'y non·rcduct:iooist account.
3. See, for instance, Freud (1900a) SE IV 181 n; SE V 553, 562-4, 594- 6, 604-
5. Cf. Steinbach (1953).
4, The best general account or the history of physiology touching. on the
reductionism of the late nineteenth century is Rothsehuh (1953, 1973),
although the classic Lange, vol. Ill (1865, 1925) and the unsurpassed
Meri ( 1904- 12) are more thought· provoking. More specifically, the works
of Amacher, Bemfcld, Cranelield, Gode..von·Aesch, Riese, Stengel, Young
give the background to what Bemfcld called the ·5Chool of Helmholtz',
which Cranefield renamed 'the biophysics mo\•ement'. Jones, vol. I is
accurate, although limited by the ronn of the biography. On Vie.nna in
particular,.cc LC$ky( 1965), and Ho!T and Scitelberger( 1952). For the place
of medicine in Austrian culture the best source-is Johnston (all cited in full in
5. For Breuer's early work, see Cranefield (1958, 1972). For Freud's early
work as a pathologist, Amacher ( 1965), Andcr.;son (1962), Brautigam
(1960) Brun (1936), Dorer ( 1932), Ellenberger (1970), Galdston (1956),
216 language and tk Origins of Psychoanal»si.r
Jones (1953), KO<lig (1962), Lebzeltem (1973), Levin (1974). Ro..., (1972),
SP"hlman (1953). St<wan (1969).
6. for instance. the ·cure' achieved by Zoe in Jensen's Grod;racon11sted in her
bctpong Hanold to recognize that he bad displaced his love from Zoe
Bengana to the Pompeian Oradiva. '( The analyst) bnnpabout something
like what Norbcn Hanold gnspcd at the end or the story when he
tran.slated back the name --Gradiw'" into ·· B'rtgang'' (both mean ·,.·ho
5t<ps alona brilliantly'~ The disordtr vanish« whtle being traced back 10 its
oriain: analysis, 100, bring;> simultaneous cure: (Freud ( 19071) SE IX 89).
7. There is no comprehensive ao;:ounl of theories or nervous diseases in the
ninctecn1h century. My work is drawn rrom those par1fal accounts 1hat do
exist, n1ainly roe used on theories of hysteria, such as A bricouotf ( 1897- 8),
Etlenbcraer ( 1970, p. 240ff), Temkin ( 197 1). Veith ( 1965); good con-
temporary surveys arc lo be found in Jolly (1878) nnd Gowers (1903).
8. Charcot, Jean· Martin, ( 1886- 90). The O•• vrfS Complirts i$ by no means
complete., lacking sc"·eral important papers and books. Secondary
sources devoted 10 Charcot divide into two classes., both hag.iographical in
ttndcncy: 1he first rocuses primarily on the ad\•anccs in neurology (GuilJaio
(1959), Janet (189S). M eige (1925), Owen (1971)) and those whioh are
primanly 1ntcrcs1ed in Cha.rco1 bccatlit' or his relations with Freud. A
peculiar charactcrinic of the writings of Charco1. a peculiarity ~nttd out
to me in a private rommunic:atioo from M. Fouc.aul1. is the appartol
dispanty between the ' ftatness' or his published work. the lack or
fundamentally no .. c.I ideas or practices. and the enormous estttm in which
he was held by th0$< who had been his pupils, "'ho created his reputation.
A.s the cAamplc '1i'C will examine in tbisc-hap1cr ind ates. Cbarcot's l~turQ
and his case-histories could be fascinating~ bu1 these ccms arc few and far
between in the corpus of hjs work:. Even the n1ethod of isolation he
employed in the caSt we ~'ill stud·y was a n accepted and important pan of
the tbcrapcutK: practices employed by a lie.nists from the mid eighteenth
century on. as Castel ( 1976), Foucault (1963/ 1973), Foucault (1976) have
pointed out.
9. I hiivc not been able Lo find evidence or this architectural modification in the
archives or the SalpCtriCrej Pontalis' source was a ata temcnt of Cbarcot's.
10. The concepts of suggcstability and suggestion wcfc to remain vague
throuahout the heyday of the interest in hypnosis, signifying a ' psycho--
logical inOuencc' of some son, sometimes said 10 act directly on me
·nervous iys1e.m·. Freud's eriticis:m of both Charco1 and Bernheim singled
oul this vagucoes5 as being a serious dcfC'Cl. But it wa5 Ob\'iowJy the
'po1n1 or entry' for psychologjcal concepts 1010 the >tudy or the nervous
11 . 1'rauma1te Neuroses' • ·ere common 1tt: the nineteenth century. amnesias.
anaesthesias. h}p<raesthesias. pa.nalys<$, dis1urbances or the SC:n>d (blind-
ness. d.ca(nes.s. butting in the ears,. etc:.), "hose appcarancie was d1rec:;t l)·
dependent upon an accident or a shock, pa rad isms of which ,.,ere railway
accidents. aa;1dcnts at \\'Ork. falling off horses etc. Charcot demonstrated
that the clinical picture in these neuroses was similar to that round in
hysteria, thus creating the class 'traumatic hysteri111'.
12. Sec Cho root (188Sb). This lect ure was one of those translated by Freud in
Notes 217
Ntw Yorlrsung~n fiber d~ Kranlcl:~itm dts 1Yrrr:nuys1~ms iilsbuon*re ~r
Hystrrw ( 1886f).
13. The conccp1 of su83C$1ion cover<d 1hc dirccl cffcc:u of commaods and
entrca1tcs \lttcTcd by the doctor on lhc palicnt"s nef'\ooussystcm. In order to
11vc the cooccpl some spc:cificil)'. Freud ·put ronward the view th.al what
d1stinauJshcs a suggestion from other kind of psychical iofiuence. such as a
command or 1hc giving ofa piece ofinformation or ins I ruction, is that in the
case a 1uggcstion an idc-4 is aroused in another pcrson•s brain which is not
examined in regard to its origin but is accepted JUSl aJ though it had arisen
spontoneously in lhat brain." (Freud (1 888- 89) SE I 82). When a certain
clement of independence of the physician is observed in lhe phe.nomena
produced by suggestion. it is said that the sugges1ion h11s led to autosuggcs-
tion: these 3rt indirect s uggestions 'in which a scric3 of intcnncdiatc links
a rising fro n1 the subject's own activi1y iltC jnsertcd between the externaJ
srimulus and lhe rcsul1' (Ibid. SE 183). II can 1hus be •••n thut the relation of
suaacstion to auto·suggestion is the same as that bctwceo a direct rcfercooe
and an allusion. •Jt is autosuggestions ... that Jcad to the production of
spontaneous hysterteal paralyses and it is an inclination to 1-uch autosugges-
tions. rather than suggestibility towards lhc physician. that characteriles
hy.,eria· (ibid., SE I 83). We should bear in mind 1h11 1he conccp1 of
suaacs11on was not al"''ays used with ao·y precision. either by Cb.arcot or
Bcmbcim. or by Freud and the other younga neurologists.
14. Of lhe histoncal slUdics writtco ofaphasia, lh• followtngcan be regarded as
of primary importance: Cassirtt ( 1953- 7). Head (1926). M oulJtt ( 1908),
Ombrcdane (19SI). Both Schocnwatd (1954) and S1coael (1954) aucmptcd
characterizations of the significance or Freud"s wotk on aphasia "'i th
rapcct to the de...·e.lopment of ps)'choanal)'Sis. but neither related Freud·s
work to the tradition of aphasia studies (with the exception or the obvious
importance or Jackson's work ror Freud). Schocn1A•ald's a rgument charac-
terizes On Aphcuia as the first occasion on which Freud wrestled with the
problem of the relation of physiology 10 psychology. S1cngcl poiors up a
number of similarities between the work or Jackson and that or Freud (see
• l•o Stengel ( 1963)), aod characterizes <he speech oppar1uus of On Aphasia
• • lh< 'elder brolher' of 1he psychic ap!>'lra1us of Tht lnttrprttation of
Drt'UJ'1.$, findJng that both or these terms have their origin in Mcyncrt's
wr11ings. concluding that · they demonstrate Freud's lasting attachment to
physiological concept$•. (Stengel (1954) p. 86). Bui the fact tha1 1h<
pro101ypc of 1hc speech and psychic apparatuses can be found in Mcyncrt·s
work does not licence the conclusion that Frtud was laStlng.ly altached to
physiological concepu: one of lhe abiding themes of aphasia theory - and
brain 1n11omy in genttaJ - was the gentral confusion between pbysiok>gi·
cal and psychological conccpu, such 1ha11mportan1 advanca in lhesubj«t,
such u Freud's. could be made simply by a cl1nficat1on or IA hat 'A8$
ps)":hologic:al and wba1 was phj'$iological It wu probably Jackson's
dc1erminat1on to separate the t¥>o that made his ""ork of fundamcotaJ
importance:. both for the history of the disc1phne and for the development
or Freud's thought. Aovther topic has led to some debate in the: secondary
literature. namely the contemporary recognition of F reud's work on
aphasia (sec EUenbcrger. 1970, p. 476, and Bloom. 1975). I have no space 10
218 Languag~ and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
enter into 1bc details of the historical evidence, but i i should be clca.r from
my account that Freud's "'·ork was s:ufficien1ly recognized 10 be c:itcd
reaularly in both Fttncb and G«man l1tcraturt as bring of some
1mportancc, and. in 1hcea:rly )'e ars of 1hcttn1ury. v.-u 11ken a.s a pionttring
<••mpk or the 'psycholoP<al' appr-h 10 1phas11.
IS. 11 1.s 1n1crnting to note that a crucial ltst<asc (Ad~lc AnscJin) seemed 10
disprove dcfinit1\•cly Broca's theory as earty as t864. •hen the post-mortem
conducted by Broca and Charco1 s ho~·cd no lesion or the third lcn frontal
convolution (sec Tro..,..au, 1868, p. 235, and Bouchard, 1865. p. 489): bu1
in5tcad of the programme for the correlation of S)'mptom and br.. in
pathology being abandoned, a proliferation of theoretical complications, of
which the nlost significant was Wernickc's, ensued. Trousseau quoted
Broca as hQving admit1ed, af1er he had assis1ed Charcot at 1hc1tost·n1orttm,
thnl ' the C'.t\Sc in,•alidatcd the anatomical lnw which he had laid down'.
(Trousseau, 1868. p. 247).
l6. Wernicke championed physiology against the dominance of anatomy. by
referring to fundame:n1al physioJog:tc:al uni1s: 1hc ·sensory nerve' and the
·motor nerve· bcx:ame the bask units manipulated in the schemas found io
aphasia theory. As ~:e will sec. it is 1he slipp1,ge made pos5ibk: by these
terms that allov.·ed Wemicke to claim bis 1hcory as a ps:)'cholOgJieal one. It is
the notion 1ha1 a .sensory ntf'\·c is a physiological unit that lits at the bean or
the: m1nd·body problon in the late nioc1centh century.
17. Similar n<Hions or unity and synthc$is. perhaps ~ith more ora.o awa_rcn~
or 'apli1ting' and 'fragmentation', can be found in mid·t~cnticth century
aphasia bteratun. but with one crucial differencir: io.stC"ad or the conex
being split, a phenom~ological 'brackeling• disqualifies any ce:rlain
rerettnce ror thi5 split. See. ror uample, Alajouanine ( 1968). p. 290.
18. Thi3 ruplure was conceptuali-zed by Freud when he referred to ~·ord
praentatjons as forming a cJosed system, and to object as.sociations- the
system commonly rcrcrrtd 10 in lhe late nineteenth century as the ~go, e.g.
in Mcynert ( 1885), pp. 171 rr - as being open. We will re1urn 10 1his crucial
19. Sec Jack;on ( 1925. 1931). John Hughling• Jackson ( 1835- 1911) was a
ncurologi!l who worked in London from 186310 his retirement in 1906. H is
most famous work was on epilepsy. Although he remained a neurologist all
his life, kttping to strictly neurological problems, the fertility his ideas
can be well jud,g cd from his wide-ranging, though inoobcrcnc. papers on
aph.asii. essays on the nature of the joke ind the dream. and his
philosophically ac111e papeTS on dualism. See >econdary works by
Engdhardl (1975), Greenblau (1965, 1970) Riese (1947, 19S4), Riese and
Gooddy ( 19SS), Waithe (1961) and Young (1970).
20. One could pouibly illuminate lhese iwo dill'<rtn1 conccptioM by dis-
tinau.ishing between the meaning and the reference or the recurrent
u11eranc:e or hysterical s)mptom~
21. Broca's T01t was reported in the paper cited above; Trouueau·ssapon was
reported in a long rootnote to the letturc.s cited above. and then U$e:d
u1en•i•cly by Jackson ( 1878- 80).
22. Cf. the following remark that Freud made apropos of Wcrnicke's confusion
o( anatomy and psychology. at a meeting o( the Vitnna Psychounalytlc
Notes 219
Socic1y, 20 M arch 1907, M inul« vol. I pp. 49 - SO:

IObocuional deliria J are c:orucious S)~ttms of thouglll by which the

pa1ie:nts try to jus1ify it and 10 undentand ii. These dehria represent
mrrcly projections.... An example or s:uch a 1)-Slcm in tcimcc is
Wem1ckc's delirious psychology. as one mi1h1 say. He transferred his
brain anatomy directly in10 the realm of psycholoay.

23. Freud ( 19~0a) Origins, 2 M ay 1891, p. 61 . The critique of Mcynen appeart

to be bt1idr the point. since the major larget or rhc monogr<11ph was the
concept or the centre, and the attcmp1s 10 iden1iry ana1omk:al space -w•ith
that centre. But, besides taking a personal pleasure in attacking a teacher
who had a1 one time thought of Freud as his ·ravouritc•, and who had then
crcattd great difficuJtics for him when he turned his intcrdt away from
brain anatomy. Freud was clear that a critique of the projection theory or
the nervous sys1em was. as we s,hall see, a crucial clctncnt in the critique or
the ctntrc.
24. We shoukS note the difference bet'4·een the unity achieved by the diagram..
ma.ken and Flourms' argument against the possibility of any spatial
locafiullon or function. What the diagram-makers did was to IOSlalJ the
unity at the le\el of the diagram - 1he vnily orpos;1i\is1tc tcieiicc - and 1hm
argue lhat this diagnun "'BS an exact rcplK:a ofcerebral rcal11y. using names
1ns1cad of things. It ls this elision bet"tto the order of names and the order
of 1h1ngs apjnst "bich FJourens stood firm. plac-1ng himself in a Canesian
dualist pos1uon. in which the mind, by definition. could have no exrension,
and t~us rores11Jling any po~ibility of localization or atomization of
func tion.
25. II is probable that Freud was thinking of 1ht sort of arsument employed by
Jackson, i.e. a Ytrsion or psycho physical parallelism. 10 which Freud had
s ub$eribed in lhe curly '90s, whereby lhc neurologist should be absolu1ely
clear about keeping separa te his "languages' of nerves and his "languages' of
ideas. By 19 12. when he made this remark. and. more u plicitly, when he
wrote ' The Unconscious· (19l5c). he had come 10 see that the doctrine of
psychophytical parallelism 'plunges us into insoluble difficuhics' (SE XIV
168). and that it was necessary to abandon such o doctrine in o rder to
preserve the fundamental principle of lhe continUi1)' or psychic processes.
Such a decision was equi,ralent 10 taking up an uncon1pron1lsingly duaJist.ic
26. The term ·apparatus' is misleading. Its charoc:ter it specified by the
nbcr"""'P<-oplical model in ~ ln1<rp•t1ation of thranu (sec page 21) and
by the pocm·alplabct model in On Aphasia that v;e have quoted in the tcxL
No mechanical or material substrate is nccusary for t he constitution of the
system. although. of courSC.. it has one.
27. F reud (1893h) SE llJ 37. The phrase in German read•.• ... di•<Woziatiu
Vtrorbelt&1ng , dit Erledigung durch kon1rOJ1it.r·tntk VorutllU11gtn'.
28. Tht German phrase is '•~nn man ihn dan.n n61ig1, ditstm AjJtktt Wortt zu
lt1htn . .• '- that is. Jjterally, ·jf one then compels him to lend wo rds to this
afl"ttt , • ,'. Freud used a similar word, ~rltfh,n, to dcteribc:: how t.he
indk:atioru of discharge from speech put tho ught· processcs on a level with
220 la11gu"g' and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
pcrttplual ptoccssci: '1hcy lend thcn1 reality and make il possible 10
remember th<on: (See Chapttr 2, p. 44)
29. Of course. nol all symptoms will express the words that ha\'C been lost quite
as directly as the patien1whose1rigcminal neuralgia replaced the·§Jap in tlle
fl!CC' that she reh she had received (see Chapter). p. 67). For example, the
Ratman's delighted horror over 1hc ntl·1onurc enabled him to dcrcnd
himsclr against the uneonscious thoughts to Y.bicb the v.·ord Ra11m v.ias a
verbal bridge: Ratrn (dcb1. 1ns1almcn1). Sp;t/rattt (gambler). Hinaten (to
many). Stt Freud ( 1909d) SEX 21JIT. A number or1ran1la1ions may be
nccc:ssary bc(orc one amves 11 1hc lost v.ords. £,·en when the v.· ords arc
·s1anng· one 1n the face. one may ha,·c to pus via a long arcbatolog.ical
iD\'C$tiga1ton 10 rind them. as -.i.as lhc case for Norbtn H anold. for whom
the translation of•G,adtra· into its S)oonym ·a,,19ang· might ha\e S8\'cd
him digging in the stones of Pompai.
30. It wu alona these hnes that ~er<ncz1 developed a theory of hyst<ncal
S)'mptom-form11ion in correlation with the s1a1es in the development of a
sense of reaht). Sec Fcrena1 ( 1919) and our commcots on this paJ)(r in
notes 6 and 7 of Chapter 3.
31 . Why this cxpcricn« \\3S ntte55:t.rily iic"uaJ is a question" bich lies beyond
thr scope of tht present d1scuss1on. suffice 1t to M said that this question
engaged Freud in a discussion of temporal causality, from \\'hich emerged
the conc:ept or dela)cd acuon (NarhtrOglirhk<it). Stt Chapter 2.
32. The sentences 1ha1 folloy, the passage quoted in my text are also 1ns1ruct1ve:

It iscleurly impos~iblt to say anything about this that is. about the state
which the pathogenic material wus in before the a_nalysis - until we have
arrived at o thoroua.h cluriAcmtion of our basic psychological viev.·s.
especially on 1he nnture or consc-iousness. It re1nains, I think, a fact
deserving serious considcratioo that in our analyses we can follo"' a train
or1hought from 1hc con,scious in10 the unconscious (i.e. into something
that is nbso1u1cly not tccogniicd os 11 111cn1ory), that we can trace it from
there fo r some dls1oncc 1hroushconsciousncss once more and that we can
sec it terminate in the unconscious again, without this nl1ernn1ion of
' psychial ill umina11ion' male ing 1tnychangc in the I rain of thought itself, in
its logical consistency and 1n the interconnectio n bet"'·cen its various
parts. Once 1his 1roin of thought was before me as a whole I shouJd no1 be
able to gucs..' which pan or it wa,s recogni:zed by the patient as a memory
and which \l.'8S not. I o nly, as it were, sec the peaks of the 1rain ofthoug.hl
dipping down in the unconscious - the reverse of ~'hat has been asserted
of our normal psychical processes.

