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Klein, D.B. (2015). Rank Contra Freud: Freud's Frau Doni Dream and the Struggle for the Soul of Psychoanalysis. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:40-51.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:40-51

Rank Contra Freud: Freud's Frau Doni Dream and the Struggle for the Soul of Psychoanalysis

Dennis B. Klein, Ph.D.

On May 12, 1905, Otto Rank, only months after encountering Freud's theories for the first time, penned an eight-page manuscript addressed to the movement's founder. Having just read The Interpretation of Dreams a second time, he felt inspired to comment at length on Freud's Frau Doni dream. His deep engagement with this dream, and his compulsive praise for Freud's psychological insights, anticipated his decision to join the movement in a matter of a few more months and his commitment to it for nearly 20 years. That he likely never delivered the manuscript to Freud suggests a very different and more complicated trajectory, for his reinterpretation possesses the seeds of dissent and divergence from “the master.” the significance of Rank's Frau Doni manuscript is its articulation of the fraught relationship between a protégé and his mentor. It clarifies the relationship's strange but seminal attachment- and detachment-dynamic. Indeed, in illuminating an early-stage defection that, oddly, drew strength from his filial fidelity to Freud, this essay and the other adolescent pieces Rank wrote at the time—with an obsession as if his life depended on them—represented a broader, cultural collision between sons and fathers characteristic of the European fin-de-siècle.

A Spiritual Awakening: The 1890s

Rank published prolifically before and after World War I, although his legacy rests primarily on his publications since 1924, when he came out with Das Trauma der Geburt und seine Bedeutung für die Psychoanalyse (The Trauma of Birth and Its Significance for Psychoanalysis). the genesis of this study—whose emphasis on what he called the “pre-oedipal” sources of human civilization articulated the first explicit assault from within Freud's inner circle on the oedipal foundation of canonical psychoanalysis—is discernible in an earlier period in his life.

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