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Sperling, S.J. (1957). The Symbolic Meaning of the Corner. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 5:250-266.

(1957). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 5:250-266

The Symbolic Meaning of the Corner

Samuel J. Sperling, M.D.

Freud (9) noted that buildings symbolize the body and that "separate portions of a house may stand for separate portions of the body." Brody (2) concluded that one of the parts of a building—"the corner represents unconsciously the point of contact with the mother's body." In this paper I shall present material from clinical, linguistic and other fields indicating that the corner more specifically symbolizes the genital site, and may further represent more focal parts of the perineo-genital area.

Brody's (2) patient had a phobia of turning too closely around street corner buildings, giving such "blind corners" a wide berth. This phobia was related to the fantasy of accidentally bumping into a woman there and knocking her down. The only other paper I found in the psychoanalytic literature dealing primarily with the symbolic meaning of the corner was "The Cornerstone Ceremony, " by Schnier (13). He noted that foundation dedication practices are "recorded for almost every corner of the world." These ceremonies entailed the deposit at first of human but later of animal and other representative sacrificial objects. The deposits were shifted with time from the threshold to the corner of buildings or sites. In the Old Testament corner and cornerstone are sometimes used synonymously for foundation. Schnier interpreted the ethnological data upon the cornerstone ceremony to represent the warding off of the wrath of the father, the sacrificial victim. The building symbolized the maternal womb which one dare not enter without first getting rid of the father, displacing his remains farther away from its entrance.

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