We w•ish 10 make two points:

(i) II was oficn when Freud came to a problem belonging t o the theory of
C'Onsciousness tb11 he broke off bis discussion. The most notable
example of 1his was the m1ss1ng chap1cr(_s) or 1hc proposed book on
metapsychology (see Editor's Introduction to the Paper> on
Mctapsycholog)'. SE XIV 105-7)
(u) The idea tha1 an unconscious train of thought cannot be distinguished
Notts 221
from a consaow train of thought by 11.J IOIJ(1I consistency' or by the

'interconnection be1·• een iu various pans' would 1ppc1r co be in flat

contradiction ,.-;th some of Freud's later ideas as 10 the distincti,·c
character o(thought processes under the sway of 1hc primary pn'.J(";tg.
But we should bear in mind that thiscontrad.ction, or perhaps 1cmion.
existed throughout bi.s writings, it !king possible 10 find passages
similar in implica1ion to the one just quoccd 1hroughou1 Freud's
wri11nis, especially in those texts where the 1..ssigna1ion or meaning 10
1he $Uperlicially meaningless is al issue, e.g. Freud ( 1900•) SE IV 96, or
where Freud was concerned to emphasize both the ul1ima1e inacoessi·
bility of the unconscious and the possibility of finding suitable
translaoions for prod ucts derived rrom it, e.g. (1940a) SE XX lll 197,
quoted on page 5 above.

J3. The discussion of the ·rcaJicy' of the primal scene in the Wolfman's c.ase·
history is obviously or relevance here. See Freud ( 1918b) SE XVII 49- 60,
S7- 9. 9S-7. As is clear from th'c discussion 1here. the txistencr of the
'primal' event is intimate!)' bound up with the question of its efficacy as
'caUK'. And, to clarify this lattc-r quntion. Freud had another stt of
conecpu already elaborated,. the- most interesting of wh.ch is. perhaps.. lhc-
conorpt of dcfc-rre<I action: What only bad a poMibl1ity of c~is1in1 "at the
ttme' IS eJftetivc-1y brought into extstm« at a later date. and the c-tTect of its
existence is 5uch that it is as if it had ex1.sted at the earlier time: ·-.hat
cmcrgc."S from the unconscious is to be uodcntood tn the light not of what
gon before bul of what comes after.' (Freud (1909b) SE X 66.)
34. Cf. Frcud(l9633),January 10, 1910, p. 31: 'All repren1onsareofmmwri< 1.
nol of capc-riences; at most the latter arc rq>tci~ in retrospect.'
35. Freud (1919e) SE XVll 188: • ... und solrlt" lnhalt ther in
Wortoorsttllungtn er}Dsst •·ertfen kann ol$dos Du11klc. das mit d"m Genito/en
36. Note 1he relation between the concept of haJlucination and that or the
seduction scene tha1 Ricoeur (1970), pp. 95- 6, points ouo:

It is not difficult to recognize in the' b11clcground of this quasi..

hallucinacory theory of dre-ams,jusl as in the Projtrt of 1895. tht ~litf in
the reality of the childhood scenes of seduction. The perceptual tracts
corresponding to chat scene are e.ager for revival and exercise an
attraction on the repressed thoughts. lhemJClvr:s struggling 10 find
expression. ... According 10 the paltcm or
the 1nfan11le .scene, ""hich
Freud rtgard.s as a model,, the: residual core dreams '40u1d consist in a
complc1e hallucinatory cal.be.xis of the puceptual S)StcmJ. What we have
described. in our analysis of the dream-work. as •rtprd for rcpraent·
1bihty' mjght be brought into connection -.ith the uf.«1/tt a11raction
ueocised by tbe visually recollected ~nes touched upon by the dream-
1houghts. (SE V .548).

These tcxt1clearly show that Freud regarded the predominance of pictorial

representation in thcdream·work as the haltuc:ina1ory rcvi\•al ofa primitive
scene 1hao had actually been perceived. See also Ricoeur, ( 1970), pp. 106- 7.
222 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
C$p. not< 42 on p. 107. H e concludes that the scduc1ioo theory 'pr.vents the
topovaphy or TM fn1rrprt1a1ion of Dr<UmS from comple1<ly frtting itsdr
from natural spatiality and from drawin& all the consequences implied in
the idea or
I ..psychical locality",' {p. 107).
37. IUcoeur built much or his account o( Freud's wotk around lbese two
no1ions or •quanti1y• and "meaning'. a. the attack on Ricocur by Lacan
(1973). and by Ton ( 1966); the latter sees lbe denial or the quantitative
d imension by Ricocur in favour of 1.hc bcnncneutic tendency as reinstating
the motive-cause opposition. which. he argues, ha.s been relegated by
historical studies to the 'museum of ideology', where psychoanalysis should
lea ve it. Dcspi1e Tort's fervent rhctorH:, the question of the relation of
psychoanalysis 10 the hermeneutic;: traditjoo. highlighted by Ricoeur.
remains of great significance, as Foucault implies in the last two chapters of
1ht Orikr of1hlngs. Some or OUI discussion in Chapters will bear on Lbis
38. It is remarkable how few of the many accounts that Freud pve of the
development of psychoanalysis included any substantial discussion or the
dljftrtntt between the calhartic cute and the psychoanalytic met.hod. MO$t
of these accounts wctt content to state that i1 was with the abandonment of
hypn04i$m and its replacement by lhe method or rrcc a.ssociacion 1h.a1 •he
move to psychoanal)"is proper took plac:c (<.1- (19231) SE XVIII 237- 8;
(19240 SE XIX 195- 8). The implications or thos methodological shift -
lhat the emphasis had shifted from the cAprcssion of•stran1ula1cd dfec-1" to
the observauon or lbougbt·processa ('•kimmina ofT the '""""" or
consciousn...·) - was not made explicit until 1925. in (192Sd) SE XX 30:
"The theory of repression became the e:orner·stone of our understanding of
the neuroses.. A different view bad no~· to be taken ofche task of therapy. Its
aim waJ no longer to "abrcact' a.n 1t1Tcct which had got on lo the wrong lines
bu1 10 uncover repressions and replace them by acts of j udgement v.•hic-h
rnigh1 resull eilher in the accepting or in the condemning or whal had
(ormerly been repudiated. I showed my recognition of the nc~· situation by
no longer calling my method of in\'CSLigation and 1reu1111cnl catltarsls but
p.1)·choa11alys1',y,' We may hazard th1:11 it wa5 the dcb11tc with Rank (and to a
lesser extent with Ferenczi. over bis use of 'active' methods) that prompted
a sharpening or lhe distinction between the cathartic method and psycho-
analysis. The sharpest criticism of the cathartic method that Freud ~·rote is
to be fou nd in (1926<1) SE XX 151 , where. it should be no1ed, he d id not
seem clear \\'hether the argument against the notion abreaction was of a
concep1ual or an empirical order:

Rank's formula - that those people become ocuro1tein v.hom the trauma
of binh was so strong that they ba-.'c nc-.·cr bttn able completely to
abrcact it - is highly disputable from a thtoretal poin1 of view. We do
not nghtly know _.hat is meant by abreacttng the 1rauma. Talct:n l1terally,
it implies that the more frequenlly and lhe more intensely a neurotic
person reproduces the affect of aruticty 1he more closely will he approach
10 menial health - an untenable conclusion. It was bccau.u it did not tally
with the facts thal I gave up the theory abreaction which had played
such a large par1 in 1he cathartic method.
Notes 223
39. Of course, this is entirely separate from the question whether o r not Freud
had a distinctively aural bias: aJJ the evidence would seem to indicate that he
did. (Although GranolT ( 1975) and Leclaire ( 1967), in their discussions of
the notion ·uberdeutlich'. try to show how this aural bias overlaid a strong
visuality that left traces in the form of Freud's ' key·signifiers".) But to try
and explain the specific character of a scientific theory from the personal
idiosyncrasy of one man would seem both to be a methodologically
implausible hypothesis and to weigh down the already straining 'body' of
historical causes with yet another organ that bas changed the 'face' of
history: alongside Cleopatra's nose we would have to place Freud's ear.
40. No1 only did the theory of the 'spc«.h residues· found in the Prqj111.·1 remain
essentially unchanged throughout the period rrom 1895 to the last works of
1938, as we shall see in the rouowing chapter, b u1 the 'project for a scientific
psychology' that was Freud's life work retained a consistent structure of
argument from 1895 on. T he clearest and most remarkable dcmonstratjon
of this fac-1, which wiU often licence us drawing up<>n a variety of 1exts
written a1 different times. as if they were the y,•ork. of one writing subject. is
the identity of structure of the Project and Freud's last and finest expository
work. An 011t/i11e of Ps}·t·hoanalysis. Let us compare these:
Project Outlint
I General Scheme I The Mind and its Working
II Psychopathology (Hyst<ria, Affect) II The P ractical Task
Ill Normal Processes Ill The Theoretical Yield
The parallel is even more slfiking if we compare the contents of Section I in
the lY.'O works:
Projtct Out/int
1.- 3. General theorems concerning I. The psychical apparatus
the activity of neurones
4.- 5. The biological standpoint and 2. The theory of the- instincts
the problem of quantity
6. Pain 3. The de\'elopment of the
sexual function
7.- 18. Quality, consciousness, ego, 4. Psychical qualities
19- 21. D«•m analysis and dream 5. Dream-interpn:tation as
consciousness an illustration
The one major dilTerenoe bet.,..,·een these two accounts is the complete absence
of the topic of sexuaLity from Section I of the Project (although the
importance of sexuality for the aetiology of the neuroses was discussed in
Se<:lion II Psychopathology). What we find instead of sexuali1y is 'pain·. We
are entitled to make the following two comments. Firstly, we have found yet
another suppon for Freud's conviction that it was the introduction ofa theor)r
of sexuality into the model of the psyche elaborated in the period 1895- 1900
that gave pS)'Cboanalysis its distinctive casL Secondly. this homologous
relation of sexuality and pain might gj•oe U$ pau$e for thought as to the general
psychoanalyticaJ conception or the crottc, despite the c\fer increasing
insistence with which Freud, as he grew older. pleaded the cause of Eros.
224 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
('HAPT1ll 2

I. In the acx:oun1 of the Projtt1 I " ill not gi,·e dcra1lcd rcfercnca to the tcx.1.,
cxccpc where my reading depends upon specific pas.saacs. or where I quote
direclly. On the PrOJ«t, the following works arc of value: Amacher ( 196S.
19n). Andorsson (1962). Hetllcrnt0 (1974). Prib<am (1962). Pnbram
(1969). Pribram and Gill (1976). Safouan ( 1968). Solomon (1974).
Wollhcim (197 1).
2. The term 'cathcxis', coined by Strachcy, vexed Freud au much as it has
vexed some of his commentators and later psychoanalytic theoreticians.
The German words. 'besttzt', 'btsetzung', do no t have the technical ftavour
1hat the Greek-based 'cathexis' has, and do not unduly encourage the
overly mcchanistit readings that cathcxis has seemed to. It is 1nuch too late
co su.ggcst an altcrnati\te t ranslation, even if one were to find one that was
satisfactory. The naturaJ translation, 'occupied', 'occupalio n', although
having some interesting connotations a nd potential alluJive qualities, such
as in •pre-occupation'. is perhaps less flexible than 'cathcxis·.
As 10 the much debated question or 1he o ntological status of ·Q·. a
rc1dina of Stracbey's no<c following tbe Proj"'· SE I 392- 7, establl.tlts its
claim as the main precursor of the ·economic mode' or psychoanalytic
met1psychology. As to its rcfereooc. as to it.s relation 10 the ~arious realities
depicted by anatomy. physiology. neurology, etc.• there is a vut litcratur-c
on tha topic. much of it marked by fundam<ntal confuSlon. H erc. I • •ash
only lo note that r sec no difficulty in dissociating Q cntirc:ly from any
an11om1cal references., no r any diffic;ulty in ufu11n1 to cqu.a1c it with a
ncurophysiological c;ooccpt whose empirical correlate must be a certain
quan111at1vc characteristic or DCr'\'C-C.Clls. I ~hC\iC that Solomon is qWtc
riabt when he distinguishes bet"'eco neuroanatomy and neuro physiology,
wrong when he claims that •1hc essence or Freud'• theory ... is not
dualistic' (Solomon. 197 4, p. 26) and o n extremely weak around when be
wrilcs that ··•Q" is essen1iaJly a borrowed no1io n. a nd to divorce the
Freudian notion or"Q", and. la1er. " psychic energy", fro m ils physicnlisli<",
o rigins is to rob the concept of its substantial n1caning.•. . if t he ntodel or
the"p•ychicapporatus" is divorced from the neurophy1iolog1cal model. the
central no tion of "encrgy" becomes Little more thon a metaphor.' (Ibid. p.
32). Apan from the curious fetish.ism of ·subs1anee' seen in this pass.age.
round in many of the discussions of the material base of theories of the
psyche. and brilliantly analysed by Bachelard in The Philosophy of No. we
have only 10 re.mind ourSCl\'C$ 1hat Freud's lasl 'appendix' 10 1hc Proj~ct
concxmcd a dc\•ice th.al had as much mattri1li1y as a brain. provided as
naorous a model as could be ~ished for. and yt1 could under no conceivable
arcum.stancts provide oocasion for identifying Q v..ith any o tht.r sort of
tnCfSY than the ··ps)'Chie:'. I am thinking of the M)stte Wnt1n& Pad This is
also obviously not the occasion on which 10 prcocc-upy ourselves ~;th the
v111ctyof phil0$0phica.I rca50n1ng 1hat uses the word ·metaphor' as a means
for 1bc. as.s1gnatioo of conceptual vac.u ity.
J. We arc tempted to equate this mechanism of muscular innervation 14•ith t hat
or hysterical COn\•ersion, as Freud WU 10 do in discusSJons With Ferencti
durins W orld War I, when he equated this puthwo.yofintcmalchang c with
Lamarck's notion of ·Neccssi1y·. Freud wishtd ·10 s:how 1h11 the ''nflCCSSo
11y'' that a«"ordiog 10 Lamarc,lc creates and transforms organs is nothing
but the po\ttc:r of unconscious ideas ovrr one's o,..,, body. of which ~c see
remnants in b)'$lcria, in short the ··omnipotcocc of 1houabts''. This would
aaually aupply a psycboanal)1ic- aplana1ion of adapcauoo (or fitness
(Z~·ttkn14Jsigkt'i1) ): it .,;:ould put the copnc s1one on psyc-boa.naJysis.
There would be tv.:o linked principles or progrcui\'Cc-han1ct adaptation of
one's own bod)' and subsequent 1ransrormat1on or the c,xtcrnal world
(au1oplu$licity and hctcroplMtici1y), etc.' (F reud (196Sa). pp. 26 1- 2. Sc:<:
also Jones. vol. 111. pp. 334-S.) Cf. FcrcnC7j (1913). pp. 223- 226. for the
relation between hysterical conversion and the omnipotence of thoughts.
Cf. Freud (1916-17), SE X VI 366; (1910c), SE X11 2S; ( 19 12- 13). SE XIII
93: ( 1924c). SE XIX 168 and n. 4,
4. ll is worth noting that the German term ·Z1i1·hen' is trnnslatod uniformly
throughout the Projrc1 as •indicalions', hence concealing to a small extent
1hc gcncrtal 'scmiologtca1' cont.ext of Freud's discussion or quality.
S. Freud himself recognized the paradoxical nature of his argument later in
the Projrct. without provtding a satisractory solution of the problem (SE I
378- 9).
6. In this sense. to call the speecb·associalioris ·exclusave·. as Freud did. is not
quite COITecl. They can be cxc:ludtd from the rest or one's pcroeptuaJ input
ov.1n1 to thttr lirtUtcd and closed cb.ara~cr. But, oncn as not. Freud
appeared to a.ssumc that the spco;:t..a.ssociations were cAclusive in a more
primary sms.e. thus allowing him tO actt'DI lhe pnvile&ed Cha1acter or awal
perception. Such a privileged position of the speech residues is displa)ed in
m1nyofhisworks,amongs11h<m a pamge from Frcud(l923b) SEXIX 21.
7. We could profitably relate this idea of the impan1ali1y or iptteb to its
funet1on in analysis. where it is placed in opposition to ac1ion. Sec Chapter
8. The a 1nbiguou."1 charac.ter or Freud's position wi1h rc!Jpt..'Ct to wordless
thought is clea r in the follo\lo'i.ng passage. in which he discu»cd .,,productitte
1houghl' (ibid .. SE I 379- 80):

!Reproductive tltought } follO\lo'S back a gi\'Cn thought·process in a

reversed direction, as far back. perhaps, as a perception once again, in
contrast lo practical thought. withou1 an aim - and, in doing so. makes
use to a 1arge extent of iodk.ations or quality. In thus following a
backward dtrection. the- process comes upon 1ntermed111e links which
hl\C hatheno been unconscious, which h.a\le lert DO 1ndic1tlOQJ orquality
behind them but whose indications or quality appear subsequently. This
1mpha that 1bc pas.$&ge of 1bougbt in itself. without any indications of
quality, has kn traces behind it. lo some instances. indeed, It looks here
as though '4esbould onl)· be able 1oguessctn11n strct.chnofthe patbv.:ay
because their staning· and end;•poinu ate given by 1ndtealJOns or quality.

We may undoubtedJy relate this train oflhought to that discussed above in

Ch:apter I, especially in the long note )2, in which F reud had left in
abeyance the quettion or whether the lhouihts constructed by the analyst
had ever acluall)' existed. But it is clear that the phenomena to wh.icb Freud
226 Language and the Origins of P1ychoanalysis
was rc(cning in 1hc passage JA'C ha\'C just quolcd do not validate 1hc norioo
1ha11hou1ht unaccompanied by indications ofquality must a ,·c some sort
oftni«. R•lhcr than being a proof oflbc cxis1enccof1hc tnca. one might
r<gard thne gaps ID the indications of quab1y as being 'true' gaps in
1hou1h1. One will necessarily have 10 fill 1h<se in 'subsequently". bu1 ha\ing
filled them in sa1isfactorily would not license the eonclUJJon that equivalent
traces must ha,·c been left before the filling in. Now, it i.s clear that it is
prec1scly these gaps whic:h arc of thcrapcu1K: intcre:st. and whic:h arc also the
mctonynu of the un<:ooscious.. Where there arc gaps in tbc iodjcations or
quali1y~ the question of the unconscious comes to the fore. But these gaps
miaht not tell us any1bing about the ·original• truces whic h 1111cd these gaps
without our knowing it,
9. One of the assumptions Freud 1hough1 he could discard was the one
discussed above in connection with the problem of rc1nembcring thought
'A discharge from (IJ "'hich J had to assume in my other account now
becomes unnccasary.' (Ibid.)
10. Jt was because fcrenczi attempted 10 solve 1he problem Freud's own early
work ha.d posed that Freud took such a great intcrc.l 1n his ""'otk on Lhc
'Jntcllccaual Stages·. a greater interest than any other anal)'llt haJ .shown, so
far as I am aware. The co11aboration on the 'Lam11rckian hypothesis' we
nolcd 1bc>,c(no1c J) was an attempt to work out some of the hypotbcscssca
fonh 10 Fcrcoczi'• "Stages' paJ>Cf. Fcrmc:zi e'\mlu.ally ihincd the focus
from the level or lbc sense or reality to I more orpoic dcVC'IOpmcnlal
S<qucr= in Tho/-.· A Tlt•ory of G..Utolily ( 1924). Indeed. the sequence
he cstabhshtd in that boot was a far more biolosically onented approach
than Freud would ever countenance~ Freud finally remainina. with his
1hcory orinstinas. on lhc borderline bclwccn biology and psychology. er.
1he idea Freud moolcd in 1910 in a letter Lo Ferenczi (Jones, vol. II, 499)
a11cmpting to ttlate the mechanism of the rtturn of the repressed (and not
lb.at or reprcuioo itself) to the de-.·elopment of the ego, whereas the
mechanism of repression depends on the phase or the libido.
l I. No1c 1hc following passage from Freud ( l939a) SB XXIJI 74:

All these traumas occur in early childhood up 10 about 1hc fifth year.
Jmprcuions from the 1ime at "'hk:h a child is beainning to talk stand out
as bdna of particular interest; lhc periods between lhc ages or two and
four seem to be the mos·1 imponan1; it canno1 be dc1ermincd \\'ith
ceriainly how long alter birth this period or r<eeplivily begin..

