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Makari, G.J. (1994). Reading Freud's Reading: Edited by Sander L. Gilman, Jutta Birmele, Jay Geller & Valerie D. Greenberg. New York: New York University Press. 1994. Pp. 320.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:624-626.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:624-626

Reading Freud's Reading: Edited by Sander L. Gilman, Jutta Birmele, Jay Geller & Valerie D. Greenberg. New York: New York University Press. 1994. Pp. 320.

Review by:
George J. Makari

Post-structuralist literary critics have claimed that the author is dead. And while, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of the death of the author have been greatly exaggerated, this post-structuralist strategy has fostered greater scholarly attention to the ways in which an author's work is embedded in various cultural discourses. With Sigmund Freud, this could not be a more compelling and important task. We know Freud was a voracious reader; we also know that he suffered from cryptamnesia and was not always meticulous in citing his sources. Furthermore, it was the peculiar fate of psychoanalysis to have developed apart from its culture of origin, leaving many of Freud's intertextual references lost in translation. Reading Freud's Reading is an attempt, in small part, to cross the divides of time and language, so as to re-establish the intertextual dimension of Freud's body of work.

Under the aegis of Sander Gilman, a group of scholars congregated at the Freud Library in London to examine Freud's reading; this volume is the result of their labours. Upon embarking on their research, they found that Freud was not only fond of underlining in his books, he also had a favourite phrase by which he marked an author's or text's most crucial passages. In the margin, Freud would scribble 'Kern der Sache', or 'heart of the matter'. Given all the speculations about Freud's intellectual debt to his culture, one can imagine the excitement of discovering this lexical key. What was the fate of these 'Kerne der Sachen'? In what manner did Freud's reading find its way out of his book margins and into his own published works? Whose 'Kern der Sache' beats within Freud's?

Alas, there are no archival Rosetta stones here.

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