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Kris, E. (1946). Freudianism and the Literary Mind: By Frederick J. Hoffman. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1945. 346 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 15:226-234.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 15:226-234

Freudianism and the Literary Mind: By Frederick J. Hoffman. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1945. 346 pp.

Review by:
Ernst Kris

When in 1895, Breuer and Freud published their Studies in Hysteria, reviewers in medical journals were noncommittal. Doubt and approval were equally balanced. Many reviewers were interested in a new therapeutic approach; some were more encouraging than others, but none recognized the importance of the publication as the herald of the new psychology. One review only made this point—one published not in a medical journal, but in a daily newspaper under the title, Surgery of the Soul. Its author was a poet, literary historian and dramatic critic of some merit. From the extensive writings of Alfred von Berger, director of the Imperial Theater in Vienna, who died in 1912, it may well be that this one review will survive longest. Berger followed the authors with deep admiration through their lengthy case histories which reported 'how experience and memories are structured in the mind of the individual' and added that 'we dimly conceive the idea that it might one day become possible to approach the innermost secret of the personality of man'. 'The theory itself', Berger continued, 'is in fact nothing but a kind of psychology used by poets'. Not only, he observed, had Shakespeare expressed thoughts similar to those of the authors; he had even based the psychological development and the catastrophe of Lady Macbeth upon concepts similar to those suggested by them. Lady Macbeth suffers of a regular defense neurosis from forcefully banishing from her awareness the affects of horror and anxiety at the murder of Duncan and at Banquo's apparition.

Through this, and other examples, Berger indicated the possibility that some of the dynamic principles developed in Breuer and Freud's study might serve to explain action and demeanor of characters in fiction; thus he was the first to sketch the possibilities of what was later to become a field of extensive studies. It is meaningful that a writer and not a scientist should have been the first correctly to appraise the greatness of the freudian discovery from its initial and tentative presentation.

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