12. '. . • tin SinMsorga11fordit A•ffOJSvng P•J·diisrlo<rQ"4/i101tn • • .'.AL SE V

615, Freud changed 1his formula slighlly. · . 'ints Sintttlorgans =ur
lflaltrtttltmu.ng PSJYlti.sc~r Qu6li1a1tn,'
13. '. •• dou n dos U""°";,g"" tkr W0<1~1'hwrg fib<r d~ Sachbtz1'hung ist.'
14. A1 JonC5 notes (Jones, vol. ll, 36S): "this appcan to M anotbe:r one of
Freud's 1dca.s that be rorgot and then recaptured more than once: Also
(Jones II 200):

Freud had adumbrated this. interesting thtory before and he alwa)'l

lldhercd to it Ferencz.i asked him how it could be applied to congenital
Notes 227
deaf.mutes who have noco~on of words. Hi1 reply was lhat we mU$1
widen the connotation of"9i·ords" in tbiscot'lltxt to inc.fudc any gestures of

15. Thia stattmcnt is not slrictly w::urate,. since- the patient also ha.s fttlings in
his or her cooJCiousnes.s. But. by a stnnge conccpc.ual tn~nion, psycho·
analysis. which S«med to be so much about 1he lire or the rccliop, =d
out of its therapeutic work the importance or feelings. The pttiod of
theoretical speculation that resulted in the mctapsycbologlcal works
written in the Ore.at War and in the culminating paper, "The Unconscious·,
v.·hkh cxprc5$ed more clearly than anywhere else the dominance of verbaJ
conaciousncss from the standpoint of psychoanalysis, hod been instigated
wilh •paper 111J11 Freud started in Oelobcr 1910, en Ii tied ' In whJlt scnse may
onc•pcak or unconscious rcclings?' (sec The Freud/Jung l•llers2 18F, p. 368
and nil). This paper eventually became section Ill of 'The Unconscious'
(( I91Sc) SE XIV 177- 9). There, Freud madcit cleanhat it was noutrictly
admiuible to speak of unconscious feelings: 'lhc pos1.ibili1y or the attribute
of uncon1Ciousocss would ht' complc1cly excluded as far as emotions.
fcc1inas and affects arc coocc:rncd." On the 1idc of consciousnCA. also. the
psychoanalyst always deals in verbal repons s1atcs of con,tdou.sness.. or,
co remain truer to the Freudian diaJea. the patJCftl reads orftbe surface or
his con.1Ctoumess.. Thus. as far as the a.n.al)5t u conumed. be JS c:oocemed
wi1h the words spokm and the words that have come to consciousness..
16. When Freud did intimate that linkage with verbal residues was not a
sufficient. or a necessary. condition for becomin& conscious. be could not
brin1him.self10 reveal an altemauve path towards a deeper understanding
or the process. For example, in "The Unconscious' (191Se) SE XIV 203:

As we can see. being linked with word·prcscntarions is not yet the same
thing u becoming conscious. but only makes it possible to bcQomc so; it is
therefore characteristic of the S)'Slem Pcs. and or that system alone. With
these discussions, however, we have evidently dcprarted from our subject
proper and find ourselves plunged into problems concerning the precon-
scious and the conscious. which for good reasons "'·c arc reserving for
separate treatment.

As I have already mentioned. this separate treatment was ne\•cr to appear.

17. In Mosts and M oMtheism (19391) SE XXlll 112-3, Freud wrocc:

Among the precepu oftbc Most:S religion tMre 1s one that is of greater
importanu than appean to begin v;ith. Tbb is the prohibition against
making an image ofGod - tMoompuhion to • onhip a Ood whom one
canaot sec••.. - an expression of the pride or mankiod io chc dc\'elo~
mml of speech. • ·hicb resulted in such an extraordinary advaoccmcot of
1ntellmual activities.. The new realm of intellectuahty was opened up. in
which ideas. memories and inferences became decisi\'C ln contrast to the
lower ps,ychical acti\ity which had direct percepcions by the sense-organs
as its oon1en1. This was unquestionably one of the most important stages
on the pa1h of hominiza1ion.
228 language and t/71! Origins of Psychoonalysls
Again, in another passage. this time from (1909d) SE X 233 al : ' As
Uchlcnbergsays.. ''An astronomer knO\\'S whetl\crtht moon is inhabited or
not Wllh aboul a.s much certainly as he knov.'S who was his father. bu1 not
~.-ilh so much certainty as be' kno-."S "'ho ..,..as his mother". A great advaooe
wat made in ci\iliution when mien decided to put their inferences upon a
level with the tcst.imooy of their senses and to make the Step (rom
matriarchy to patriarchy.·
18. And even lhe acquisition of, or perhaps acquiescence under, belief is bound
up with the speech function, sin«-. as outlined in the Projrc.·1. judgcmeot is
dependent upon the unity conferred upon an object and its variable
a11ributn by the verbal imagr:s. such an object - an alien, incomprehensible
' thina\ ;u Freud described it - being fi rst characterized by the scream. In
( 1930a) SE XXI 67, Freud argued 1ha1 the scream characterizes the first
objccl in its absence, thus marking off what is phcnomcnologicall)'
discontinuous, temporary and unpredictable - and therefore ·outside' - as
COntlnuOUS llOd permanent OD the )cvcl O( lhought·rcaJity.
19. A phraso 1hat occurred often in Schr10ber's M t molrs, which both Freud and
JW1g used in their correspondence to remind each oLhcr that chinking. even
1hinking pg:ychoanaJyticall)', is never eno ugh.
20. The allusion is 10 a notcwonhy accoun.t of the inalienable character of the
fundamcolal ruk, found in Freud (1909d) SEX 166:

H<re 1hc pa1icn1 brot c olT, gOI up from 1he sofa, and b<ggc:d me 10 span:
him 1be rcci1al of the details. I usurc:d him 1h11 I m)'klf had no tasle
wbatc\'e r for cruelty. a.ad certainly had no des.ire 10 tormtnt bim. but that
naturally I could not grant him somtthing which was beyond my pov.-cr.
He mi&ht just as wdl as.k me to give him the moon. (EbmJog ut kiJnn" u
m(clt bitlC'.n, llun twei Kom~t~n zu schrtnlctn.)

The passaae is noteworthy not only for the clarity with which Freud
revealed to his patient that the rundamcntal rule is not a iubjcc1 for
legislation, but also as an indication of how the analyst, as the rcprcscntat·
ive or thi11 law, can very easily encourage the forma1ion or an identification
or the analyst with the tormentors, 1he 1ort urers. so commonly found, in
obscssjonal neurosis, as delegates or 1he father. When the analyit assured
the patient that he had no 1aste for cruelty. that he had no desire to
1ormcnt b.im, he encouraged both the conversion o( this disclaimer into a
phantasy of its opposite. and 1be identification of all torture or cruelty with
the inftex.ibility of the fundamcotal rule. th•t i1. in the final 1.nalysis.. with the
inftexib1li1y of symbolic reality, or, broadly spcak1na. wnb lan1uage. We
might •-.:nturc the hypothesis that lhosc anal)'>IS who idcniiry the 'law' with
1hc laws of language have managed 10 purify 1he 1ransl'er10nce 10 a poin1
where the M aster is identified with the legislator of lanauagc; the question
o( the dwolution of such a transference remains an abeyance.

C:lli\fTEa J

I. A number of author5 b.avc noted this feature of the additions to the dream-
Nolfs 229
book, of whom Wdd<n ( 1968. 1973) has d.-wn m0>t lllcotion to the
fundamcntaJ change in the eoncep1ion or $ymbolism lb.at this in,·ol\'ed.
2. On the shor1 SIOJ)' style or ' Katherin•' - Schonau (1968) and Ro hner
J 1.<Claire ( 1966) also emphasized the insttmtan""'3 appcarantt of the fechng
of ccna1n1y. and the accompanying fethna of hbera11on that Freud (and
James, 1890, vol. I. pp. 679ff; Roscnzw<ig (1968)) d<>Crihcd when analysis
restores to consciousness a name that has been forgotten. Sec Frtud ( l901 b)
C haplet l.
4, For •n account of the concept of symbolism as it h3s been understood in
variou1 schools of analysis) see the articlt on S1n1bo/;sn1 in Laplanche a nd
Po ntalis ( 1973). It is wonhwbile noting that cc:r1ain ~·orks o n the
psychoanalyticconcept of the symbol do n o1 bear on ~·hat either L11planchc
und Pontalis or I rncan by ·symbol', but cover tt much broa.dcr field, which
would more profitabl y be called tha1 of1he sign. See. for instance, A.xeltod
( 1977) and Mitchell ( 197J). Such uses of the term symbol have affinities with
the di1<ussion in Rioocur (1970). But the psyrhoonalyl/c concept or the
lymbol v.·ould seem to correspond more nearly w·ilh Pie:rcc'1 cooccpl of the
'icon'. Sec Pier« ( 1897, 1932) and Dewey (1946).
S. Laplancbe and Pootalis(l973, p. 44J) .-·ish to draw out a furtberdlstioctioo:
moral hteral. in addition 10 figurative li1eral.
We should al~ note 1h:a1 Brcucr's emphasis on souttdassoci.atioo was not
taken up by Freud in the Stud~$lO the extent chat he ¥ri'l.S 10 emphasize it in.
for example. 71t~ ln1trpr~1a1ion of Drn:ms.
6. Ferenc:zi summed up the theory or h~teria H follows ((1919) pp. 102- 3):
•.. . e"·ery b)·,terical symptom. considered from whatever asp«t. is alwa)"S
to be recognized as a beterotypc genital (unction. The ancients '1!'Crc.
therefore. right "''hen the)' said of hysteria: UteruJ loquitur?'
7. The most dc1.ailed account or this theory is to be fo und in Ferenczi ( 1924),
but a lw spcculati\o'C ,·crsion was expressed in Ferenczj (19 19). Cf. also
Fcrcnczi. 1926. p. 48:

Pa.s~i n g or 'transitory• symptoms which I have observed in my patient.S

during their anaJyses have sometimes rc,·ealed a sudden dis-placement of
g.cnitul sensations of sexual excitations 10 the whole surface of the
body .... In a ~:h ole series of cases of teprcsscd male homosexuali1y I
round lhat in moments of .st.lual excitement the whole surface: of the skin
became burning hot. It is not unlikely 1h11t 1he German slaing cxprasion
u.5C'd of homosexuals 'hot brothers· has itJ origin 1n this symptom.

Another argument of not~ thi$ time from Fercnczi (1924), p. 22, cxcurS
during f"erenc7J's discussion of tM hypothesis th11 the canoibal15lic
phanta.Sld of babies are deri'ed from at1empU lo return to the v.·omb:

The- sok: argument - at all cvents the araumcnt of monJcnt to 1he

psychoanalyst '*hich emboldens us to offer 1his daring hypothais is tbc-
un1rorm1ty and unmistakeablcness "i1h ..,.,.hkh the symbolic identity of
penis and tooth recur$, both in d reams and in neurotic symptoms..
According lOo ur conccp1ion the tooth is thercrorc renlly a primal penis
230 language and the Origins of Psychoonalysls
(UrJH"lls), whOS< lib;dinal role, ho"'C"cr, the child who has been weaned
muse learn 10 rcoounoe.

Obviously this notion of the Urpmi.s loucbcs. u • 'C hl\'C been keen to point
ou1. on the theory of symbolism. Fcronai conunucd:

11 11 nol 1h11 1hc 1001h is 1hcreforc 1be symbol of 1hc penis bu1 r2tbcr. to
speak paradoxically. that the IJ11cr ma1uring ptnis is the symbol of the
more primitive boring implement, the tooth. Tbc p.1radoxical character
orthi.s supposition is perhaps modcnalcd, however. by lhc coruiidcratioo
chat every symbolic association is preceded by a stage in which two things
arc treated as one and so can represent each 01her.

Clearly this latter consideration does not r~soltv the 'paradox'i bul we may
well ask: what is the paradox?
8. Cf. Freud ( 19<lla) SE V 659:

The dream-thoughts which we first come across as v.·c proceed with our
analysis oficn strike us by the unusual fonn in which they arc expressed;
1hey are not clothed in the prosaic language wually employed by our
thought, bu1 arc on th< con1rary represented •ymbolicaUy by means of
~m.llcs and metaphors.. in images resembling thOSt of poclicspocda. There
is oo difficvtty in accounting for lht constraint imposed upon the form in
-.·hich the drcam·thougbts are expressed.... If "'C tmagine ourK.lves
faced by the ptoblcrn of roprescn1ing 1hc arguments in 1 political leading
article or the spccc.bcs of couo5C'I before 1 <'Ourt of law in a series of
pictures, we shall easily understand 1he modifica11ons which must
ncc:asarily be carried out by the dream-work owing to rons;mrations oj
reprt1#ntabili1y fn rite ctJntent of tlr.e dream.

The reference to the three traditional forms or discourse upon Yio•hich the art
of rhetoric i.s founded - poetry, demagogy and the law indicates clearly
whRt sort of language Yii'C must expect to hear on 1hc: royal road 10 the
uncon..:ious. er. Mahony (1974) who would relate Freud's 1hcrapy of
rhc1oric with a pre·Aristotelian conception of the cural ivc word. a mixture
of tp6d~ and thtlkttrion; alternativt-ly, one could view Freud's conception as
gr11ning 1hc Rhetoric on to the P«tics.
9. Fcrcntti. the fir11 pqrchoanaly:st co 'test' chc more iencral validity for
another language of interpretations originally derived from German
hnguisttc usage. " 'as extremely wary in his earl)' wn1ings or giV'lng symboltc
interprctauons not based upon '-erbal plays. For e.xamp~. in Fert:nczi
(1908). p 19 o7, be wrole:

A l)'OOO)m or cohabitation th.al is commonly used 10 vu.lpr Hunganan

('10 Shoot') IS probably the tt.a.SOft Why ID dreams Of lmpolenl patitftl.S
under my treatment situations so oftc.n recur in which the chief part is
ployed by lhc (mostly clumsy) u.se or weapons (c.a. rusting or the rifle.
missing the target. missing fire in shooting. e1c.)
Nores 231
Fcrcncz:i did not 1hink 10 base his argument upon the "similaricy·. seemingly
so obvious to lhc "post-Freudian" eye, or sh1pe or a gun and a penis.
10. The clear<$! and sharpest statement or this position was added in 1925 as a
footnote to (1 900a) SE V 506:

But now that analysts at lea.st have become r«e>ncilcd to replacing the
manifest dream by the meaning rn·caJcd by its interpretation. many of
them ha••c become guilty of falling into a nother confusion which they
cling to with equal obstinacy. They S«k to find the e»<oa: of dreams in
their latent content and in so doing they overlook the distinction between
the latent drcam·thoug.bts and the dream-work. At bottom, dreams are
nothing other than a particular form of thinking, n1ude possible by the
conditions of t he state of sleep. It is the drl•a1tt·"'"rk which creates that
fonn, and it alone is the essence of dreaming - the explanation of its
peculiar nature.

11 . Although the debate in the Society O\'Cr the meaning of examination

dreams. and lhe footnotes that Freud added and deteted in his discussion of
1hese dreams in Th' lntt"rpr,tation oj Drranu, indicate th:11 SteteJ was as
likely as Freud to use linguistic usage. See (1900a) SE IV 274: Minu1es
Ill pp. 760'. and p. 81 , and the sentence that 1-r..ud added to 11tt
lnttrprttotlon of 0"'1111S in 1911, only to remo"• it in 191 4: "Stekd. basing
h1mKlf on a very common idiomatic usage. his suaaestcd th.al 1he: ~·1111lc
one··,. a symbol of lhc male or female ~nitalJ. (SE V 363). What Freud
.... oufd ~rta1nly no1 have found 1n Strkel's ""Ork. tboug.h, ,..a.s a conc:t:rn ..1th
the esoteric history of language upon ,..hk:h Jung was embarking, and of
which Freud gave: C'ide.occ in his paper on Abel's 'The antithc:ticaJ meaning
or printal 'l''ords·. Finding common g.round with Stckcl in the sphere of
linsuistic usagt was no longer a sufficient guarantee or the wellfoundedness
or. ;ymbol.
12, Freud had given a similar interpretation of the pill)' 1n a letter to Fliess.
Freud Origi11s(l90a) SE I 26S-6, dated 15 October 1897.
13. Freud senian offprint of the paper on sexuol Lheories to Jung in December
1908. mentioning his obsession with the ·nuclcor co1nplcx' of little Hans
(Ncrbcrt) (The Freud/Jung Lt11trs. I 18F. p. 186). ·Family Romances·
(I 909c) 'l''QSwritten as a part of Rank·s book Der Al) thul vun der G~burt des
Htldtn. whose prc:facc bore the date December 1908 (sec editorial note. SE
IX 236).
14. This theme ofcoocealment oftbe 1n.11h is 1hc: heir 10 1hc d1s:soluuon of the
seduction bypothe$is; as so of1en, Ferencz.i's v.ork danfies this tt1a1ion: Stt
Fc~nc:i (1927b. 1933)
IS. J11s 1atc:rating toc:ompare this attempt tocsca~ from 1bc "drc:ary· maternal
at11ology '4ith Jung's later l)lJOIOgy o( the manifcsta11ons of the mot.htt
arc:hetypc. the plurality of typu doing 1he wort or the '-ari<ty of moth<r-
fa1her child ,,/ation.t in genera1ing diversity;$« Jung 1918/ 1954.
16. The theme of the rtsCUe had a person.al impon11nce for Freud. as v.·c sec from
hi• accounl of 1he incident of Monsieur J oyeu.. in Freud (1901b) SE VI
148- 9. Sec Raboul ( 1959) and the exchange in the Fr<ud- Abraham
CorrtJ'PQnllPnl'e. in which A br.1ham. invofvcd 1n a detailed philological
232 Language ond the Origins of Psychoanal)•Si.s
enquiry 1n10 tht ttxt ofOtdipus Rtx. qUH11ontd 1-reud as 10 the detailed
m<anina of 1he m;cuc: fanlasy. sIDc:c he read 1he meeling of Laius and
Oedipus al th< ·crossroads" as a homo!oguc: of such a phlln1asy (Freud.
19651. pp. 324-6).
17. The -ouo1 gi•"<n here migh1 .l<nd support 10 a plrtlC\llar theor} of
·1mpul.sc or "desire', one which dcna that dca:irc is prior lo its o,..n

