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Prior to searching a specific psychoanalytic concept, you may first want to review The Language of Psycho-Analysis written by Laplanche & Pontalis. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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Becker, T.C. (1998). Freud's Wishful Dream Book. By Alexander Welsh; Freud. From Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis. By Peter M. Newton. Freud's Wishful Dream Book. By Alexander Welsh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. 145 pp.Freud. From Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis. By Peter M. Newton. New York/London: The Guilford Press, 1995. 297 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(3):499-503.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(3):499-503

Freud's Wishful Dream Book. By Alexander Welsh; Freud. From Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis. By Peter M. Newton. Freud's Wishful Dream Book. By Alexander Welsh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. 145 pp.Freud. From Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis. By Peter M. Newton. New York/London: The Guilford Press, 1995. 297 pp.

Review by:
Terrence C. Becker

Freud's Wishful Dream Book by Alexander Welsh is a work of literary criticism that examines the literary techniques Freud employs in The Interpretation of Dreams, and places them within the social and literary context of the day. Welsh contends that The Interpretation of Dreams is primarily a “wishful” book, “inductive up to a point,” but characterized by “arbitrary turnings that Freud takes” that “can best be explained as wishful” (p. ix). The success of the dream book, Welsh asserts, derived in large measure from its pleasingness to the readers of Freud's time. Looking into secrets and revealing them was a theme of popular interest, evident in novels about motives, detection, criminals, and secrets of the past. This genre, Welsh maintains, likely shaped Freud's approach to dreams.

If literary convention favored themes of secrets and detection, social conventions dictated the importance of modesty and the denial of ambition. For Welsh, “The Interpretation of Dreams is in some respects an interpretation of ambition; it turns ambition understood as a set of motives to be acted upon into wishfulness, a varied and nearly boundless set of aggressive fantasies more suited to storytelling” (p. x). Ambition was more palatable if it was something you tried to hide even from yourself and had to do with things that happened long ago. Along these lines, Welsh asserts that “modesty—both good manners and the way one regards oneself—prefers to deflect hostility onto childhood” (p. 74). By way of example, he points to Freud's “backdating” (p. 74) of murderous wishes in his discussion of dreams that kill. The oedipus complex, from Welsh's perspective, may be seen as growing more from the adult Freud's “modest ambition … rather than the other way around” (p. ix).

Welsh is at his best when describing Freud's literary devices. He examines the way Freud crafts an argument to draw the reader to his point of view.

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