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Riviere, J. (2019). A character trait of Freud’s by Joan Riviere (1958). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(4):637-639.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(4):637-639

A character trait of Freud’s by Joan Riviere (1958)

Joan Riviere

Always one of the most interesting things to me about Freud was his writing; I met him first in his writings before I knew him. You get an impression of the man from them, quite apart from the impression their content makes on you. As is well known his style and presentation are very different from that of most scientific writers. (Actually, Freud's writings do vary and are of more than one description, but I am speaking now of the style which predominates and characterizes the main volume of his work.) Its general character is not only direct and plain-spoken—simple statements without padding— but in particular it conveys vividly an awareness of his readers or hearers, as if he were speaking directly to them, and were concerned to put forward his views in a form intelligible to them. The structure of his argument is not built up in a vacuum, as it were; it has a direct reference to the reader; he is addressing you. There is a personal quality, a personal relation, implicit in his style.

When I came to know Freud himself, however, I found that he did not appear especially interested in impressing himself on people or in seeking to convince others of his views. We know that he needed the support of an outside recognition and the acceptance of this work; he hoped for it, but in everyday life he appeared to take no direct steps to obtain it. There seemed to be a paradox here: on the one hand he had no strong impulse to influence others, to teach or convince them—not even in fact a marked interest in curing them, as he has told us; the aim of impressing himself on people seemed to be lacking or minimal in him.

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