proh1b1t1on. ont \\'hicb would inscri~ the desire ror 1hc mother in a schema
'alrcudy laid down·. \\1hettby such a dC'J.irc already C\rokcs 1ts O\\'D
repudiation by a 'third term' (•he fathe r). On this par11cular theory of de.sire,
,.... Uicun (19S6- S7): Dolcuzc and Guauari (1975) esp. pp. 601T; Foucaul1
( 1976) pp. 50- 6 7: a nd Forr<Sler ( 1980). Oeleuze and Guau an make certain
clainls about 1hc hibtory of the Oedipus con1pl..:x thot huve a close affinity
whh those I an1 making here.
18. Follo"•ing Freud, i,o.·e will leave enig1na1ic the ·something else be.sides".
19. My argumcnl in this section pu1s into question the 35-Jertion or Laplanchc
and Pon1alis ( 1973) p. 283. 1ha1 ·1hc history of 1hesc researches rinto the
Oedipus com~ex] is in reality coextensive with that of psychoanatysis
itttlf'. their implication being that the Oedipus complex was. in a se:ns.c,
' there". •from the beginning'. I ha,·e tried to show that Freud did not
discover the Oedipus complex as such durins his self-analysis. as is
main1a1ncd by Stracbey. Jones. Laplanchc and Pontalis and many othcn.
Raibtr. he doSCO\'ttcd Oedipal impui..s. If "'' mtan by 1be OcdipUJ
compfc>. thc nucleus or core of a neurosis., then it sccmsc.tcar that Freud did
no1 cs1abl11b tlus until 1be period 1908-10. lkleuze and Gua11ari (1975. pp.
60-6) ha,·c some illuminating comments to ma.kc on the development and
the function of the Oedipus complex in the early yean or psychoanalysis.
20. The first f ull-scalc argument concerning the OedipuscomplcA i:s to be found
on TottmandTaboo(l912-1 3). Volume XII of 1he Standard &lotion (19 11-
JJ) is completely lacking in any referc11ce to the Oedipus complex or the
nuclear ncuroS1$, and it includes t he paper on 'The Oi.sposi1ion 10
Obsessional Neurosis' ( 1913i). where one might have expected some
discu55ion of the topic.
21. E.a. Ibid .• 199F, p. 332. II is subtle indicalions or 1hi1 sori that warranl the
conclusion already stated in C.hapter It: Jung was acting as the stimulus for
revivina chemcs and copies t hat Freud had dealt with in detail long before.
in the Projttt and Thi' fnterprl'lation of Dr-tams, bul which had been
'forgotten'. Freud was right when he claimed tha1 he was not plagiarizing;
bul he ccn.ainly owed J ung $0mcthing. For an 1llcmati\'c rc:aiding of
pass.ages such as this., e.mphasizing the sense in which their •ntclleaual
collaboration wa.s an attempt to co-opt the other lnto cach's own brand of
ps)'chO<is. ..., Roustang (1976) Chapter 111 "A ehacun sa fohe· pp. nlT.
22. Wond/1111gtn wrd S>mbok du Ubido was 1raosla1cd in10 E.o&Jisb in 1915.
under lhc title Tlw Ps)Y-hology of tlw Uncon.s<'iou.s. The \\Ork in Jung's
Collttt~d Works that corresponds 1oi1 i.s vol. V. SJ·mbols o/T,.ansj0tmo1ion,
wh~h is a hcavdy revised and de-Frcudianaed vcnion of the original.
23. Even before Freud had turned hisaltc::olion losymboUsm and i1s rcla1ioa to
myth, his pupils bad published on tbc subject: Abraham's Traum und
Myth...,: •in• Studi• : ur Voiktrpsychologi• ( 1909) and Rank'• Dtr Mythus
vo11 der G~burt dt's Ht'lckn (1908). Both these works drew heavily upon an
Notes 233
assumption thnt the drc:nm 'lyml:>ols provided 1hc- key to mythological
symbolism, deriving their dream symbols from the section on typical
dreams in Tht Jn1trprt1a1lon of Drtczrns. and from the symbols that.
although 001 pubbshcd as yt1 in psychoanolytic:IJ works. wer< gradually
being accepted in psychoanalytical circles in 1hi.s period. We approach here
a rather peculiar parado.1t: Abraham in particular emphasized 1hc shocking
charac1c:r or the Frcudi1n drc1m·symbols (' .•• none of Freud's teachings.
bowc,·cr much 1hcy di,:crac rrom currenc schools o( thought, has been so
violently attacked u th11 on 1he 1n1crprcta1ion of symbols.' - Abraham
(1909) p. 162). Y<I none or1hese symbols had as )<I bttn published under
Freud's signature. and, u Abraham's "ork amply dc-moruuated and
recognized - dc:spctc 1tKlf - . most o( these symbols " 'ere 001 derived from
psycboanaJysis. but rather rrom the -.:Ork or comparati\'C mytbologis~
who had been happily makin& known the scandak>\15 meaning or ancimt
myths for decades. wi1hou1 the wrath or shocked public opinion disturbing
the pcaoc of the Wl1\·crsuics. As Fttud wr0tc lO Stanley HalJ on November
23, 1913 (Freud. 1960a. p. 310):

That 11 is jus1 the question of sc"ual symbolism to which you take

cAccption does not worry me. You v.'iU surely have observed that
psychoanalys•s creates few new concepts 1n th.is field. rather it takes up
long·atablished ideas. makes uu of them, and supports them with a
great deal of evidence.

For a runcr discussion of 1his episode, ..,. Chapter 5. pp. 193-4.

24. His early criticisms or Jung's work (in l9l l) centred around this metho-
dological poin1. Sec Th• fr«udjJung Utters 2B8f, p. 473.
2S. Jung never attempted to brina his toxin theory inco line with the chemical
hypotheses concerning the: aetiology che neuroses and the psychoses that
Freud proposed in t he 7'hr~t E1says on S'txuallt)t. Ra1her, for Jung, the
h)'pothctical 1oxin determined an ubnormalily of brain function, rather
than or sexual function.
26. See Totem uflll Taboo (1912- 13) SE XIII 125, where Freud firsl c:xamincd
and then rejected the v9rious ·sociological. biological and psycho1ogicaJ
cxplana1ions (in whjch connection the psychologic.al mo ~i vcs should be
regarded as rcprescntint biological forces)' of the incest taboo, and then
turned to Darwin's hypothesis of the primal horde as being more satisfying
than any other. ' It is of a kind quite di1Tcren1 from any lhat ~·e ha\'e so far
considcted, and might be described as "historical"'.
27. Wby an area of research, which had betn one of the most active io the
decade up 10 the war. suddenly lost its interest may find an answer in the
issues raised 1.n Ch.11p1cr S. What4i,vcr the explanation. the tum away from
history and language towards soaoloaical modc5 in the 1920s and later is
2B. Whai could be more probablt 1han 1ha1 1hc figure of sp«<h 'Swallowing
somethin& which "c UR 1n talking an in.suit to ~·bich no rejoinder has
been made. did in ract oriainatr from 1hc inncrvatory sensations which
arise tn tbt pharynx wbtn wt rcfratn from sptaking and prtvtnt owulvt.s
(rom react.in& to tht insult? All these sensations and innervations belong
234 Language and thl! Origiru of PJychoona/)'JU
to lhc field of "The Expression of the Emotions'. which. u Darwin has
1aqbt us.. consists oractions which orig.i.nally had a meaning and set'\·ed a
purpose. Tbex may now for I.be m0S1 part ha"e become so much
weakened that the cxprmion of them in words seems to u.s onJy to be a
fi11.1ra tivc pictwc of them. whereas in all probability 1hc dacription was
om:c meant btcraUy: and hysteria ii naht 1n restonng the ongin.aJ
meanina of the words in depicting iu unusually strong innervations.
Indeed,, it is perhaps \\'rong to say that hys1cria crcatcs these sensations by
symboli1ation. It may be that it docs not t-akc lin.auistic usage as its. model
at aJI. but that both hysteria and linguistic usage alike draw their material
from a common source. (Breuer and Freud ( 189Sd) SE II 181).
29. Frcud( 19 16- 17)SEXVI 31 2.
JO. Freud ( 1926d) SE XX 133- 4.
31. Freud ( 19 12- 13) SE XJU 122- 3.
32. Freud ( 1923b) SE XIX 35.
33. 8akGJ1 ( 19S8) points out a certain amb!valcncc of F reud's towards the
Hebrew language. Jn 1he Hebrew Precface 10 Tott!m and Taboo SE XIII ~v.
Freud proclaimed himself "ignoran1 of the language or holy writ'. Bak.an
adductj internal evldeocc, such as the Jong Hebrew dcd1ca11on in the Bible
that J1kob Freud gave 10 his son in 1891 (Jones. \'OI, I 22- 3). and the
intimate friendship bet~·ee:n Freud and the Hammcnchlq famtl)' (Jones.,
vol. I. p. 179 states that Fr<ud .,... 1augh1 H ebrew by Professor
HammenchJag at school)~ to indicate that Freud did ha\C some kno\\·lcdge
of lofcbrcw. If Frc,ud did know Hebrew the connmion of 1hc two scparalc
de1crm1nations of the word "gCKrcs· is less ·s1ra1ncd'. If bc didn't k:oow
Hcbrcw we are lcfi with the form argument he cmplo)·cd. indicating that
unknown languages c-u provide link.s in the chain of associations.
34. er. ( 1940•) SE XXlll 166; 'Dr<a ms make an unrestricted Uk or lurgui$1ic
S)ltttbofJ , the meaning of which is for t he most p3rt unknown to the dreamer.
Our c,11.pc;ritn~. however. enables us to confirm their sense. They probably
oriiinato rrom earlier phases in the development speech.' (My cn1pha·
3S. Lccll1irc (1968) argues quite cogently that 1h i~ interpretation or Freud's
concerning the picoc of yellow clothing is a good example of the manner in
which an analyst's 'key significrs' impose themselves u nco n sciou~ly: 1he
piece yellow dress worn by Gisella A uss. for which 1he 1ncmory of the
yellow nowers, analysod in (1899a) SE 111 311- 313. wos. CO\'tr.
36. The one tnaJor soun:ie on the development or psychoanaly11c theory that
also locates the break between the Freudians and the Jung1ans in the
debates around the coocept ofsymbol is Dalbia ((1941 ), vol.. I pp. IOSIT).
01lb1ezcbara.cttrizes th~ two difT~rcnr concq>CJons oft be symbol as being
the diff'eren« bctv.tcn •dramatiz:ation' and ·symboli1ation·. Dramatization
invol\CS the mo\cmcnt from abstraa to conaete. rrom concept to image.
and 1s 1nd1vidu,ally determined. Symbolization moves from one coocrC'le
elemcn110 another. from one pc:n;cplual image 10 another, and is universal.
chc SQ me relations between image A and image 8 be-Ina found in all human
bcing;s. Dalbitz characterizes symbolization as Frcud'1 concept and
dramatization as Silbcrer's and Jung's. As m)' discussion will have shown,
this is too $imple a vicw and distorts 1hcir mote conlpl1cutcd positions.
Notes 235
Certainly Jung bclic\•ed that symbols were uni\•crsal: indeed. for him. th~
symbol• (archetypes) were th< primary uni•<ruls. th< k<y poiot or
disagr«mcot pi<:kcd up in Joo..• paper di..:uucd below. What Oalbicz is
perhaps trying to capture is the idealist strain in S1lbcrer's and Jung's
interpretations. whereby an abstract con«p1 'leads' the visual symbol. thU$
allowing 'climbing up a staircase' to symbolize a prosp«eive spiritual ascent
rather 1han a wi.s.h for xxual intercourse. A1ain. the 'radicaJ empiricism·
with which Dalbitt cbaracttrizrs the Freudians (Jones and Flournoy) is
opposed to this idc.alism. But I would prc(cr to call the tJttrcmc Freudian
posicjoo 'biologically reductionist', involvina IU it does a reduction of
perceptual clements to biologically determined primary concerns. which
arc received onto the level of representation by means or a transparent
projcc:tion of biologically determined •units' . Jung'11 symbols certainly do
no1 reduce in tbe same manner; rather. 1hcy stay on the level of
representation, but receive hidden support fro1n traditionally accepted
human themes., such as 'Wisdom'. "innocence' and ' rebirth'. Oalbici implies
that "penis' is somehow more concrete th11n ·~risdom', without articulating
the additional argument that is necessary to make this so: the 'locking· of
rcprcscnt•tion on to the body in some manner. whether this is done by
invoking the uni\•crs.al alfCCCi\·c signific:anoc of 1he penis. or by making a
claim about the genesis of representation out or a primary. 'pre--
rcprtseotattonal' attention to the body. Both these arguments can be found
in psychoanalysis. The development or lacan's theory cJear1y demon.st.rates
how the penis or the phallus can become as abltract as any Jungian might
ha vc wLS.bcd.
37. Lacon (19~9. E704) ttmaTlu that this is the crucial pes.a1c in Joo<S"
refutat1on ofSilbcrer, quibbling with Jones over the mi.sintcrpretatioo of the
word •ephemeral'. He then turns the rerutation on its head in the roJlowing
manner: "Toutcs ' idCcs' dont Jc plus concn:I cit le rCscau du signifiant oU iJ
rau1 que le suje1 soit dCj;i pris pour qu'il puisse s'y constituer: comme soi.
comme $'1 place dans une parcntC.. comme cxistnnt. commc rcprCscntant
d'un K~c. voirc commc mort, car ces idCes nc pcuvc:nt passer pour primaircs
qu'il ~bandonncr tout paralJClismc: au dCveloppement des bcsoins." Hence
Jones' argun1ent based on the biologically detern1ined prin1ary ideas is
convcr1ed inLo an argument-and a very good one at that - against the
equation of biological need with human dcsirt.
38. Cr. Derrida (1967). pp. 409- 10, quoted in Wild<n (1968). p. 2S9:

It would be easy enough to sho"" that the concept of )tructurc and the
'4'0rd ··structure·· itself are as old a.s the epistcme chat is to s.t)'. as old as
,.,..,..... SC!eno< and -...m philosophy.• , . Ncv<nh<l<ss. up until the
"'.--co1·· "hich I wish to dcfio< (thll is. the chanae 111 th< US< orlhc: conccp<
of 1tructurc). the structure -or rather the structurality of the structure-
•.. has alwa)'s btt.o ncutraltttd or ttdoced. and this b)· a process of
giving it a centre or tt(erring it t0 a point of presence. a fixed origin. The
function o( this cent~ was not only 10 orien1, balance, and organiu the
structure - but above all 10 make sure that the oraanizing priOOplc of the
struc1urc: would limit what we might call 1hc: frr~play of I.he struc-
lure... . The centre also closes on· tht rreeplay it opens up itnd
236 language and the Origins of Ps)'choanalysis
makes possible. Qua ~.ntrc, ic is Lht poinl at v.hich the substitution of
con1cn1s. clements. or tcTID5 is no longer possibk.

I. Nieusche (1 889), "Reason· in Philosophy. s«tion S.

2. Frcud ( 1966a). March 23 1923, p. 122.
3. 8unmann (1824). p. 103.
4. From the Anglo-American tradition, there arc a number of articles that
have e1nployed a notion of propositional 1ransfor1tlation similar to
that which I will e•p<>und: Colby (1963. 197S). Boden ( 1974), Moser
ct nl (1969), Suppes and Warren ( 197S). All of these tie t he notion
or trunsfonnation in with traJtsforms perfor1ned by It C<)lnputer p rcr
grammed 10 employ t he mechanisms or defence, usually as ou1lined by
Annu Freud (1936). on a gi\'c-n input. For example, Suppcs and Warren
(197S). p. 40S: '. .. propositions represent thoughts or impulses in the
unconscious .... it becon1es natural to define the derenoe mechani.sms as
transrormations of propositions. By a 1ransformation "''e mean a function
that maps uoconsciOU$ propositions into conscious propositions.· They also
note: We UK ••ac1or- action- objC'Ct'' rather 1h1n Freud's 'iubJCC1-\·crb-
Ob)CCC' ..• in order to cmpha.si:u the non-lin1u1stic character or pro-
pc>s1tions. (Ibid. p. 407 nl). On< might"'" ask lhc question: why did Freud
employ the terms 'subjcct-ver~bjm". if it ,..,,.,,,., to empbasiz.c: the
Jinauistic character of the propositions? Th-al he d1d COrK:C"i\C of them in
hn&uis:tk terms indicates, I would argue, tha1 he wished to connect them
directly to propositions ut1trtd in analy$i.s., a pOint l wi11 refer to more than
on~ in thischaptc:r. On this point~ Suppcs and Warttn arc also clear:·. •• it
is fair 10 say that what we have lo mind ls somethina that corresponds more
to 1he production ofconscious dispositions 1hat endure ocro.!'s time, and not
to the production of momentary propositions arising on a given occasion.'
(Ibid .. 408.)
It is nlso a ppropriate to note that none of these nuthors takes account of
the distinclion between the subject of the enunciation and the subject of the
$1atc.mcnt, as did Freud in 1he Schrebcr case, when he noted 1ha1 it is
possible: for the subject 10 deny a proposition as a whole, 1111 well as denying
individual parts within ii ((191 lc) SE XII 64-S). This oversight on the pa rt
of these later \\'titers allows certain mechanisms of dcfcnCt". which V.'Ctt
regarded as fully distinguishabk: from one 1no1her by Fn:ud and Anna
Freud. to lose thetr distincti"e character. <-i· Suppcs and Warren find that
'reversal' and •reaction formation· do no1 appear a.s di:stiDC'I 10 the
computer. thus indicating 1hc fact that they do not distinguish transforms
'A>ithin a proposi1ion from transforms acting on the proposi11on as a \\hole.
Boden. on the other band. treats the material 10be transformed as linguistK::.
noting tha1 the ' unfamiliarity' of computers v.ith natural langv.agcs 1$ one of
the major dilficult1es 1hcy encounter in simulating the twists and turns of
propositional 1ransformation: •••• it would hardl·y occur to anyone 10
remark that Freud's theorctical insights were crucially dependent on his
background understanding or natural language: but computer programs
Notes 237
employing O\'crsimple models of languagc·u5e 50mctimes make ••absurd ..
trrors in psyc:hologic.al in1crprctation which arc dircccly attnbutable to this
lingu~tK crudity: (243- 4). As \\"t shall Stt in 1h1s ch.apter. bu1 cspcc:iaUy in
lhc d1SCUSS1on of rhe SC'nlcoce dtri,·ed from the 1naJyS1.s of Freud's dream
•/\'<Nt V1x11". ii ••ould seem "'onhwhiJe to try and integrate the formal aspect
of the propositional transforms that the abovc..cittd authors conttntratc
upon. -.·hic·b also lS ow conettn, w1lh 1ha1 feature of the practice or
ps)choonalys1s t.hat so often seem.s to defy a discu.ss1on above 1hc lc"tl of
anccdo1al: namely, the 'io'tuiti,·c' manner in which interpretations and
oonstruct1oru are made in prac1ice, the aptitude that Reik attributed to ' the
third car·. which is in essence the searching for •yntactical isomorphisms
\\'hich. "'hen writ large on the level of theory. approximate co the n1ethod of
propositional transformation.
S. Cf. Freud (1905e) SE VII 40-41: ". . . it (the symptom) cannot occur more
thon once - and the capacity fo r repealing itself is one of the chardcteristics
of a bystcrk:al symptom - unless it h3S a psychical significance, a m(!aning.
The hystcricaJ symptom does not carry 1his meaning w11h it, but Lhc
meanina is lent t.o it. soldered to it, as it were, ..• '
6. Freud ( 19S0a). SE I 3S2: ·Es isr also di• S)mbolbildung 10 /•st" An fen•
U1stung . .,_.t k h4' iiMr tlit normalt Abw.vhr hlnnwsgtht.' The translation in SE.
's)'mbo1~formation of this stable kind'. docs not seem quite to capture the
n0t1on of 'fixity' 10 .,1hicb Freud a11nbutcd so much unponance.
7. The con«rn 14ith synthesis~ rife in tarly ana1)tteal C1rctcs, and reministtnt o(
the debates in Rtnaissan~ philosophy of science "hich Gahleo brought toa
close. rould perhaps be n:pla<>Od with a contnist bctwttn analysi$ and
di11lectics. rather th.an analysis and synthesis. In such a light. Freud '"''35
obviously both an analyst and a dialectician: one ha1 only to think of 1he
d1alcc1ica.J form of argumenl he employed so oflen. or lhc fact lhat many of
his \llOrks \\'e re couched in the form of a debate with an opponent or a
neutral 'third parry·, e.g. large sections of TJ1t lnttrprt101fon oj Dreanis, The
Qutts1/011 oj' Lay AnafJ·~·is, 'Screen Memories'. the: discussion of the primal
scene in 'from the History of an Infan tile Neurosis', lntroduC'tory Lectures.
lnhibit/011.v. S>mptoms and Anxiety (dialogue with Rank). etc.
8. We mighc rormulatc che aim or psychoanalysis as follows: the end of
anal)sis is a dialogue between analyst and analysand that is no lon.gcr
1n1crrupted either by symptomalic forma1ions or by transference pbeno·
n1ena. That such an aim conftict.S with the ·analytic attitude' of the analyst
points up on tlw: one hand 1he purt'I)' 1heorc:1ical character of this goal. and.
on the other hand, the difficulties chac psychoanalytical ch<Ori>ls ha•'<
atw ays cx.pcrienccd in determining both pr11c1tea1 and t hcorctic.al cri lc.ria for
th< <nd of analysis. Cf. F"'ud ( 1937<); Balint ( 19S2) and the discussion of
ch< lancr m lacan (1975a) esp. pp. 2421T. and che interesting rommcntS in
Leclair< ( 1971) pp 261T. on the prac1icc "'hkh has aruen in ccnain
ana1ytal circles of introducing a second anal)Sl &imply in order to
ltrm1na1e the analysis.
9 Freud (19SO.) SE I 234. The Editon of chc Scandard Edition nocc. on SE I
234 n2. that chis idea is due co Brtutr. (Stt Brtucr and Freud (189Sd) SE II
188 9 n, where he reflects 1hac 'the mirror of a rcnccting telescope cannot at
the some time be a photographic plate.')
238 Language and tire Origins of Psychoanalysis
10. In I92S Freud added a note to V.. ln1'rprt1a1ion of Duams (1900a) SE V
S40 ·1 ha"e since sugg<sted tha1 consciousness actually ansa ilut<ad oflbc
memory-trace. ( ... dos BwM.JSt.uilt ttuttM f'radr.11 an Stelk du
11 . Cf. also a comment made at the Vienna Society in 1909. Mlnut<s 11. p. 216:
•.•• the distinction bet"\"\'ttn consciou.i and unconsc1ous cannot be applied
10 memory. Remembering somt"thing h.a.s nothing to do with con·
sciousnc$$. ·
12. Cf. Freud (1911c) SE Xll 71. The: metaphor of•siJtnc.. i$ a stri~ing one in
Freud's v.· ork. attaching partjcularly to Thanatos, in contrast to the 'noise•
ol' Eros (cf. (1930a) SE XXI 119; (19403) SE XXlll 16S).
13. In the Proj•t'I. Freud headed one of the section• of Part II Poychopathology
'Tho Hysterical Proton Pseudos' (the fi rsi lie of hysteria). What this lie
amounted to was a 'peculiar kinCI of symbol-formation". Sec note 6 above.
14. I use the 1erm 'tran$iciona1 object' in a sense similar to lhat introduced by
Winnicott, though I have extended it to cover those symbolic objects which
are the bridge to symbolic reality (that il, hes), which are necessary if stable
symbolic reality i$ 10 be cons:truc1ed. but which, in the course or a · normal'
cle\•elopmcnt. are cxcbaogcd for other items. Cr. Winoteoll (19S3).
IS. ll obbes ( 1839), vol. Ill. p. 23.
16. Ob,·iously this paragrapb relates closely 10 the more fam1har psycho-
analytiail con«pt of •acting out'. Of the early ps)dioanalyots, Ftrenczi
(19271. p. 72) ,... the one who"''"' most con«med "ith the problem of
lying: "'Human beings are a pan or the env>ronmcnt (for the infant~
ditrcnng gr<ally in importantt from all Other o bjects in the world,
porticularly in one signili<ant respect: all otbtr objects arc equally equable,
always constant. The only pan of the environment which is not reliable is
other persons. pa.rticularly the parents.... Even animals do not vat)'
gtt.atly. they do not lie against thcir natures; once known. they C'dn be
depended upon. The human being is the only animal which lies." Fe"nczi's
most detailed discussion or the relation of the lie tO the progress or the cure is
to be found in (1927b). lo his very last papers, he revived the ·seduction
theory· by combining the notion or a trauma with this deception prac·
tiscd on children by adulL<. Cf. also an early paper, Fcn:nczi ( 1909/39). pp.
170- 1.
17. On the notion of'itcrability" and its relation to tl\c n1ark and language., see
Derrida (1971. 1977), Searle (1977).
18. By 'association technique' Freud mean1 the methocb employed by Bleuler.
Jung and the Zurich group, in whic:h the pa1icn1 was mean I lO gi\'C a one· or
tv.·o-v.ord •n~••'Cr to a standard list of JOO " 'ords. which the expcnmenttt
v.ould read out to him one at a time. Cf. Freud's com~n1.s on a similar
techniq0< that apo1im1employed in the early 1890s. dunn1 tbc pcnod ofthe
pressutt techniqut, in {189Sd) SE II 276.
19. Cf. the same importaocc attached to the ·simplrn cxprasion·. or ·original
expression', in (1931b) SE XXJ 237:

