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Blass, R.B. (2019). Freud’s writing as a living creative presence in our minds: An introduction to Joan Riviere’s “A character trait of Freud’s”. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(4):635-636.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(4):635-636

A tribute to Freud on the 80th Anniversary of his Death

Freud’s writing as a living creative presence in our minds: An introduction to Joan Riviere’s “A character trait of Freud’s”

Rachel B. Blass

To honor Freud on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of his death we here reprint a short paper by Joan Riviere (her last to be published) written at the request of the British Psychoanalytical Society on the 100th anniversary of his birth. We find the paper especially apt because it deals primarily with Freud’s writing. Freud, as some may know, not only published in the International Journal, but also was its founding director and Joan Riviere, one of Freud’s early translators into the English language, was also the Journal’s first “translation editor”. In his letters to her as well as to Ernest Jones (the Journal’s first editor-in-chief) Freud openly expresses his great appreciation of her deep understanding of his writings, going so far as to affirm that when it comes to translation he “would like no one but [her] … to take care of … [his] work” (Freud to Riviere, 23 Feb. 1923, in Hughes, 1992, p. 270).

Riviere’s paper commences with a paradox that emerges from Freud’s writings which, she maintains, reveals to us something not only about the nature of his analytic contribution, but also about him as a person—and the two are intimately tied. The paradox is that Freud—as may be seen from his writing style—went to considerable efforts to be understood by his readers and yet, at the same time, had little desire to influence or convince them. To resolve this paradox Riviere points to how Freud’s scientific work was also an act of art; his discoveries of reality were fused with internal phantasy, and the creative product of this fusion is what accounts for his greatness.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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