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Rudnytsky, P.L. (1999). ‘Does the Professor Talk to God?’: Countertransference and Jewish Identity in the Case of Little Hans. Psychoanal. Hist., 1(2):175-194.

(1999). Psychoanalysis and History, 1(2):175-194

‘Does the Professor Talk to God?’: Countertransference and Jewish Identity in the Case of Little Hans

Peter L. Rudnytsky

One of the most valuable contributions of the extensive feminist literature on the Dora case has been to point out the degree to which countertransferential factors hampered Freud's treatment of his renowned female patient.1 Although there is a danger of anachronism in these critiques, since Freud in 1901 was just beginning to consolidate his concept of transference and the term ‘countertransference’ does not appear in his published writings until 1910, the basic point that Freud was in various unconscious ways both libidinally invested in and identified with Dora, and that his failure to recognize the extent of his own subjective involvement in the therapeutic process had much to do with its unsuccessful outcome, is surely valid.

In this essay, I propose to extend this line of argument to the case of Little Hans, which, like its nearly contemporaneous adult pendant, the case of the Rat Man, can in large measure be viewed as an attempt on Freud's part to recover from the self-confessed debacle of his first major venture in clinical writing.2 Although Freud's countertransference toward Dora was negative whereas that toward Little Hans and the Rat Man was positive, the danger of subjective distortion is as great in either instance. Indeed, it is an obvious but nonetheless important point that the gender of his patients played a decisive role in orienting the direction of Freud's countertransferential responses.3

In addition to taking place in the aftermath of his setback with Dora, the case of Little Hans occupies a crucial place in Freud's elaboration of the theory of the Oedipus complex. For there can be no doubt that this text, published in 1909, is a bench mark in the odyssey extending from Freud's 15 October 1897 letter to Fliess, in which he first broaches his interpretations of Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, to Totem and Taboo, where he holds that ‘the beginnings of religion, morals, society and art converge in the Oedipus complex’ (1913, p.

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