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Toulmin, S. (1991). The Archaeology of the Emotions. Ann. Psychoanal., 19:51-57.

(1991). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 19:51-57

The Archaeology of the Emotions

Stephen Toulmin

If we are to appreciate fully the cultural and historical significance of Sigmund Freud's art collection, we must not only pay attention to the ancient deities and other objects Freud chose to collect, we must also remark on the striking art objects, many of them of great interest to us 70 or more years later, that were readily available at the time, yet which he had no interest in collecting. If we pursue this via negativa, we can broaden the canvas against which his collection is viewed and open up the further question, What light does the collection—particularly the interests and tastes that it displays—throw on the significance and impact of his psychoanalytic work?

This question can be viewed against three related backgrounds. First, Freud is a figure in the history of Vienna, the city where he lived from the 1860s to the 1930s. Second, he is a figure in the history of German literature and culture, a writer who loved and revered Goethe and was not unworthy (in many reader's eyes) to be one of his successors. Finally, he is a figure in the history of Modernity and “modern” thought. Let us explore these backgrounds in turn, starting with Vienna the place.

Suppose, then, that we view Freud as a good Viennese of the years from the fin de siècle to the Anschluss. One puzzle at once poses itself. Walking through the present exhibition of Freud's collection, or through his refurnished apartment at Berggasse 19, we may be reminded of the Sherlock Holmes story about “the dog that did not bark,” for what is most striking about Freud's artistic tastes is less what they embraced than what they ignored.

Recall the cultural and artistic achievements of Viennese writers, musicians and, above all, painters, during the peak years of Freud's life and career.

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