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Skues, R.A. (2002). Dreaming about Irma. Psychoanal. Hist., 4(2):167-196.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and History, 4(2):167-196

Dreaming about Irma

Richard A. Skues

Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit (Horace, .Satires, 2, 7, 117)

The way in which dreams treat the category of contraries and contradictories is highly remarkable. It is simply disregarded. ‘No’ seems not to exist so far as dreams are concerned. They show a particular preference for combining contraries into a unity or for representing them as one and the same thing.

(Freud 1900, p. 318)


In Psychoanalysis and History 2(2) there appeared an article by the self-styled poet and historian, Philip Kuhn, with the curiously arcane and ungrammatical title of ‘“Artificial dentures” being discordant narratives of the dreams of Irma's injection’ (Kuhn 2000). In it Kuhn propounds two theses that represent a major departure from the conventional reading of the history of Freud's dream of Irma's injection. Firstly, he alleges that Freud's dream did not take place on the night of 23 July 1895, as Freud himself reported, but nearly two months later on 21 September. Secondly, he proposes that the analysis of this dream was mostly conducted not in 1895 but as late as August 1899, when Freud decided at the last minute to use it in his forthcoming dream book as a substitute for the more provocative one that he had dropped at Fliess's insistence the year before. Were they to be substantiated, these claims would radically alter the accepted understanding of how The Interpretation of Dreams came to be written, and subvert any credibility attaching to Freud's own account of the production of this work and the emergence of some of its principal ideas. Under other circumstances these might be interesting new developments in the history of psychoanalysis, but Kuhn singularly fails to sustain his claims. Indeed, he invalidates them by the illogic of his argument, his cavalier disregard for conventional notions of evidence, his inability to handle secondary source-material (let alone primary texts), his reliance on repeated and cumulative unsubstantiated assertions, his sprinkling of his writing with bibliographic references that lend no support whatsoever to his claims: in short, his indifference to any reliable standards of historical scholarship.

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