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Burston, D. (2008). A Very Freudian Affair: Erich Fromm, Peter Swales and the Future of Psychoanalytic Historiography. Psychoanal. Hist., 10(1):115-130.

(2008). Psychoanalysis and History, 10(1):115-130

A Very Freudian Affair: Erich Fromm, Peter Swales and the Future of Psychoanalytic Historiography

Daniel Burston

Dedicated to John Marx

With me, fantasizing and working coincide; I find amusement in nothing else.

(Freud to Oskar Pfister, 1910)

Who's Afraid of Minna Bernays?

On 24 December 2006, The New York Times ran a front-page story entitled ‘Hotel Log Hints at Illicit Desire that Dr Freud Didn't Repress’. The article by Ralph Blumenthal discusses the recent disclosure of an entry made by Sigmund Freud in a hotel registry in Maloja, Switzerland, dated 13 August 1898, which lists Freud's sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, as his wife. The entry was no accident. Freud and Minna shared the same room that night. Franz Maciejewski, the sociologist from Heidelberg who made the discovery, even claims that ‘They not only shared a bed, they were even up to misrepresenting their relationship to strangers as that of husband and wife, a subterfuge they surely maintained whenever feasible during subsequent holidays together in faraway places’ (Maciejewski 2007, p. 502). Yale historian Peter Gay is more cautious in his appraisal of the evidence, saying that this discovery ‘makes it very possible that they slept together’ - (note: he says ‘possible’, not probable, much less certain) - adding, ‘It does not make him or psychoanalysis more or less correct’ (Blumenthal 2006). Quite so. Freud's theories must stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of how we feel about his personal conduct.

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