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Kohon, G. (1984). Reflections on Dora: The Case of Hysteria. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 65:73-84.

(1984). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 65:73-84

Reflections on Dora: The Case of Hysteria

Gregorio Kohon


Freud in 1886, in his 'Report from Paris' (Freud, 1886a) —the first paper in the English Standard Edition of his complete works—separates hysteria as a psychic illness from biological sex. This is what he has learnt from Charcot in Paris, he tells us, and to which he adds the notion of hysteria as caused by a psychic trauma which occurred at some point in the past history of the subject. In the same way that they were formerly treated as witches, nowadays—says Freud—female hysterical patients can easily be identified as 'liars', women who 'deceive us'. In the discussion that followed the presentation of this report to the College of Professors of the Faculty of Medicine in Vienna (Andersson, 1962), it was suggested that Freud should present the case of a male hysteric, which in fact he does a few months later (Freud, 1886b). This last lecture becomes his first published paper on hysteria.

By including men among hysterical patients, Freud joins in the attempt to give scientific status to the proposition of hysteria as a psychiatric diagnosis. Nevertheless, despite this separation between hysteria and biological sex the cases of hysteria in women form the entire contribution to the 'Studies in hysteria' (Freud, 1893/95). Psychoanalysis truly began with women. As it will be suggested in the third part of this paper, the connexion between women and hysteria makes sense to me, and Freud never seemed to have abandoned this idea which in fact has been present in psychoanalysis ever since (see for example Zetzel, 1968).

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