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Goldenberg, D. (2015). Freud's Cases in Fiction: Dreaming for Freud: A Novel. By Sheila Kohler. New York: Penguin Books, 2014, 232 pp., $16.00 paperback.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(3):615-620.
(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(3):615-620
Freud's Cases in Fiction: Dreaming for Freud: A Novel. By Sheila Kohler. New York: Penguin Books, 2014, 232 pp., $16.00 paperback.
Review by: David Goldenberg
Dreaming for Freud is a new work by Sheila Kohler, the prize-winning author of historical fiction. Most interested readers will be familiar with the original plot from Freud's “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria,” the treatment of Ida Bauer or, in Freud and to generations of readers, Dora. In October 1900, an eighteen-year-old woman is brought to treatment by her father because of years of waxing and waning physical and emotional symptoms consistent with hysteria. Freud had helped her father, now seeking similar help for his daughter, or so one hopes. Dora's associations and dreams reveal her untenable binds of loyalty, love, anger, and revenge. Through publishing his account of the treatment, Freud hopes to prove his theories of dreams and the centrality of psychosexuality.
According to Dora, her father is having an affair with the wife of close family friends, Herr and Frau K. Herr K had attempted to seduce Dora, much as he had tried to seduce a servant. Dora believes the Ks and her parents are conspiring, silently or explicitly, to hand her over to Herr K so her father and Frau K can enjoy their own affair. All of the adults also seem to have syphilis or gonorrhea. Freud interprets Dora's repressed pleasure and desire for Herr K and uses the case to illustrate his theories, especially those of dreams explicated in his recently published book on the subject. Dora abruptly ends the treatment after three months, confusing and confounding Freud. Famously, he belatedly becomes aware, though somewhat incompletely, of transference and its role in the treatment, as he describes in the paper's postscript.
The familiar stories of Dora's relationships with Freud, her parents, and the Ks (whom Kohler refers to as the historically accurate Zs) are masterfully retold in Kohler's novelization.
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