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Rudnytsky, P.L. (2005). Preface. Am. Imago, 62(2):143-148.

(2005). American Imago, 62(2):143-148


Peter L. Rudnytsky

What has been said of King Lear can with equal justice be applied to Freud: the first scene is the beginning, and everything else is the ending. The four principal articles in this issue of American Imago are (to paraphrase Keats) an invitation to sit down and read the opening scene of the psychoanalytic drama once again. Recapitulating Freud's own development, the contents chart a trajectory from 1895 to 1901, from Elisabeth von R. to Dora. The commentaries by Claudia Jost and Naamah Akavia on two classic cases of hysteria frame the meditations on The Interpretation of Dreams by Diane O'Donoghue and Stephen Frosh. Each contribution not only engages with a crucial early Freudian text, but it also powerfully exemplifies a distinctive mode of psychoanalytic reading.

Both Claudia Jost and Naamah Akavia undertake to deepen our understanding of the genesis of hysterical symptoms. Seizing on Freud's statement in “The Neuro-Psychoses of Defense” that symptoms are lodged in consciousness “like a sort of parasite,” Jost traces out the “logic of the parasite” in the fifth and last of the case histories in Studies on Hysteria. In postmodernist fashion, Jost moves nimbly across languages to elucidate the multiple meanings of Elisabeth's pains in her leg and her difficulties in walking. Jost links Freud's account of Elisabeth's symptoms to a more general “motif of replacement” implicit in his narrative, though he does not in her view sufficiently articulate it at a theoretical level. This motif culminates in the forbidden wish to marry her brother-in-law that Freud postulates overcame Elisabeth at her sister's deathbed. The same logic of the parasite governing Freud's case history, Jost notes, is also a feature of the novellas in which he found his own ostensibly scientific writing to be uncannily mirrored.

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