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Donna, L. (2005). Psychoanalysis in Italy: Its Origins and Evolution. Fort Da, 11(1):35-59.

(2005). Fort Da, 11(1):35-59

Psychoanalysis in Italy: Its Origins and Evolutioni

Di Luca Donna, Ph.D.

On the verso of the book, Freud en Italie, Antonietta and Gerard Haddad (1995) quote Freud as saying: “Italy made me.” Because of his great love for Roman antiquities and Italian art, he visited Italy 15 times. In his early laboratory work in Trieste, Freud discovered the bisexuality of eels, which influenced his later work. In Palermo, he observed and wrote about his appreciation of group process (Sacchi, 1999). Most importantly, in his several journeys to Italy, Freud worked to resolve many of his own internal conflicts. One expects that the country that he loved so much would embrace his theory. Quite to the contrary, psychoanalysis in Italy had a difficult start for many reasons: opposition from the church; the political ideology of the fascist philosopher and minister of education, Gentile, who censored psychoanalysis;ii the philosophical work of Benedetto Croce, who opposed Freud's philosophy of psychic determinism; and the masses’ suspicion and skepticism toward unconscious material, which still exists (Benvenuto, 1997E).iii

The Early Beginnings and the Pioneersiv

From 1907 to 1910, a few articles on psychoanalysis were published that had little impact on Italian culture. The first work of importance was by Marco Levi Bianchini, a Jewish psychiatrist who translated some of Freud's work and published numerous other articles on psychoanalysis. Instrumental in the formation of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society in 1925, he also was a member of the editorial board of the Rivista Italiana di Psicoanalisi [Italian Review of Psychoanalysis]. Although he was an avid scholar and a great supporter of Freud in Italy, some of his translations and discussions of Freudian concepts did not reflect a powerful and accurate comprehension of early psychoanalytic theory.

The other pioneer was Edoardo Weiss,v undoubtedly the most influential figure in early Italian psychoanalysis. Born in Trieste, he studied medicine in Vienna, was analyzed by Paul Federn, and had a close relationship with Freud as part of his early circle.

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