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Weegmann, M. (1989). Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis, by John Forrester, Macmillan, 1980, xvi + 285 pages, hb £33, pb £9.95. Free Associations, 1P(15):131-134.

(1989). Free Associations, 1P(15):131-134

Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis, by John Forrester, Macmillan, 1980, xvi + 285 pages, hb £33, pb £9.95

Review by:
Martin Weegmann

One of the persistent fantasies which Freud had regarding his discoveries was a wish to anchor psychoanalysis in some ‘scientific’ foundation point, be it physiology, chemistry or evolutionary biology. This wish persisted alongside another: the wish to establish the psychoanalyltic domain as separate and irreducible. Whereas considerable attention has been given to the medical or biological context within which psychoanalysis developed, the influence of nineteenth-century linguistics and philology on Freud's thought has been far less acknowledged. John Forrester's specialist book offers a reading of Freud whose focus is the centrality of language to psychoanalysis and the mode in which Freud often invoked linguistic/philological material as a further ‘scientific’ foundation to his discoveries. In some ways, Forrester's book could be seen as an extensive filling out of an argument once made by Michel Foucault (1970): that ‘Freud more than anyone else brought the knowledge of man closer to its philological and linguistic model’ (p. 361).

The first two chapters excavate some of the moments in the constitution of what Fräulein Anna O., the celebrated ‘first patient’ of psychoanalysis, described as the ‘talking cure’. This starts with a consideration of Freud's work on aphasia, which became his first book, its importance for the development of his early metapsychological speculations and how it helped to create the space for a new understanding of hysteria and neurosis.

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