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Ornston, D. (1982). Strachey's Influence: A Preliminary Report. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:409-426.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:409-426

Strachey's Influence: A Preliminary Report

Darius Ornston


James Strachey stands between his reader and Freud precisely because he translated and organized Freud's life work. Therefore we need to know what Strachey took for granted and how he made his choices in order to begin to disentangle Strachey's views from Freud's.

Freud had no fear of sounding disorderly when describing what he could not see and did not understand. In fact, he was trying to reveal the faults in his own ideas by putting them as clearly as he could. Freud also began to develop intricate and nonspatial conceptions, but even these more abstract ways of thinking about unconscious activity are usually laid out in plain German.

In his translation 'A Child is Being Beaten' Strachey always chose simple clarity. Because he believed that Freud was describing facts and forces which accounted for them, Strachey usually chose the most authoritative tone or quantitative term. This was a serious mistake. Strachey shifted Freud's focused questions and flexible approximations into artificial words which have the ring of set explanations. I have shown

that much of what Freud wrote about ideas which are now called mental representation, drive and instinct, mental object relationships, developmental differentiation, ego–id–superego, regression, repression and cathexis is missing in Strachey's wording.

By condensing some of Freud's descriptions of his own ideas, Strachey composed a premature technical language which isolated Freud's work from the science of his time, as well as ours, and may have hindered the development of psychoanalytic theory.

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