111' d1fficull to give a detailed account of these !trend$) because they arc
oncn obscure instinctual impulses w·hic-h it was impossible for the child to
&r35p psychically at t he time of their O«:urrencc, which ~"ere therefore
only interpreted by her later (fr.rt 1tlne nach1riigllrht> lnterprttto11on /olrr~n
Notes 239

habtn). and v.hicb then appear in 1ht anat)'sis in forms of cAprcssion

(Ausdntc*s-·,.m'n) 1hat "'ttt certainly not the on11nal ones..

20. Amonpt whom one can indud• St<kol and Tausk (1914). who gavt papers
omplo}ina the mo1hod 10 the Vi<nna Psychoanal~tical Socie1y, and
Abraham (1911. pp. 144-S)., (1920. pp 3SO. 3$8). who employed ii in bis
series or
papers on cyclolhymia (manic-depressive psychosis).
21 . The middle voice is introd·uced to take account or this stage betv.·een active
und pahi\'C, corresponding to· Wendung gtgen die tfgtllf' Person·. 'That it is
not superfluous to a.ssume the exisltnce of stage (2) is to be 5CCn from the
behaviour or the sadistic instinct in obsessional neurosis. T11erc is a turning
round upon the subject's self M'i1J1ou1 an attiludc or passivi1y towards
Qnothcr person. ... The active voice is changed . not in10 the passive. but
in10 the rencxive. middle voice." (Ibid. SE XIV 128).
22. The \'Ctbs that might characterize the sadistic tiidc ortbc anal-sadisttc phase
include: ·master·. 'destroy·. "dismember'. One of 1hc thcmc:s that Lacan
v.cavcs into his theory of the mirl"Or-stage is 1h111 of the dismcntbe:rment of
the body. in dreams or in phantasy. a.s a derivati,·c of lhe fundamental
d"un11y oflhc body as experienced. ils unily only bt111a sccu~ through an
1dcnl•fica11on '4ilh the other seen in the mirror. Now this dyadic relation
1ha1 llJ\'cS rist 10 111< uni1y of tbt tgo abo 1hrn1<11s 10 destroy it. so that
·au.rc»i,ity' arises on the foundation of this rcla11on of un16cat100 and
othemtSS, 11S<lf founded upon IM "body in pi<C<S". When "" put Ibis
alongside of Lacan's use of the Hegelian dialectic or master and slave with
which he characterizes a certain relation of c10 and other found in
obsc~ional neurosis, 'ft•htch involves the ·wa1ting·for·· dcath' of chat
ncurM1s, the Fttudian no1ion of 'mastery·. gaining 11s staius as a
componcnt-ios1inc1 rrom its sourct in the musculature. and often equated
with the active mode of a verb, setms to disappear. being replaced b)' a n
11uressivity that arises out of the nece$sary structure of the relation bctv.·cen
the ego and its object, retroactively bringing into bcina a phcnomenolog)' of
the •body in pic:ocs' and tending towards the d ialcc1ic between thoughl as
inner ocgotion and dtalh :u ouitr nega1ion. (Cf. Taylor (197SJ°pp. 148ff.)
Such a reading v.•ill aJso dispJace the symbol fron1 il.s function in 'mastering·
unplcasurt. in favou r of the dialectic of pre"Stnce and a.bscnoc. or Eros and
Tbtna1os. as in Lacan·s many and \'aried di5.quisitions upon the 'fortida·
p_mc of lhJ'ond 1N Pleasur~ Princ1plr. But such a read1na will also be in
concc11 with a pr1marJ' aggrcssivily. found in the .,.,Ork of Kkin. and
pl1us1bly founded upon 1hc later Freudian no1ion of the death lDStinct.
Us.nasucb a later "crsioo oflht 1htoryofsado-ma.sochum.1.aplan cht buill
a rcadins of the ·grammar or f1n1osy• ((1970). p 166) upon a non·scxual
'helero-agg_ttss.i,ity'. prior to the sp1i11ing off o(the S1d1.stic and ma.sochistic
components of a se~"'11 componeot·instinct. Insofar as I •m rollowing the
basic outline: of ·instincts and their Vicissiludts·. 1n which Freud had ool
recognizrd as primal}' the profound problems or n1asochism. such issues
will not be discussed in detail. Sufftec ii to be said 1ha1 I sec no difficulty in
•1dapting the no1ioo of a propositional structure to the later theoretical
position. if .,.,c can find a means 10 make ncccptnblc the notion of a
conditional primal sentence.
240 language and the Origins of Ps)'t:hoanalysis
23. We can only no1c in foo1.no1e 1hc important consequences of this
rcJormu1a1ioo of the mechanism of projection. It puts in a secondary
po$i1jon a cooccption of projection as markinJ an ·capulsion· from an
·inside' to an ·out.side". thus bringing intoconft.ct tht ·arammatteal' mode of
psychoanalysis with what \\C might call the 'topological" mode. cm ployed in
an infonnal manner by K lcin and 'Ailh an attempt at mathematical
fonnaJa.atioo m the more reomt work of Lac.an. The simple cqua1ion of
'projcctjon' with ·expulsion· 'o\'Ould amount 10 an eli.sion of the distinction
between the subj«t of an enuncialion and 1he subject or a statement; it thus
corraponds to a b3$iC feature of Kleinian theory whereby the infant
'makes' the ~·orl d 1hrougb his own fan tasmatk: activity of projection and
introjcctjon. The subjectivism of the epistemologk:aJ foundatjon of this
theory leads to great difficulties in introducing 'others· into the world. The
advantage of the gTammatical mode is that 'othcn· arc there rrom the start.
inio(ar a11 one will allow that all propositions are 11ubjcct l() a more general
vtrsion of the ' paranoid principle' "A'e have outlined above. The general
version will read as folloV1•s: lhe subject of an enunciation never coincides
with the: subject of a statement. This DOW general principle:. w·bjch we might
call lhc principle of the duplicily of 1he subjcc:1, higbligblS the similarity
bc1wcco the mcc:baoism of projection (first pcnon is ..eluded from being
subjcc:t of the sta1emen1) and the necessary condition for a language (as
oppoKd to a code) - hence the rather strange: characterization by Laca.n
(1948, El 11/ 17) of all knowledge as paranoid in charac1cr.
24. Freud laler formulated more clearly his conviction that bask tn.nsform-
atiom of '\etbs' or 'instincts' do not involve a trianJformatton of content
(This might not apply to the transformation known as ·aublimatioD' -
perhaps a method of defining sublimation). See (191 x) SE XIV 127 and
(1918b) SE XV!I 26.
2S. Freud (191 lc) SE Xll 63. One notes thac this proposi1ion, ' I hate him',
sce1n1 to disobey the principle of the exclusion or the first person subject.
Bui, as Laplanchc and Pontalis ( 1973, p. 3SJ) poin1 out, the proposition,
' lie hates me', is treated as the txcuse for the cause of the hatred felt for the
Olhc:r. which is the primary symptom or paranoia. One might ha ..·e 10 add a
su.,.:.clausc to the principle. permitting fl return or the subject to the first
person in cases where there is a 'good enough reason'.
26. Anzieu (19S9, p. 33) notes that the 1hree women in the dream of lnllJl'S
injection correspond 10 three wldo\\'S or men who Freud bad regarded as
rival&. so that 'ca veuves sont pour Frtud des avcrtisse-mcnls du destin'.
27, Safouan (1974, p. 34) notes th< repetition of Sln>eturc found in Freud's
a nalfiiJ of this dream., and gives it as a tea.SOD for thccorrec:tnc:SS of his own
techn1quc, o( asking lhe anal)'Aod to gi\•e associations Sl&ning from a
recurrent phra.sc:: in the case Safouan discuJSCS. 1hc recurrent phrase used
for the purpost of·free associatjon· was ' You bcbl\'C •• .'
28. Cf. Freud (1899a) SE 111 311, which describes a ac:c:nc in which Sipund
and J ohn, 'as 1ho ugb by mutual agrttmenl', 'fall on the linlc girl' and
deprive: her or her no~·ers.
29. The pass.age is placed i.n brackets in SE, bu1 no1in the original German te.xt.
30. In the ca..se-·hlstory of the Ratman, Freud implied lhat reported speech can
find no place in the unconscious - a notion that is clos.cly related to the
reasons wbjcb bad earlier led him 10 sq>ara1e spetehes in dreams otr as a
special categ ory or 1he manifes1 content. derived entirely from sptte:hes
actuaUyhurd m ..W life. Freud compared the Ratman'sa11i1udeto his own
ideas to the WM ntajtstitha.1is invol\'ed both in insulting the Emperor and in
r<portina s uch in•ulu. See (1909d) SE X 178- 9.
31. Whether the unconscious has a means or rcprc:senuna 'if' and 'but' is a
debatable point. In Tltr l.ntt rprrtation ofDrt'amJ, tbc 1ngcnuityofthc means
or rcprneotalioo adopted by the dream~ wor k iJ quite clear. e.g. the
representation or dependent clauses by means or ' prolosues' etc. But
certainly the ' pttssure' of the unconscious often forcc!l thc pro11.si.s into the
indicative, in order to rcpreknl it as a fulfilled wish, us in (l 899a) SE 111
) 16- 17.
)2, Cr. the incident recouolc<I by Freud in the third person in ( 190 1b) SE VI
2 1S- 6:

In the course of some theoretical discussions I heard someone at a

particular tjmc rcpcatcdJy using the cxpreuion: •tf somc1hing suddenly
shoo1.s through one"s bead·. I bapi><ned 10 know that he had roocndy
received news that a Russian bullet had pasoed right through the cap bat
his son 11t•as ..·caring on his head.

The soldier in ques1ion v.:asundoubtcdly F reud's own son. The "impcl'IOnar

rtrtttnct Of the 'ts' used in this phrase aJIOV.'S one lO maintam a tension
bc1-.ccn the and the "it'. Tb.is tension is capable of discovery 111 ordinary
language: "The impersonal 'it' is immtdiately connected with cc:rtain forms
ortxsSrtJSion used by normal peo ple, " lt shot through me," people
say .. : ((1926e) SE XX 195) Or. from 1he Nrw lntrodu<tory U!rrurts
( 1933a) SE XXH 72: This imper>onal pronoun seems particularly well
suhed for expressing the main characteristic the pro\•ince of 1hc mind -
the fact of its being alien to the " 1" .' T he proximity of cltu l ch tu its funct ion
in sentences is also indicated by a sentence added in 1925 to Tht
/11rerpr.rario11 of Dreams (1900a) SE IV 323: 'The rac1 thot the dreamer's
own 'I' appears several times, or in several formS-, in a drettm is at bottom no
more remarkable lhan that the ·•r" should be contained in a conscious
thought several times or in different places or connections - e.g. in the
sentence "'When / think \1.rbat a heahhy child I was",·
33. Timpanaro ( 1974/6. p. 131 n8) cilC$ Ibis passage Hallowing ooe 10 ,., the
hmi1 the other side of the divide bc1wccn pred1sposin& CIU.scs and linguistic
determinations, so that the &giinstigungm coukl become the c~ro C'akSO of
the slip. His argument appeals to Occam's razor 1n ordc:r to climina1c
pr«'l~f)' th~ factors 1ha1\llot:~ofintcttsl10 Frcud· 1hc dctemuningcau.scs
that lie ,.·i1lt1n the boundaries: determined by the ·compliance of the
hn1u1stk: material'.
34. The fixation process can take place at all levels or lanaua,;e: phoncmic (e.g.
1he'for~d•· nampl<.(1920g)SEXVl ll 17): morphemic (e.g. the 'Glanzauf
dtr Na,.· ( 1927e) SE XX I 152); sm1en1ial (<.a. · 11 was like a slap in the facer
( I89Sd) SE II 178); supr•·sen1ential (<.g. Jensen'• Gradwa ( I907a)).
242 language aJtd tM Origins of P.1ychoOJ1alysis
35. er. Freud (1939>) SE XXlll 11 4:
At some point between (the development or spca:h and the end or the
matriarchy) there was 1no1hcr event whjch shows the most affinity to
what we arc invcsti1ating in the history or religion. Human beings found
themselves obli&c:d in aencral 10 recognize ·tntcllectuar fgt'lltigl']forces-
rorccs. th•• os, which cannot be grasped by the senses (particularly by the
sight) but which none the less product undoubttd and indeed extremely
powurul elftcts. Jr wt may rtly upon the tvidtnet of lan~g•. i1 was
movement or the air that provided the prolotypc of intellectuality
(G•lsugk•u~ ... Now. howt\er, the world of spirits (G•is,.ruich) lay
open to men. Tbcy "trt prq>artd to a11ribu1t th< soul (Sttk)" bicb they
bad dllCO\'tred 1n themselves 10 everything in Natu~.
36. A phrase that runs through th< syst<m ora<1usions that Scbreber recorded
in his ~t~n101r$. ind which Freud and June root up in theircorTe:spondeoce
a.s a sharper vcn1on of the ana1yttc rule, citing it wbcntvcr the other might
ha,·c for3ottco 10 conduct a necessary picct or anal)-sis. For exam pit, The
Fr<ud/Jourg uttns. 213J. Soptcmbcr 29, 1910, p. 356: ' I .,.., the winged
• -Ord .. Wby don't ) 'OU say it (Kil. aloud)r• every day in analysis. where it
proves its cJfJCacy.'


I. Dr Johnson (1 818). p. xi.

2. There are man·y works on thi.s subj cot~ written by his1orian.s or ideas and by
historians or scitnet. I will mention ju<t the following: Burrow ( 1966);
Young ( 1973): Fouc•ulo (1966/70): Mandelbaum (1971) pp. 163-269.
3. Why the recognition of t he Importance of philology has been ovcrshadowtd
by discul!lion or the relations between biology and sociaJ thought is a
complex matter. Suffice it to mcn1ion two p01siblc factors.
(i) An elfcct of fascination by what one might call 1he Great Chain or
Knowing that positivi.sm engendered, whereby a chain of sciences -
running: mathtmalic:s. physics,, chemistry, biology, psychology,
sociology - became scientific by a process or diffusion of models along
the chain. The undoubted importane< of biological models in the
nineteenth century could 1hus plausibl·y be read as corresponding to the
stag• al which the devtlopment of the sciences focused on the link
between biolO!!Y (just·bccom<·•·acienct) and psychology/sociology
(desperately-wanting-to- or almost·about-10-be·sciences).
(ii) The crca1i-On or the concept of literature and its a:ubscquent study as
literary critjcism has sometimes obscured the importance of an earlier
study of linguiJtic te,xu that dispensed entirely with the combination of
commonsense moralism and aesthetics that has come 10 be associated
with ' lanauaat1'. Suth 1 clouding has btcn racilitattd by the autmpt of
philosophy both to base itsclr upon language while conceiving of
langua,ac in as formal a manner as pos:sjb1e. A representative 91rork. in
this littlt history is Ogden and Richard's Tlor M•aning of M•aning,
Notts 243
whtch. in attmipting to supply the foundations for lht study or
ti1cr11urc, finds itstlfirresiuibly attracted by the routine appara1us of
logical positivism - the \·crificationlst tht0ry of m«nina. etc. - while
bconc firs1 and foremost an atlaclt upon pltiloloiy. The conjunction of
their approach. in\·ol,i ng a di\·orce from the more: ambi110us intel-
lectual programme that philology represented. with Malinowski'$
equally vitriolic attack upon philology a.nd the establishmenl of a new
rC$earth programme for anthropology, is an indication of the nine-
teenth century configuration 1ha1 cxiJled previously: the fusion of the
sciences or ethnology and of lilcraturc on the basis or a philological
4, Some of the general histories of lioguistiC$ drawn on ror this section are:
Blumenthal (1970). J ankowsky ( 1972), King (1969), Koerner (1973),
Lehmann ( 1967), Pedersen (193 1), Robins (1967), Trim (unpublished
l«:tur... 1974- S}. Work• by Cas•ir<r(l953 - 7) have also been invaluable.
S. Se< Humboldt (1882. 1836): M ill<r ( 1968).
6. Orimm. (or ex.ample. drew up a table or <;Orrcspondmccs ror labials.
dentals. a nd gutturals between Greek. ·Gothic' ~ and l'li&h German: thcp.
b, ond/oflheGre<:ks become respec1ively.f.p, and bin Go1hic andbon·,
/. • ndp on H igh German:r. d.1hin Greek b«om< th, 1. din Gothic.and d,
:. 1 1n Hi&h Gttman. The to1ali1y of thex rclauonships determines the
courws of his1ory; aod instead of l.anguaaes bt1ng subject 10 1hat cxt~al
yard.stick. to lhosc: things in human history that should. according to
Class.cal 1hought. explain the changes ln them. tht)1 thm'lst-l\'ts contain a
principle of e\•Olution. Here, as clscwbtrc, ii IS '&nllOmy' tha1 determines
dc11iny. (Foucault. 1966(70, p. 287)

And o n p. 294, Foucault \\'lites:

By separating the C'harac1ers of 1he living being or the rules of grammar

from 1hc laws of a self-analysing rcprcsenta1ion. 1hc his1oricily of life and
language \\'as made possible••.. But ""'hcrcas ninctcen1h·century
biology was to advance. more and more towards the exterior or the li'tling
beina. towards v.•ha1 lay beyond it, rcndC"ring progressively more
pcrn1cablc that surrace or the body at which the natura list's gaze bud
once halted. philology was to untie the rela11ons 1hat the arammarian had
esta blished Mtwccn language and external history in order 10 define an
1n1trnal h is1ory. And tht la1ttr. onc:c sec-urt in at! objectivity. could S<O'C
as a auiding·lhrcad, making ii pOSsiblc to rccon.stitutc - (or the benefit of
History proper- C\tCDts long since for1011cn.

