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Ackerman, S. (2018). Reading Beyond The Interpretation of Dreams. Am. Imago, 75(2):303-306.

(2018). American Imago, 75(2):303-306

Reading Beyond The Interpretation of Dreams

Sarah Ackerman, Ph.D.

Over the last nine years, I have had many occasions for “teaching” Freud in the context of an interdisciplinary faculty seminar on psychoanalysis that is sponsored by the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College. In that context, I bring my clinical understanding of Freud to professors who are often deeply engaged with applying Freud's ideas to texts. Our discussions compare the experiences of interpreting a patient with interpreting a text.

Most recently, I taught a ten-week class on The Interpretation of Dreams. I had proposed the class as an elective at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and a clinician who lives near me—two hours from Boston—asked if I would consider teaching the class locally. The opportunity to teach without the commute was most attractive, so in lieu of the BPSI class, I taught a small group that included two students of BPSI's Advanced Psychotherapy Training Program, one recently graduated clinical psychologist with an interest in psychoanalysis, and my reading partner, a retired English professor. My reading partner expanded our methods for reading this text, including framing it as literature, reading it as memoir, and interpreting ourselves as its readers.

The class built upon the premise that The Interpretation of Dreams can be viewed from many angles. It is a primer on how to think about dreams in psychoanalysis. It is a manifesto on the nature of unconscious processes. It is the first text in which Freud spelled out his model of the Oedipus complex. And for students of literature, it is a brilliant treatise on the nature and process of interpretation. The Interpretation of Dreams is also an autobiography, written unconsciously. We could argue that it is in fact a case study of Sigmund Freud. As Freud himself confessed in the preface to the second edition of this book:

For this book has a further significance for me personally—a significance which I only grasped after I had completed it.

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