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Marinelli, L. (2009). Fort, DA: The Cap in the Museum,. Psychoanal. Hist., 11(1):116-120.

(2009). Psychoanalysis and History, 11(1):116-120

Fort, DA: The Cap in the Museum,

Lydia Marinelli

Figure 1. Sigmund Freud's cap (left) in the waiting room of his Viennese home; on the right is the visitors’ wardrobe, c. 1975 [Photo: Fred Prager]

Simple headgear can hardly be seen as an enticement to commit a crime. In order to awaken criminal energy, a cap must go through a series of transformations: only so ennobled can it become the object of a crime. There is a short story by Thomas Bernhard that relates the disturbing development of a mundane found item into the object of a crime. In his text ‘Die Mütze’ [The Cap], a scientist plagued by head troubles searches for the rightful owner of a cap he finds. Being unable to track down its owner, he increasingly begins to worry that he is nothing better than a common hat thief. The tale ends with the scientist, martyred by terrible feelings of guilt, finally putting on the cap, which in the future will warm him at his writing desk.

Shortly after the publication of this tale of compulsive thoughts emanating from an article of headwear, a cap was packed up in a box and shipped to Vienna. At the end of the 1960s, a small group had come together in Austria in order to react to criticism, which from the American side in particular was getting louder, by reactivating memories of a scientist who had been forced into exile. While in the USA his work had also achieved widespread recognition among the general public through Hollywood's translation of it into popular culture, in post-war Austria there was little talk of him save among specialists.

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