7. And the peculiar coosequcn« of Saussure's th<Ory 11 the denial of the

lawl1ke c;haractcr of tbC5C C\·olutionary law.;s of phonct.c 1ransformation.
Sec Sounurc (1916/59). pp. 911T.
8. O n languag< seen through Darwinian speclacles. ~ Schlcieh<r (1863) and
Bateman (1877). It has been frequently pointed o ul that the 'tree• and
'branch' model of the his1ory of languages antcda1cd the Darwinian theol)'.
and that linguistic science's notion of de'tielopmcnl wait indepcndenl or that
244 Language and the Origins of Ps)~hoanalysis
or bioJ01y. although 1he Oarv.inian mclaphors received a special welcome
on pholologK:aJ <irdcs.
9. The 'natJonali.sm' assoaated "'·ith the colJa1ion of these hcr1ta.gcs. found
most prominently in the German language 'AOrks or 1hi.s pt'riod. C;tn
ob\·1ousJy be related to the pressures towards un16ca11on and homogeniz-
ation of Stale institutjo~ but Yoe sho uld not mi.stake 1hn.c prcssu.rrs for the
·e1usn' of 1hc appearance of these na1ionali.st1c themes. Rather. we must
not forget 10 take into account the change in the position of language itself.
from the eighteenth century on: by becoming an object of study. a
proli fcralion of languages and cultures based upon these languages
preempted 1hc unification of civili:zution tha1 lhl! ~\'t ntccntb and
cigh1ccnth centuries bad assumed. whether it be via the n1edium of Lalin
or French. The inttrnational language movemen1 is salutary in Ihis respecl.
its significuncc bciag of the same order for us 11s the d rive towards the
construcl ion or formalized languages that began 10 make it.sci( (cit jn the
mid century. and 10 which the history of philosoph)• in the twentieth century
bears witness. No living language achieves the u1opic transparency of
cxprc~ion tha l the Jing:uis1ic ideali$1$ wished for. The recognition or this
tru1h. that language and the v.·orld a rc always ne«ssarily ·ou1 of step' one
wi1h the other. became possible, and tht:n constituti,·c of the study of
language. v.ht:n spokt:n languages tt\•caled their opacity. their necessanly
myth.c and irrational dimension. and their secmingl)•irreducible plurality.
:amounting to tht: thousand or so languagts 1ha1 philologists now saw as
cqui\alcn1 one with anothe:r.
To put 11 ano1hcrway. our hypothesis is that 1he new function of language
fC\<Clled b y philology gave rise 10 two 'reaction fo rn1ations": the program
(o r the construction or a formal language and the pro1ram ror construe.ting
a language tha1 oould be spokcn without n<eessarily producing the
ambiguity and mythic dimension that all other spoken languages produced.
Perhaps the only sue<:essful fruit or the latter progrom wns the construction
of modern Hebrew. Sec Sprague (1888). Guerard ( 1922). Hugel ( 1925).
10. On historicism. the classic wor k is Friedric:h Meintckc'M HiJ•torioo11s,
( 1957/72). 01her basic cexcs are Anconi ( 1940). Burke ( 1937). Collingwood
(1946). lgger.i (1968). Lee and Be.:k ( 1953- 4). Mandelbaum (1938).
Mandelbaum ( 1971).
11 . We should not mistake this comparative method ror an impor1 from 1he
'dominant' model of comparati,·c anatomy, as some v.·riters have assumed
(Ackcrknech1 (1954); Pul>Chkc (1969)). Thi• argumcn1 os puc on• different
penpech\'C by Foucauh (1966170). a nd Chere os a more chcorctical
doscussion ortbe methodological points al issue in Foucauh (1969(72). pp.
149fT. Nor ..-roukl it Sttm \iablc to claim that the comparat1,·e method was
'invented', pc-rhaps in the same \li&y chat 1ha1 " 'arhorsc of the his-
tonoanphy of ideas. the Canesian method. was in,cn1cd. and '""n applied
to a d1verK ra.oge of sciences: biology, history, lin,guistics. etc.• since this
"'ould imply a divorce: of met.bod and objccc that is a very rare phenomenon
in the h istory of sc;iencc.
12. Bun,.n (1868) p. 294. ciced in Burrows (1967) pp. 195 6.
13. Ibid .• p. 395, ciced in Burrow (1967) !» 196.
14. Cr. Foueauh ( 1966/70). pp. 297-8:
Nor~s 245
Having become a dense and consis1tn1 his1oricai reality. language forms
the locus or tradition. or the unspoken habits or thought. or what lies
hidden in a pcoplc·s mind: it accumula1es an ineluctable memory v.•hich
docs not cvtn know itself as memory.... The truth of dixounc is
caught in tht trap or philology. Htooc 1hc- nted to work: one·s v.•ay back
from opinions. philosophies. and perhaps c-vc-n from sciences. to the
words that made them possible. ond, beyond that. lo a thought whose
ascnt1al life has not ye1 been caught in t he network any grammar. This
1s how v.•c must understand the revival, so m11rked in t he ni nettenth
ccolury. or all the lcchniques of exegesis. Thi.s reappearance i.s due to the
fac t that language has resumed chc enigmatic dcnsi1y it possessed at the
time or the Renaissance.
I.I. Inman (1 868). See also the review in Anthrop. Rn •., vol. VI. 1868, pp. 378-
386. Another book of Inman ( 1869) Anri•ni pagan and"'"''"" Christian
l)'"1bollsn1 txpoJ·l"d and ~."Cplb.ined. London. 1869, w;as read with pleasure by
Jung when he sta rted his labours on the q ues:1ton of mythology in 1909.
though he was to c-rit ic:i:ze it q uite fitmly afier a v.hilc; sec Th~ Freud/Jung
l.11t~r1. 1S7J. JS9J, 162J, pp. 251 - 64. Pcrh1ps it wa.s 1h1s e.xpcrien(;ie that
persuaded Jung that be would have 10 become "his own philologist''. as be
admtttcd 1 little while later.
16. Bopp (1816). Stt Peda=. (1931) pp. 2.141f. and Verburi (1949- 50):
Schleicher (1861 - 2); Pedersen (1931) pp. 26Slf. cop. pp. 270- 2. and Marx
17. On thli strain in the history or linguistics, sec Brilclce (1856) ond the paper
which made great use or Briickc's physiological "ork. Raumer (1856~
Briicke. following Du Boi.>-Rcymond (r11her), Chludi ti al.. wished 10 show
how the three basic vowels were determined by the physiology of the ,·ocaJ
organs. But another aspect of his program inc Intersect ed here: the \\'ish to
produce a univer'$af and obj ective phoncci<: script Objeccivity \olo'as 1hus
searched for fro m 'both sides': the objectivity of the symbol (the written vs.
the spoken) and the objectivity or the natur11l 1'.f . the cultural. As Rothschuh
( 1973) p. 23.S notes, 'during his yea ts 01 Vienna. Brilcke returned to one or
his ravouritc idcits: th e s<K:alled • Pasigraphle·. lie wrote a book in which he
a11cmptcd 10 reprcsenl with specific signs the sounds used in various
h1.nguagcs. lo this rashion. BrUck.e hoped 10 es:1ablish a unified phonetic
writing method and be able to read every foreign lanauagc "''ithout prior
preparation." Whether Briickc"s pupil Freud shared this enthusiasm, voe do
not know.
18, Bunsen (1854). vol. II. p. 78 cited in Burro"~ (1967) p. 197.
19. An intuest1n,g discussion of Miilkr"s lhtory and the more gt.ncral topic of
the root in the nineteenth cm1ury philologicll tr1di1ion can be found in
Porse1 ( 1977).
20. Stt Muller (1873). (1875). vol. IV pp. 433- n . er. Critchley (19.18. 1960).
21 . The m0$t important articles on VOlk~rp.s)·rltologi~ wri11cn by Lazarus and
S1cin1hal arc to be found in tbrir journal, Uirstltrf/rfDr VQlk~rpsycholog~
undSprathwiss~nschafr. rounded in 1860, a nd which ran until 1890, wbcn it
""'US changed into the Ztitsclirlft tks v~rtlns /Ur Vlillcslc unde. Tburnwald
.self-consciously tcvived the journal in 1925, with the significan tly changed
246 language and tile Origins of Psychoanalysi.r
title. Ztits<'hrift /Ur V6/ktrpsythologlt und So1iofqgle. i.e. sociology re-
placed linauistics as the meani by ~·h.ich to establish the science of
Viilktrpsychv/01Jlt. The main ar1icles o( programmatic impon in the
original journal are: Band I: £flfltltung~ Band II: Vtrhliltnisstdtr Eilfztlntn
:ur G,&antmtht'it: Band 111: £1nlQt syn1httischt Gtdmtlctn zur
VOlk trps>'€1tologft. Stcinthal's general work, Elnlritung in dit Ps)-t:hologlt
w"1 Spr«h••is:J1t11J<lw/1. ( Berlin. 1871). indoc:at<! the manner in which the
general saeoot of lin1uistics was meant to st.and on a more general
psychology. but that this poychology could never be established without the
foundation of a theory or laniuaae.
Secondary "Aort s on this tchool are few and far bttwttn. Some remarks
are to be found in Karp(( 1932) pp. 41 - S I; !Ubot ( 1885) pp. SOIT.; de Vries.
n . M filler ttnounced 1ueh an idea!, despite his conception of a limited number
of linguistic roots runc11oning as lhc source of all thoughL S« M Uiier
( 1888a) and the pel1pi<aaous re•i"' by R<anard ( 1888). who states that the
key question for th< discipline of etymology is; an: th<n: la"~ for th< evol-
ution of the snts~ of a v.•ord? A valuable and cautk>us revicv.• or the
question. with some tentative attempts to C'Stablish s-uch laws. is 10 ~found
in Meyer (1910).
23. Burrows (1966) pp. 109- 10. diicusSC! this work and concludes: • ..• the
ovtrall impress.ion one receives is that the subjects tKhich att combined to
form modem anthropology owed more. methodologically, to geology and
com.para1ive philology than co evolutionary biology:
24. All of these writers v.•ere studied by one or a number of the early
'philological' psychoanalysts. Fr.,ers work seemed to be the most
signi6tan1 or the anthropolosical v.•orks thnt Freud made use of in writing
T_o1en1 rmd Taiwo. and con1inua1ly supplied him with racts illustrating
psychoanalytic thcol)'. Kuhn's work v.•as used extensively by Abraham and
by Jung in their works on myth. Winckler was cited in a passage added to
The /,, terprt1a1lo" of Drtiln1s in 1909. Stuckcn's work was critjcized ln
F reud ( 1913f). •nd Silbcrer (19 14) made extensive use or his wo rk. When
Abraham was writing his Tra"m und t.fy1lt"s F reud v.•rotc to him apropos
or the work thar he and Rank were doing on hero myths and then said:

But I think you ought to tackle 1he astral significunce of myths, which
now. since the discoveries or Winckler (Jeremias, Stuck.en) about the
ancient oriental ...,·orld system can no longer be ignored . .. I beUcvc
there is also room for a psyc:holoaiclll explanation, because in the- last
resort the ancients only projected their phantasics on to the s ky. (Freud,
196Sa. p. 29)

2S. It was such a conceplion of the passivity of the language·speakcr in the face
of a system or
signs already laid down that informed StcintbaJ's v.·ork. and
elicited W. O. Whitney"scritical <!say(Wh11ney, 1873). Whitney could not
undcntand bow any one could dtny that mankind in the past, and childttn
lo the pracnt, learnt language by a proccu of trial and error dirc:c:tcd
towards the practical purpose communication. Stcinthal. in a m.iJ:turc of
Hcrbartian and Hqclian lan,guaga., emphasized the stnse in which no
Notes 247
human being could e"er be said to be outside the unity conrerrcd by
language. Cf. the comment or Foucault ( 1966/70) p. J23:

How can ma.n bcthcsubjcc::t ora langu1gcth11 ror thousands of years bu

bffn formed without him. a languaae WhOK Or&ani:z.atJOD escapes him,
whose mta:ning sleeps an almos1 invincible sleep in the words he
momen1ar1Jy activa1cs by means of disooune, and within wbic;:b he is
obliged, from the very outset, to lodge his speech and though~ as though
they -.·ere doing no more than animare. ror a brief period. one segment of
that -.·eb orinnumerable pos.sibili1ics?

26. Wr: may thus contrast the Humboldtian emphasis on 'force' and 'energy·
with the Saussurian emphasis on 'sys1cm· and ' la~·'. Freudts conception
fulls between these two, since he obviously conceived of a system of
signification proper to the determination of 1hc iubjcct, while conceiving of
the dynamics of meaning as a force, or, perhaps~ a 'charge', that
accompanies the >.A'Ord. Vle might even conceive of the Qor the Projt*t:t as an
attempt to give more prc:cisioo to the Humboldtia.n notion ofcreative force.
so 1hat v.·c can finally read Q as sjgnifying ·quantity of meaning'.
27. S.. on particular, Jones I 40S-12; Dortr (1932). The discussions by
Amacher, Ellenberger, Macintyre., ...,ho mention lhc Hc.rban cooncction,
add tittle to Jones' aocount. Andersson (1961), pp. 10- 14, includes a good
disawion or the affinities or Freudian and Herbartian ps)cbology.
28. We should note in passing thar Joneii a1trmp1ed 10 d1Jtance Freud·s theory
or unconscious conftia and repression rrom Hcrbart"s by rc:mar-king that
Herbart's theory accorded a primacy to 1hc conflict or tdtas. whereas
Freud's turned around a conflict of afjttu. By now. it should be clear that
thiJ opposition~ one that has bedtv'illcd much or the discussion the exact
nature of Freudian theory, is misleading, if not completely wrong. More
important, I believe, i.s the statement we have quoted a number of times,.
where Freud emphasized that repression acts on/)' on memories. so that the
contra$t with Herbart should be in terms of idea/memory, not idea/a1Tcc-t.
And it is precisely this dimension of the pa.st, lacking to Herbart's
psychology, that the Vo/k,.psfchologlr<htn introduced, when lhey fe lt
themselves sent lo the hittory of language jn their search for lhc
foundations or pSychology.
29. Such a use of a notion oflhe 'battle o( ideas', themselves in an unconscious
condition. can be round in Steinthal (1862b), pp. 168- 171.
30. (19 10c) SE XI 82 g;,·cs the passage as follows: 'whde I was 10 my cradle a
vull ure came down to me. and open~ my mou1b "''ilh its tail. and struck me
many times with it.s tail agains:1 my )ips.•
)I . Wbm we compare the argument conccm1ng the 'vulture' with that
coocernins the 'tail~. it is lt:ss clear- that Freud ignored the seemingly
obvious equation of the bird with the mother, 'deducible', one would have
thouaht. from the fact that it is doing something which ts very similar lO
what a mother does to a child. In fact this is one of the points where the two
accounu which Freud gave differ markedly. in the paper read to the
Society, he noted the equation "tail = penis' ind thu.s concluded that
Leonardo's 'phantasy' (assuming that it wa1 such. bccauk be gave no
248 Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
credcocc whauoe,·cr to the hypothesis lha1 this memory of Leona.rd o's was
an actual memory. even one that was pani.tllydinoned) was bomOK.XuaJ in
cbaractu: 'to take 1.he penis ('tail'; in Italian. it mcan.s precisely thal) into
1he mouth and 1uck oo it.' ( Mintua II p. 340). In the published paper,
Freud apanded on this homosexual phantasy, indtc:11ina its orig.in in tJx
'organic impression ... indclibly prinled on us' (SE XI 87) ofsuckioga1 the
mother's breast. Freud fell secure in gi,ing ibis mcan1n1 to the phanlas)~.
since Leonardo bad attributed the event to a period ·while I was in my
cradle' (quo1ed by Frcud in halian: "emndo io i• cul/a' - Ibid.) Oc:spile the
fact that Freud assigned a dccJ>'lying mcanin& or
the phantaJy to the
experience or suckling at the breast - v.·hich he had done by close textual
reading rather than hy mythological rercrencc - it is clear from the rest of
the pnper, 0$ .,.,,.,u as from the fact that thjs item is lackina from the earlier
version or I.he paper, that the actual weight of explanation falls on the
Egyptian elucidation of the 'vuJture' elcmcn1. What was also or greater
importance for F reud than the simple 'vulture • mother' is the homosexual
aspect of the phantasy: the tail is first and foremost a ptni1. not a nipple. and
we arc dealing here with the 'mother-with·a-~i1'. The clement "penis', as
we have seen, finds 'linguistic' rather than 'natural analogic" evidential
32. Freud's account is slightly ambiguous on this point. But Horapollo's text is
quite clear:..., Horapollo (1840) pp. 230:
)). Indeed. Freud recognized this at one point in his account: 'it •ppcus that
the sou.rttS to whkb (Leonardo ) had acicess contained no information
about this remarkable feature (i.e. ~fut's combination of maternal and
muculine cbaracteristiar (1910c) SE XI 94.
l4. Jones· account of the argument that Freud u~ is strictly misleading in this

In 1he book Freud had made a good deal of 1hc my1hological associalion•
of 1hi1 bird, which in Egypt was regarded•• a Mother-Goddess (Mut)
though equipped with a male organ. and since ii wns onen cited in
Ca1holic theology he thought it likely lhal Leonardo w"* aware or the
maternal symbolism. (Jones, vol. IL, 390)

