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Galler, J. (1992). “A glance at the nose”: Freud's Inscription of Jewish Difference. Am. Imago, 49(4):427-444.

(1992). American Imago, 49(4):427-444

“A glance at the nose”: Freud's Inscription of Jewish Difference

Jay Galler

Freud opens his 1927 study of fetishism with a discussion of “the most extraordinary [merkwürdigsten] case”: a young man who “had exalted a certain sort of ‘shine on the nose’ into a fetishistic precondition.” Freud (1927) continues:

The surprising explanation of this was that the patient had been brought up in an English nursery but had later come to Germany, where he forgot his mother-tongue almost completely. The fetish, which originated from his earliest childhood, had to be understood in English, not in German. The ‘shine on the nose’ [in German ‘Glanz auf der Nase’] was in reality a ‘glance at the nose.’ The nose was thus the fetish, which, incidently, he endowed at will with the luminous shine which was not perceptible to others. (152)

There are a number of most extraordinary aspects about this passage—not the least being that Freud waited some twenty-two years after writing in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality that “no other variation of the sexual instinct that borders on the pathological can lay so much claim to our interest as” (1905b, 153) fetishism, before he specifically dedicates a study to the topic and that study a mere six pages long. Perhaps more significant is that the story of the nose fetishist is simply not needed. Although the prominent position of and Freud's hyperbolic claim for the case would suggest that it would play an exemplary role in his discussion of fetishism, Freud fails to connect it with the ensuing argument; he no longer even refers to it. Moreover, its mention is as “surprising” as the source of the young man's choice of fetish.

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