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Katan, M. (1969). Schnitzler's Das Schicksal Des Freiherrn Von Leisenbohg. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 17:904-926.
(1969). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 17:904-926
Schnitzler's Das Schicksal Des Freiherrn Von Leisenbohg
M. Katan, M.D.
I became interested in Schnitzler's story long before I started my analytic career. Later I made the acquaintance of Freud's remark that the "taboo of virginity" formed the core of Das Schicksal des Freiherrn von Leisenbohg. I also took note of Sachs's and Reik's futile attempts to throw light on this story. Driven perhaps by an urge to clarify the feelings aroused in me when I read this story for the first time, I wrote an analysis of it in 1944. Recently I produced a new version of this analysis.
A friend of mine criticized this new version, claiming I had treated Schnitzler's personages as if they possessed a well-developed human mind, a supposition which, according to my friend, was not valid. My critic friend added that, as a result of my viewpoint, Schnitzler acquired the status of a great writer, a status which he did not deserve. Schnitzler, it is true, could have made better use of his unconscious in building up the dramatic situation which he examined, namely, the influence of a dying man's curse. This curse led to a chain of events consisting of the interactions of the various dramatis personae of the
story and culminating in the death of the Freiherr. The analysis revealed that each action resulted from the unconsciousconflict of one of the contributing persons. Schnitzler not only showed himself a brilliant psychologist, but, in addition, in this story (published in 1903) he described such concepts as the taboo of virginity, a type of narcissistic character, the altruistic surrender, and a transitional object. These concepts, at a much later date, drew the attention of Freud, Anna Freud, and Winnicott.
Freud, in his 1922 letter, differentiated between the explorer and the artist in Schnitzler. Inevitably an analysis will always bring out the explorer and not the artistic ability. Nevertheless, we unwittingly seem to accept the idea that in the artist these two functions must be intimately connected. My critic friend stressed this point quite openly. Our evaluation of the artist depends upon how well he succeeds in developing a psychological understanding.
It is clear that such an understanding can be based only upon the artist's insight into his own development. This point leads to the question whether Schnitzler reveals any conflict of his own in this story. There is no material available to enable us to come to a conclusive answer.
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