In lhis description, wha1 exactly the Catholic cheologians cited is left

unambiguously va.gue; one might call Jones' acooun1 1 systematic and
symptomatic (mis)rea.ding.
JS. Boas (19.SO) doubis whelber Leonudo knew of 1he Horapollo 1ex1. th"'
casuna doub1 on the lut link with the Egyptians 1ha1 we have lel\ intact.
36. Spector (1972) pp. S81!'. coostrocts an argumcn110 show ho"' the Eg)·ptian
ma1enal docs ha\:e significant psycho-biographical rckvance to Fre:ud,
rllher than 10 Leonardo. Stt also Rosenfeld (19S6) and Anzieu (19S9) pp.
4411'. A more broad-ranging discussion of what Freud's 'L.cooardo' reveals
about Freud can be found in Barande (1977).
37. As it is easy to do when we read Freud's further speculations conttmin.g
'lnJt/nk(, Ibid .. SE XXlll IOOlf.
38. The distance bclwecn the methodology and conccptwal support-5)'titcm of
Freud and that ofN'eoticthccntury historians ofldet'ls ls best brought out
NoteJ 249
¥ohcn we focus on the concept or ·1radi1ion°. The eonffie& bct•·cco the t•·o
1pproad1cs lies behind the debate over Leonardo, u CID be 0tt11 in
Shapiro's c:riticis:m of freud"s a.rgumen1 concemina the 'inft·ocncc· on
Leonardo of Egyptian and Classical sources. Simply put. the <oD<<pl of
'inftu~· bears the brunt or a hi.storia.o's argument. and muic:b of such
h1s1ory "''ill consi.st in 'inftuCDCC><bains': the clauM: example of this gt""nre is
Lovtjoy's Th< G"ar Chain of Bring. Theoretical "ork on th< methodology
ofsuch an h.Utorian 1he.n revolves around refinini the concept of'inftue.oc;e',
<(. Skinner (1969). What such a methodolop docs not confront is the
impUcit continuity that is assumed between a ' tradition' as it impinges on
th e individual, under the c.Joak of 'inHuencc'. and the ' intention' of the
hi11ori<.--al actor, taken 10 be transparent to the actor in question, but aJso
invisibly permeated with tradition - a veritable 'historical influencing-
mochine'. The historical subject 1hus forms the nodal poin1 of opacity in
such an account, while the account itself depends on the manocr io which
SUCh a iUbjCCI 'knits' the web of influences IOJClhcr. 1'he problems in
Freud's methodology are totally other.
.l9. The phrase 'Specimen Dream· (Trownmr.utH) is Freud's, but the dream
itsclfhaJ recrivcd a great deal or attention in psychoan1lytic literature since
Freud. as a.n object upon v.·bicb one ca.n suitably practise a nC"4' theory or a
nev.• readJng of Freud's self.analysis. Cenainly there are two major tt·
r<1d1ngs of this dream: Erikson (19S4), Anzieu (19S9), pp. 24- '40, which
follo"'cd and grcatly expanded upoo the di..:ussioo orthe drum that Lacau
pve in his siminair< of 1954-S. recently published as Locu (1978). pp.
1n- 10<. It ,..;u be the reading of Anz:ieu and Uctn that I will follow in
large pan here:, since they have given a plausible further analysis or the
drtan1t drawing upon the diligent and remarkably accurate at1emp1s at
assigning the feaJ~life identities or the figures in this and other of Freud's
dreams that An'licu's book makes. One should note that the second edition
or Anzieu's book, all hough larger in ovcra11 scope, omhs s.omc of the more
interesting comments on the dream of Irma's injection that he had made,
probably y.•hen under the inftuencc of l acan, in the c11rlieredition. It is the
Jouerthat I have used. (See also, on this dream, GrinJ tcin ( 1968) pp. 2 1- 46;
Schur ( 1966); Schur (1972) pp. 1911'.)
40. The SE translation of this title is ·T he Theme of 1hc Three Caskets' \\•hich.
although mellifluous, is stricrly inaccurate, in ;i manner which is of some
impona.nce in lht light orlhe reading of the paper 1hat I will give. Dcspi1e irs
heovy· hlndedness. for the purposes or my di..:uuion I have translated the
tille as 'The Molive for the Choice of a Casket'. ln.sofar u 'choice· and
•decision• a1t crucial eoocq>U in 1he 1beory and practioe of ao.a1ysi5. this
paper may be said to throw considenabl< light upon them. See the most
interest101 ducussion in GranolT(197S) pp. S18- 49, and m Granolf(l976)
pp. 1'40- 63.
41 . Whether tM fact that trirmtb)lamin gone o( lhe decomposilion products
of semen, remarked by Lacan (l978). p.190, isofS1gnificanc:e for any further
re-interpretation ofthe dream. I will 1eave rorcons1dera1ion on some future
42. Anzicu (Anzieu, 19S9, p. 39), following Lacon. remarks;
250 languag~ and the Origins of Psychoanalysis
Freud dreamt tbt dreams have a symbolic meaning and he dreamt ii in
•tmbols u rigoroUJ as they are transparent. To the question be bad h«n
ask:in1 for some months. DaJD('ty. wht1.Mr dreams ha"c a meaning. the
dream o(lrma"s injection replied, sayini. no1 only do dreams contain the
mean1ng o( our desire. but also that this meaning strrns from their
1ymbolic structure.

Or pcrhllps. 10 put it more simply (sec Lacan ( 1978) p. 190), Freud's

question wai: ' What is the meaning of 1hc dream?· And be dreamt the
following 'reply': 'Mcanjng'.
43. Some notes upon the people who figure in the drean1 niay be of interest:
(i) Matltildc Breuer figures as a widow in the s tructure of the dream,
indica1ing the murderous character thal Freud's rc:la1ion to the three
outhoritics had.
(ii) An:deu had deduced that Irma was Anna H ammer5<hlag solely on the
basis of the footnote 10 Freud's te:1t in which be mentions that 'tht sound of
1hc word ··anaoas'' bears a remarkable resemblance 10 ch.111 of my patient
lm10's family name (SE IV I IS). an inspired piece of detective work that
Freud's leuer 10 Abraham confirms.
(iii) Soplue Sch,.•aJ>.Panelh was the ni<tt of Professor Hammenchlag, and
1hu11he cousin of'lnna'. She bad married Josef Pancth. a friend of Freud's
who bad m.1de possible bis visits lo Hamburg 10 see Manha wbco tbc)' "'·cre
only engaged. and who is lhe'fricnd JOS4'f' of1be N0t0 Vlxitdteam; he died
in 1890. He was a most suitable candidate for the position of rival. since be
had ,.rittcn a history of 1be subconsciou.s in 1884., whJCh he had sent to
NiCWIC.hc for hiJ comments.
44, Lacan touched upon the- connection bctwttn 1he theme or three w·omen
found in both the dream of Inna's iqjection and the theme of the three
cukets. Lacan (1978) p. 189:

Quand nous analysons cc te:xte, ii fau t 1enlr compte du texte tout ent.ier,
y compris des notes. A cette occasion, Freud Cvoquc cc point des
a.ssociations oU le rCvc.prcnd son insertion dans l'inconnu, cequ'il appellc
son ombilic.
Nous arrivons i cc qu'il y a derriCrc le trio mysLiquc. Je dis mystique
pa~e que nous en eonna.issons main1enan1 le sens. Les trois femmes, lcs
1rot1 ~un, Jes trois colTrcts. Freud nous en a dcpuis d~mon1ri le sens. Le
dcmicr tcrmc es-t la mon. tout simplemrtlt.

4S. Jones (vol. II. p. 404) ealled it ·one of the 11>0 m0<1 cbarmi. . lhings be ever
wrote' and coafessed that be had ·a penonal fondness' for tlus paper. such
th.al it was h.is (avourite. He continued~

It wou.ld ~ interesting to know what bad stirred the theme in

Freud. He wu occupied with the dull work of corr«:tina proof• in the
sprina of 1912 when the idea suddenly occurred 10 him that there
mus1 be a connection between tht two Shakespeare scenes just men··
lioncd and the judgement of Paris. .• . There Will the approaching
Notes 251
engagement of bis second daughter Sophie. which was formally announ-
ced in the following month . .. a year later he mentioned to Ferenczi that
his interest in the theme must ha~·e been connected with thou,gbts of bis
three daughters, particularly of the you.ngcst, Anna;.,. (Jones, vot JI,
p. 405)

46. We may peremptorily Ii.st them; an Estonian fo lk-epic drawn from

Stucken's As1ralmy1hologle, Grimm•s 1\llirchen, Roscher's Aus/Uhrliches
le.-.:icon tlt!r grit!chisthen und riimlschen My1ho/og;e.
47. Freud (1950a). SE I 264-S:

A scene then occ:u.r red to me which, for the last 29 years, has occasionally
emerged in my conscious memory without my understanding it. My
mother was nowhere to be found: I was screaming my head off. My
brother Philipp .. . was holding o pen a cupboard [Kosten) for me. and,
when I found that my mother was not inside ii either, I began crying still
more. till~ looking slim and beautiful, she came in by the door . ..

48. This point is. in fact.. the crux of tbe paper; it also marks the point of
transition in Freud's ov.·n self·ana1ysis: from the ·sexual megalomania 1 of
the dream of Irma's injection - 'I have them a ll'. that is, he did not choose -
to the rec-0g:nition of the ineluctable necessity ( Verhii.ngnis) of death, "'hich
must be chosen, under pain of Che tragic outcome to which a refusal to
choose would lead. It is also tbc point a t which Freud shifts from an
identification with his father - ·1 have them all',- that is, all of his falher's
three wives - to a refusal of such an identification, perhaps. as Granoff has
argued. vitl a pardoning of the father's sexual profligacy, such a pardon
opening up the possibility of a choice. On the question of the three ~· ives of
Frcud"s father. see Granoff (1975), pp. 318ff. Schur (1972. pp. 201T).
49. Ibid .. SE Xll 3-01: · ,,, ein.• jfiiche1ll1of1e, a/legorische Deu11111g' •..
SO. The whole passage runs:

Freud attaches greal significance to verbal expression - one of the mos1

important components or thinking - because the double meaning of
words is a fa"·ourile channel for lhe displacement and improper
expression of alTccts.. .. Jud,g ing by my own experience, it is impossible
to unders1and the meaning oft he Three Essa}'S and of the 'Fra.gmcnt . . :
without a thorough knowledge of Tht lnttrpre1a1ion of Dreams. By
'thorough knowledge' I naturally do not mean the cheap philological
criticisms wbich many "'riters have leveJJed at this book, bur a patien1
application of Freud's principles to psychic processes.

I have not been able to establlsh the identity of 1hc:sc many philological
critics, and it would be of great interest to be able to do so.
51. E.g. Freud ( 1900a) SE V 407:

.• . the course of li.o,guistic evolution bas made things very easy for
dreams. For language bas a v..·hole number of words at its command
which originally had a pictorial and concrete significance. but are used
252 language and the Origins of Psyrhoanalfsls
1oday tn a colourless and abstract sense. Alf 1tiat the dream nttd do is to
a:i\t tbc:sc words their former. full mnning or to go back a li1tlc way to an
earlter pba.sc: in their de\-etopmen1 (in dtm B.-tkutvng.J'4 ·an~I dies IYortu
"" Stii<k ••II llf'rab:usteigm). (add<d 1909)

S2. Sa:. for iru1ance. f<renczi (1909a) pp. 4Yff, F<r<nai (1909b), p. 176:
F•renczi ( 19 11) p. ISi: Fereoczi (1913) PIJSSIM .; Abraham (1909) pp.
16l 9: Stekel, who rcrerred off the cuff to Kleinpaul ror s upport for o ne of
his 1ymbolk equations in the M inut~s Ill, p. 61; Reik similarly drc~· on
K lcinpaul to prO\'C that belief in "'ampircs owes its o rigin to wet dreams.
ti-fln"trs Ill . p. 312. Klcinpaul was one of the philoloaists whose recurrent
and in1i111c111 rerercnce to 1hcccntrality or scii;ut1.lhy in primitive 1hough1 and
foraotten lnnguagcs was a source of continua l comfo rt and suppor1 fo r che
'cmbonlcd. psychoanalysts.
SJ. T hi1 \\'Ork1ook as its themes ghosts. souls and immortality, 'the fauna of
hell', 'angels of deach'. "the cull of the soul. ils sut and its fetishes',
mostly drawn rrom Classical and Old Gcrman1e sourc:es.
S4. A fear th1111 was realized in 1901 , when Fliess told Freud that 'the thought-
ruder reads in others only his O'o\'n thoug.h1.s(Dt'r'G,dankmkst!r t;tn bd tkn
AnMr~n nwr s~ure tf{Jmen Gtdanlcen). • (Note that the translation gi,·en in
Frtud (19SO.) OrigiJtS. 7 Aug. 19Cll. p. 334 - ·111t 1hougb1-readcr m<rely
rc:a.ds his own thoughts into Othe:r people' - inVOl\CS I subtle sh.an
chanJ<S th• ••Urt oolance of this r<mark of Fb<SS .. ) Th< rela uon of this
theme w11b Freud's later rapproachtment to ttltpathy is clear. and we may
find OCCHaon to specify the philological contc.11 of Freud's stubborn
openmindC'dnC$$ to tcle:pathic phenomena..
SS. Cf. hcud (19S0a) SE I 24S: ·All wns of things lie be: hind the wording of t he
tcle-gram in the dream: the memory of the ctymologiaal delicacies that you
lay out before me .. . (D;t Erinntrun.g an dit t tymologl,s(•hm GtnUJ.st, Jit
Du mfr vor:w·e1:e11 pjfegs1 .•.)' ( translatio n mod1fied).
56, It is certainly significant that the book on Bls1x1ralit)! in ~Ion ~· as Freud's
attenlpt to restore a.n intjmacy with Flies.s chat had a lreody suffered
irrep11r•blc damage: he mentioned 1he projec1 directly uftcr he bad cited
F licsf ac<u$alioo$ of 'thought-reading'. (Freud ( 19S0a) Origins. 7 Aug
19Cll. p. 334) The idea itself secm<d to impose UJ>On him• collaboration
wi1h the t rue author or the idea, the author who could no t but feel insulted
by 1hc prospect of the 1houg.h1-reader also passin.g olT as his own tboug.hts
those that had been fr~t/y ·read" to him, as the acrimonious dispute over
priority of 1904 witnessed. See Freud (1960a). pp. 2S9 60; Jones. »ol. I.
l4S 7: Abrahamsen ( 1946) pp. 1-44.
S7. Abraham had originally wan1<d 10 follow ph1loloay u a carttr, but round
that the nted for a rcmuocrati\e profession prttmpted tum. His tcquaint·
an~ with English, Spanish. Italian. Rhaeto-Romanic. Danish~ Dutch.
French. Greek and Laun. tbe result of his early IO\t, prtpartd him ¥.ell for
his essays into comparative mythology. In his correspondence "'1th Freud.
he onen remarked on the pleasure lh&t the prospect or d0tng philological
work afforded him.
S8. We s hould no te the primacy or the-philolo1tcal method, whatever the final
·causes' o.ssig.ncd to the myth. s.ince lhe n1e1hoc:b by "'' hich primitive man
Notes 253
made fire and k>vc were tbcmscl ...es deduced rrom the meanina of word.s in
1hc primiti-c languages. a philological uiumph 1ha1 had very IJ1tlc recourse
to the alternati'-e mode of prchis1onc detect1Ye·,.ork supplitd by
59. MU(b orlinlc Hans"analysis revolved around rhc qunuoo ofll>c origin o(
babies. But it is clear that. despite lhe emphasis that Freud and Hans· rather
ploccd on ll>c fac11hot lhe baby was a "lumpr" 1ho1 came oul or Mummy. 1hc
q uestion of the role of the father was just as important u that of the mother.
especially insorar as an answer to that question mi.1 ht throw light on the
'premonitory sensations• he e~ptricnccd in hit! widdler 'whenever he
though• of 1hcsc rhiogs" (SE X 134). On the one hand. rhis problem bad
originally proved too much for little. Hans: 'his a.t1empt at discovering what
it was that had to be done with his mo1her in order that she might have
children sank down into his unconscious." (SEX 135). 1hc rcsulr being his
phobia. On the other hand. Hans· parents n e~r cornmunicated to him the
e:cact nature of the father's role in procrea1ion; Freud. ha lr\\•ay through lhe
1n1lys-iR. h.ad noted 1heir 'hcsi1.a1ion to give him inronn11ion whi<.h wa.s
already Jona overdue·. But Hans groped his way tO\\'&rds some resolution or
rhe problem. so that his final phanrasy included • rcprc:Kntalioo or lhe
process bywb.tch a ~n.i:stumed into a baby: some son of d1sappt.arance and
replacement that involved Hans becoming •tike: Daddy". 11 is e:kar lb.at it is
no1 only the pa55i"c homosexual trend 1ha1 i.s at issue here. bu1 also those
ISSUC$ COQlloctcd with lhe de»elopmenr of I~ OOOCCpl or tbe Oedipus
compltx 1ha1 v.c discussed in Chapter 3. pp. 841T
60. Abraham (1909. p. 200) oorcd thal rhc Promcrheus myth assert> the
primacy of the malCUlioc function in procrcatton. a parallel achjc\·cmcnt to
little Han1· disappearing. and rc.appearin& pe-nis-chikl,,
61 . On the fi rst page of the same \\'Ork. Freud wrote: "rhc first thing that
attracts our at1cntion about 1he figure or Mosts is his n11n1c, whk:h is
" M oshch" in folcbrcw. "What is it.s originr· \\'C mo.y ask. "and what docs it
mean?"' (SE XXIll 7). Havin11hen nrgucd 1hnt the na1nc is Egyptian in
origin, l~rcud asked: irhis name was Egyptian, then surely 1hc bearer or1bjs
nan1e was Egyp1ia.n'? •Jn relaLion to ancienl and priinitivc times, one would
have thought that a conclusion such as chi11 111 10 1 person's nationality
baJcd on h.is name woukl ba"c seemed far more rcliabJc and in fact
unimpeachable." (SE XXlll 9). Behind this argument. we cannot help but
see an allusion to that primaeval s1a1e of language in which there is an
unambisuow relation bclweco 14·ord and thing dciignatcd. a Jlalc akin to
1hat magical power or words ascribed by Freud 10 the ta.lking"urc in 1890
ond an&l}scd in parallel wilh animism in Torem and Taboo ( 1912- 13): lherc
is somC11\Jng abou1 a name tha1 'sticks' to a 1hing.
62. And what oould be more arbiuary lhan "kinship"? - To be bom. without
any say 1n the matter. as the child of a mo1her, to find that motht-r is tint ed
in s.ome obscure and ineluctable fashion 10 a ·ratbt'r· and )'t't 1hc force or
psycho1nalys1s is to indicate the unav°'dablc and unresolvable character of
this pooition. Cf. Granoll' ( 1975). p. 534:

Is it t hen possible to not become tht: father of one's falhcr'! Isn't 11 Lhen
to escape rrom the iatolcrablc si1ua1ion of being born. v.·ithout havin,g a
254 Language and tk Origins of Psychoanalysis
'lll' Ord lO say about it. (rom the desire that gave I woman tO thi$ (at.her?
The intolerable character of destiny. it is all to be found rooted therein.

63. The felicitous coinage. •polyglot uncooJCioUJ·. is Timpanuo·s. He notes

thol nuny or 1h• slips recorded by Fr<ud 10 7'11# Psy<l1opa1lrology of
Etw)·d ay ~fe require a.n unconscious passasc from a word in one language
to a related v.·ord in a:oother. finding this highly implausible (Timpanaro
(1976). pp. 80- 1). But Fr<ud's argument seems 10 go one siep funher and
demands a knowledge of ~1,,·mologit.i of word.s. both in foreign and native
1onguc1. Cr. Timpanaro (1976). pp. 91 - 2:

.. . Freud introduces an antithetical di1tinc1ion between the 'typical'

symptom and the 'historical" symptom • .. which has an undoubted
affinity with similar problems that were an issue of debate for other
human sciences during the s.ame period .. .. These were problems which
all arose from the schism between scic11ce and hislory which became
maniftSf 1n European culture towards the end of 1hc n1nercen1h and 1be
outset of the twentieth century. The solution . .. was to be con rained in
the notion or the collec-1ivc unconscious. lt wu. as ,.c know. a solution
that postd more problems than it rC$0lvcd. But it would nonetbelas have
bttn interesting. n ·en ir to m)' mind unconvincing. had an ar1cmpt been
made 10 apply i1 10 the- tbeor)r or 'sbps' wMreas nci1Mr F reud nor the
Freudians have ever done so.

