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Gilman, S.L. (1992). Freud, Race and Gender. Am. Imago, 49(2):155-183.

(1992). American Imago, 49(2):155-183

Freud, Race and Gender

Sander L. Gilman

Freud's “Jewish” identity has been long the topic for scholarly exegesis.1 Recently Harold Bloom (1987) asked:

What is most Jewish about Freud's work? I am not much impressed by the answers to this question that follow the pattern: from Oedipus to Moses, and thus center themselves upon Freud's own Oedipal relation to his father Jakob. Such answers only tell me that Freud had a Jewish father, and doubtless books and essays yet will be written hypothesizing Freud's relation to this indubitably Jewish mother. Nor am I persuaded by any attempts to relate Freud to esoteric Jewish traditions. As a speculator, Freud may be said to have founded a kind of Gnosis, but there are no Gnostic elements in the Freudian dualism. Nor am I convinced by any of the attempts to connect Freud's Dream Book to supposed Talmudic antecedents. And yet the center of Freud's work, his concept of repression as I've remarked, does seem to me profoundly Jewish, and in its patterns even normatively Jewish. Freudian memory and Freudian forgetting are a very Jewish memory and a very Jewish forgetting. It is their reliance upon a version of Jewish memory, a parody-version if you will, that makes Freud's writings profoundly and yet all too originally Jewish. (43)

My answer to Bloom's problem is only a very partial one. For Sigmund Freud, an acculturated Jewish medical scientist of late nineteenth-century Vienna, one of the definitions of the Jew which he would have internalized was a racial one and it is a definition which, whether he consciously sought it or not, shaped the argument of psychoanalysis.

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