Timpanaro is pointing. quite correctly. to the n~<'ru11y ror such a theory in

psychoanalysis. I have tried to show that there -.ere elements for ibis theory
prCSCnl in the practice a:nd CA"pcctaliOnS Of lnll)'StS, C\'CD if lhC fully
:an,iculated theory is not to be found e~poundcd.
64. Marx (1966) recognized the peculiarly rerlile po•sibili11es of a conca1e·
nation or aphasia and philology. and attempted to find a pathway of
inftuencc between the two disciplines, ooocludjng that there was a definite
mutual lack interest between them. My argument il that Freud and the
curly psychoanalysts represented the meeting poinl or the two disciplines,

although l aoccpt - and endorse from my own research - Marx's conclu-

sion that modes of direct influence are diOicult to dcmonstrate(in the sense
of'demonstra1e' and ·inftuenee' normally accepted by those historians of
ideas who pay ar1ention to the level of riaour or such an araument). One
telegraphic way of CApressing the thesis I have put fo~·ard is:
Jackson+ K l<iOP"UI - Fr<ud.
6S. Cr. JunJ'S account of J'S)"boaoal)"is. ((1912) CW IV 146):
Every psyd10logicaldcmen1 twiuspccial history. EvcryS<nlcncc I uucr
has, besides 1he meaning cooJCiously tnlcndcd by me, its ru.1orical
meaning, which may tu.rn ou-t to be quite diO"crcnt from it1 conscious
meaning. ... The analysis which the literary bis1or11n makes of the
pool's ma1orial is exactly comparable ...i1h the m<lhod of psychoanaly-
sis, not excluding the: mistakes that may creep 10••• , The psychoanal-
ytic method can be compared with historical a_nalysis and synthesis in
Norts 255
lie continued bis account by condtJC:t.ina a 'comparat1,·c 1tudy· of rites of
baptitm, in order 10 find 'i1s original meaning'. And he notc:s that i1 was this
close relation of ps)"CboaoaJysis to tht histonc-litcrary method - to
philology - that made it difficult for mtdical mm 10 understand it and 10
acc<pt II.
66. Freud ((1901b) SE VJ 257):

I beUcvc in external (real) chance, it is true, but not in internal (psycbicaf)

accidental events. With lhe superstitious penon it is the other way
round.. .. But what is hidden from him corresponds to what i5
uncon.sclous ror me, and the compulsion not 10 let chance count as chance
but to interpret it is common to bo1h of us.

The ' personal" tone of these very interes1in1 co1nmcnts allows us to

conclude, I believe, that the ·superstitious person' of whom Freud was
1hinking was Fliess. When Fliessc.aJled Freud a thought·readcr.just before
he was to receive his complimentary copy of the Ps)>chopotlwlog)'• Freud

Jfl am such a one. throw my Every-day Life unread into the wa.ste·papt.r
basket. 11 is full of n:fcrmc;cs to you: obviou.s ones. where you supplied
t he m11crial. and concealed one:s. where the mot1\"atioa denves from
you•... Ha,ingsaid lb.is~ I can Stttd ii to you ..i1hout a v.Ofd usooo asir
comes in ..• (Freud. 1950a). Origills, 7 AuJ. 1901. p. 334: (traos-
laloon modified.)

67. As Granoff points out. the ·occult' dimmsion of Freud 1 thought runs from

1he numerological concem5 he 5harcd ,..;th f1iess. vi:11he occuJ1 significance

or na.mcs 1hat Freud and fercnczi discussed in their correspondence. to the
papers that he finally allowed himself to publi$h, due aocount having been
ta.ken or the 'considerations of external policy• (Jones~ vol. Ill, p. 423).
OrtinOfl' himself disavows a detailed consideration or this is.sue, bul does
point up its conncx;tion with the primary concern of the psychoanalyst: 'the
travel• or words' (GraootT (1975), pp. 2901T). noting that for the con·
temporary French psychoanalyst such phenomena are more covered than
illuminated by their possibly quite correct charvcterization 1.s 'cO'ect5 of lhc


I. Freud·s report of pan of what the IUtmu said dunna tbt 6nt hour of
bis 1rca1mcot. 1n Freud (1909cl) SEX 162.
2. F or cJ1.amplc. the special place thal Freud accorded to ipttehCJ heard in
dreams was a problem that perplexed me (or a long lime. The: frujt or I.hat
pcrpltJl.Jty i.s Luge parts oftbec;haptcr OD grammar and orthechaptcron the
mtt1psy<:holog)' of speech. Very little refercttce to the initia1 problem will be
found in those chapters.
3. Jones I 351. See the discussion in GranotT (1975), pp. 2641T.
Instead of puns. give us proofs!
Kurt Mcodcl (1910)

The bibliography includes all 1hosc works cited in the text and. in
addit.ion, a number of works 1ha1 I have found provided great assis~
and stimulation. ahhougb I did not find a specific occasion on which to
mention them in lhe text or notes.

A Works by Freud cittd in tht text

I have not given 1be paginalioos of1he 1w0German 1exts employed (the
Gesammelte Wtrkt, and 1hc Studienousgo!H); these can be easily located
by referring to the Sigmund Freud Konkordanz.
Gesommelte Werke. Blinde 1- 17 (London. 1940- 52); Band 18
(Frankfurt am Main: 1968).
S1udienau.1gabe, 10 vols with unnumbered Ergii11zw1gsband, (Frankfurl
am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1969- 75).
Sigmund Freud Konkordo11z untl Gesamtblb/iographie, zusammengestellt
von Ingeborg Meyer-Palmedo (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer
Verlag, 1975).
The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works ofSigmund
Freud, 24 vols. 1rans. from German under the general editorship of
James S1rachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix
Strachcy and Alan Tyson (London: The Hogarth Press and the
Institute of Psychoanalysis. 1953- 74).
Cocaine papers, ed. Robcn Dyck (Stonehill, 1974).
(1886f) Translation wi1h preface and foo1no1es of J.-M. Charcot"s
Ufons sur /es maludi.,du systtme n.ruew<, vol 111 (Paris: 1887) under
the 1itle Neue Vorksungm U«r die K.rank~ilfn des Neromsys1ems
insbesornkre U«r Hysttrie, Vicona.
(1888b) "Aphasic'. "Gcbim" in Villarct"s Handworttrbuch der gesanuen
Medizin, I (Stungan) esp. pp. 88- 9.
Bibliograph)' 251
(1888- 89) Translation with preface and notes of H. Bcmbcim's De la
SU(Jgtstion ti dt StS applications 0 la thb~tique (Paris: 1886)
English translation of "Preface to the Translation of Bcrnheim's
Sll([gtsti0tt' SE I 73-85.
(1890a) 'Ps~hical (or mental) treatment' SE VII 283- 302.
(18 19b) On AphCJJia (London: 1953).
(1893a) With Breuer, J., ·on the ps~bical mechanism of hysterical
phenomena' SE II 3- 17.
(1893c) 'Some points for a comparative study of organic and hysterical
motor paralyses' SE I 159- 72.
(I 893h) Lecture 'On the psychical mechanism of hysterical phenomena'
SE Ill 27- 39.
(1894a) ' The neuro-psychoses of defence' SE Ill 45- 61.
(1895b) 'On the grounds for detaching a panicular syndrome from
neurasthenia under the description .. anxiety neurosis' .. SE Ill 90-
( I 895d) With Breuer, J., Sllldies on hysteria SE II.
(1896a) ' Heredity and the aetiology of the neuroses' SE Ill 143-56.
(1896b) ' Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence· SE Ill
162- 85.
(1896c) 'The aetiology of hysteria' SE fl! 191 - 221·.
(1899a) 'Screen memories' SE DI 303- 22.
(1900a) The Jn1erpre1a1ion of Dreams SE IV- V.
(1901a) On Dreams SE V 633-86.
(1901b) Tire Psychopatholog)' of Eueryday lift SE VI.
(I 905c) Jokes and their relation to the unconscious SE VII I.
(1905d) Three E.ssa)'s on the Theory of Sexuality SE VII 130-243.
( 1905e) 'Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria' SE VII 7-
(1906a) ' My views on the pan played by sexuality in the aetiology of the
neuroses' SE VII 271-9.
(1907a) Delusions and dreams in Jensen·s 'Gradiua' SE IX 7- 95.
(1908b) 'Character and anal erotism' SE IX 169- 75.
(1908c) 'On the sexual theories of children' SE IX 209- 26.
(1909a) 'Some general remarks on hysterical attacks' SE IX 229- 34.
(1909b) "Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy' SE X 5- 149.
(1909c) ' Family romances' SE IX 237-41.
(1909d) 'Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis' SEX 155- 249.
(1910a) ' Five lectures on psychoanalysis' SE XI 9- 55.
( 19 IOc) uonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood SE XI 63-
258 language and tk Origins of Psyd1oanalysis
(1910c) ···The anlitbetical meaning of primal words.. • SE XI I 55-61.
(191 lb) ·Formulalions on lhe two principles of menial functioning" SE
xn 218- 26.
(191 lc) "1'$ycboanalytic notes on an au1obiographical accounl of a case
or paranoia (Dementia paranoides)" SE Xll 9-82.
(1912b) "The dynamics oftransfen:ncc· SE Xll 99-108.
(1912- 13) Totem and Taboo SE Xlll 1-161.
(I 9 t 3r) "The motive for 1hc choice of a ca•kcl (The theme of 1hc tnrcc
caskc!S)' SE Xll 291 - 301.
(I 9 I 3i) 'The disposition 10 obsessional neurosis' SE XII 317- 26.
(19 13j) 'The claims of psychoanalysis 10 scien1iRc iniercs1' SE XIII 165-
(1914c) 'On narcissism: an introduc1ion· SE XIV 73- 102.
(1914d) ·on 1he hisiory of the psychoanalytic movement' SE XIV 7--06.
(1915c) 'lnslincts and their vicissitudes' SE XIV 117 40.
(191.5e) "The unconscious· SE XIV 166-204.
(1916- 17) Introductory Lectures on PsychoanalJ~is SE XV- XVI.
(19 18b) ' From tbc hislory of an infantile neurosis" SE XVll 7-122.
(1919e) • ..A child is being bca1eo-· SE XVII 179-204.
(1920g) B•J'Ond the Pleasure Principle SE XVlll 7- 64.
(1923a) "Two encyclopaedia articlts" SE Vilt 235- 59.
(1923b) The Ego amJ the Id SE XJX 12-66.
(1924c) "The economic problem or masochism· SE XIX 159- 70.
(1924d) "The dissolution of 1he Oedipus complex· SE XIX 173- 9.
(1924f) "A short aecounl of psychoana lysis' SE XIX 191 - 209.
(1925a) "A nole upon the "Mystic Wriling-Pad .. •SE XIX 227 32.
(1925d) A11 Autobiographical Study SE XX 7- 74.
(1926d) 111/iibilions, Symptoms a11d Anxiety SE XX 87- 172.
(1926c) Tiie Q11est/011 of Lay Analysis SE XX 183- 258.
(1927e) ·Fctisbism" SE XX! 152- 7.
(1930a) Civili:ation and its Discontents SE XXJ 64-145.
(1933a) Ne•• ln1rod11ctory Lectures on Psychoanalysis SE XXJJ 5- 182.
(1937c) "Analysis lerminable and interminable" SE XXlll 216- 53.
(1937d) ·conslruclions in analysis" SE XXlll 257-69.
(1939a) t.fos•s mid Afonotheism SE XXlll 6-137.
(1940a) An Ou1/i11e of Psychoanalysis SE XXlll 144-207.
(194-0b) ·some elementary lessons in psychoanalysis· SE XXlll 281 -
(195(k1) The Origins of Psychoanalysis. letters 10 IVi/hclm Fliess, Dra/ts
mid Nutes: 1887-19()2 (London: Imago, 1954); partly. including 'A
Projccl for a Scicnlific Psychology", in SE I.
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I h3\'C not though1 ii useful to gj,·e some su(':h entry as ·Freud, passim' in the
index, nor arc there detailed listings ror 'language', 'symbolisn1'. 'grammar'.
Abel. 97 8. 196 ca1hortic meihod/cure. 2 3. 37- 8.
Abrahum. 89, 105, 176, 193. 194.198- 139. 222
200, cerebtal localizatlon. 1S
252. 253 cer1ain1y. fee ling of. 64. I 52, 229
absence. 138 Champollion. 172. 182
death. )ig1lJ aand. 2. 34 chanc<. 195, 196- 8. 210- 11. 255
pain. speech and. 48 Charcoc. 8 12. IS. 30. 38- 9. 214. 216.
K:tuality and. 69 218
oct. '1ct1na oui'. 132. 136- 7. 163-5 chcmiscry. 103. 197. 233
Adler. 77. 89 chronol-oeJcal determinants o( neu.
Anna 0. 2. 214 rosis. .l4 S. S3 4. 56
an"1tt) hysttri.t. 77 Cohen. 199
An>icu. 191. 240. 249 consiruct1onJ. 32. 149- 54
aphasia. 14- 36. 207 Curliuic. 174
archaeology. 1- 2. 83. 209. 253 Cu•·ier. 169
·architc:c:tonic necessity', 152
auocia1ion of ideas. IS. 16. 22 Darwin. 175. 187. 233. 234. 243 - 4
dea1h , 2. 34, 191 3, 198
Bnin, 196 D11rn,8S- 1, 115- 16, 15 1. 163
Bnstiun. A., 178 duolism, 25, 215
U:mian, C.. 21
Benvcnistc. 98 cvolucion. 29, 167ff. 175. 243- 4
Bergson. 14. 22
biology.106. 113.125- 6. 141 - 2. 166- Fcdern. 79- 80
7, 169. 179- 80. 187. 195. 226. Fcrcnczi, 69, 76. 194, 198. 208. 220.
23S. 242 222. 224 s. 226. 229. 229 30.
Blculcr. IS. 22. 96, I0 I. 238 230, 231. 238
eo... 116 fccish. 78
Bopp. 169. 173 figures of speech. 671T. 125- 9. 142.
brain ana1omy. 16 230. 2l3- 4
Breuer, 2. 190. 229. 237 Flet<Chl. 190
Broca. IS, 16, 21. 218 Floes>. 5&.64.65. 113. 190.195- 7.210.
Bruckc. 24S 2S2. 255
llun<cn. 17S Flourcns. IS. 17. 219
Burrow, J .. 167 f'orgeuing. 1321T
Fouc•uh, 16/i, 167. 213 14. 243
Cussircr. 14. 22 Fr•ier. 178, 199. 246
Index 283
frtt usociatioo, 71. 74-6, 80-1. 97. Jones, William, 169
IJ9. 188- 9J.208. 222 Joyce, 199
fundamencal ruk. 62. 136 JMliKS C<Nsor, 159
Jung. 64. 65. 81- J. 88, 9J. 94. 96. 97,
Gall. 15 99- 111. 118- 19, 129- 30. 139.
Gallon. 6. 7 193, 194, 205. 2JI. 238
p:nital(J). J4. 68 - 9. 90. 114.115. 229-
30 Kant, 107
Goldscein. 22- J. 25 Kmg Uar. 19 1-3
Gomme. 177 Klein. 63, 239, 240
GrnnofT. i• . 197, 251. 25J- 4, 255 Kleinpoul, 195- 6. 198. 199-200. 205.
Grimm. 169. 170. 177. 19 1. 24J 2 12, 252
Kuhn, 178. 192, 199. 246
hallucina1ions, 60, 22J Kulp<, 7
Htm,J. /1111•. 33. JS. 90. 92. 93, I 14.
200- 4. 25J
Head. 7. 18 Lacan. 14. 21, 130, 191 , 2 11 - 12, 232,
2J5. 2J7. 239. 240, 250
Hegel. 169, I 75. 239
Herbin, I 75, 179. 247 lack. gap, 5- 6. 33. J4. 60. 138fT. 226
Httder. 169. 170 lamarclc. 224- 5
her<d11ary focton. 10. 94. 108-9 Lamar<kism, I86fT, 209
'htrmcncurK' ntte$$ily·. 151 Laplanchc. 2J9
historicism. I68fT. 254 la2arus. 175- 8. 185
hole m kettl•. an<edott of. 84. 94-5 L""'arda. 180- S. 187. 200. 204, 206,
247- 8
Humboldt. 169. 170. 172. 178. 179.
247 Licpmann. 22
hypno•is. 9 14 lies. 136 7, 180, 2J J, 238
hysccrio. 2- 4. 8- 14. 20. 21. 30- 3. 35- linguiscic usogc, 72-6. 80-1. 114-16.
9. 50. 53. 54. 56. 94, 108.216.220, 121, 188- 93. 2J4
229 Jove. 144 9
by symbolizacion, 66- 70, 73, 233- 4
M •gnan, 10
indications of qualicy. r<lllity, 43fT Major. JS- 9
imitation, 47, 89 marking. proc••ses or. 43. l 32fT. 164-
incest , 104fT. 11 3- 14 5
Inman. 173 ·mastery'. and neuroses. 11. 13, 38- 9
inSlincc. l 4JfT, 152. 161 masturbation, 77, 87, 90. 91
"Irma's inf«1ion. dream of'. 189-91, memory, 3I, 33, IJ21T
240 Tht /.ftr<l.an1 of •'t'nlrt. 191
1sola11on. cun: or neurosis by. IOff. 216 f\1cycr. A .• 16
M eyncn. 16. 22. 2J 4. 217. 218. 219
Jackson. 9. 15. 18-21. 26, 27. 29. 30. Mill. J. S.. 29
JI. 157. 212. 215. 217. 218 Mo,.s, 172. 206. 210. 253
Jakobson. 14. 20 Muller. 6. 17J. 174. 115. 111. 185.
Janet. 8. 10. 15. 18 199 - 200
JmJtn's ·Grud11a'. 216. 220 Munk, 16
Joachim, 79- 80 mytholoay. 64. 78. 81 - 3. 96-7, 100-
Jones, Ernest, ix. 80. I I I. 125 9, 177. 2. 171, 172fT. 191 J
194, 207-9. 210. 2 12 a nd psychosis. I02fT
284 lntkx
Nae htr/Sgltrhkrit. 32. 36. SO. 5 I. 86. 93. scrcam. 41 2.47, IJS
105. 146. 220. 221. 238 S<glas. 10
Nit11ch<. 131. 162. 174 sexual 1hcones. 88 92. 181 - S. 200- 4
nuckar compkx. 83-96 0( birth. 91. 92. 96. 202. 253
scxual11y. ttealaorancc or. 33-6. SOff
O<dipus complex. des.res. JS. 83- 96. Shok<5pc>r<. 159. 191 3
144 9. 162. 231 - 2 Silberer. 64. 12. 111. 122 5. 127- 9.
Oswald. 176 246
silence (er. dream symbol). 781T. 95.
paranoia, IS4 7
111 . 116. 136, 138. IS4. 238
philology. 83. 97 9. 11 7. 129, 1661T. >peech. as sympoom. 102- 5. 1371T
242- 3. 252- J opposed 10 language. 136 7
phrenology. I 5 origin of. 112. 196
physiealism. I. 214 15
speech • pporoous. 23ff. 29. 217
Pick. 20, 2S speech 11!lsociulions. 431T
primal. 106 7. 130. 172. 173 Sperber. 112
primol scn1ene<s. 14211'. 152. 154-62.
164 Soeinohal. 175- 8. 185, 192, 193. 199.
246, 247
primioive language. 69-70. 112-13. Socket. 64. 77- 83. 96. 97. 105. 119.
121. 126. 110fT. 185. 194. 253 194. 231. 239
Prometheus. 172. 199-200. 202-4.
Sorauss. 171
253 S1uck•n. 178. 198. 246
ps)chic space. 21. 22
and field or l•nguage. 23 sublim11ion. IOS. 159. 163. 240
psyeh<>-physocal paralldiim. 18. 215. suucs1ion. ··~11bd11y. 9- 10. 216-
219 symp1oms. hyll<ncal. 3
Quin<. 1