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Forrester, J. (2010). Editorial. Psychoanal. Hist., 12(1):1-5.

(2010). Psychoanalysis and History, 12(1):1-5


John Forrester

Karl Popper used to remark how Freudian theory was true of Freudians and how Adlerian theory was true of Adlerians. And when Popper said ‘true’ he meant it in the strong, the noble sense. (And, being Viennese, Popper didn't think to mention the Jungians who dream Jungian dreams.) In ‘Bertold Löffler's Bookplate for Sigmund Freud’, Gerd Pichler describes the making of a collector's item with intriguing resonances, given the cultural coupling of ‘Freud’ and ‘Oedipus’ that developed in the course of the 20th century. As Philip Roth expostulated in an interview in May 2000:

The whole effort of certainly the first half of the twentieth century, the whole intellectual and artistic effort, was to see behind things, and that is no longer of interest … I think that what we're seeing [today] is the narrowing of consciousness. I read the other day in a newspaper that I occasionally see that Freud was a kind of charlatan or something worse. This great, tragic poet, our Sophocles! (Remnick, 2000)

The bookplate (see Fig. 1, p. 8) portrays Oedipus addressing the Sphinx with a Greek inscription whose English translation is: ‘He who knew the renowned riddle, and was a most mighty man’. To choose, in 1901, Oedipus as the figure on the bookplate is the gift of an admiring follower who either knew more than the recipient about Freud's future cultural destiny or was already party to Freud's own personal, pre-psychoanalytic oedipal mythology. Did Hugo Schwerdtner, the instigator of the production of the plate, choose the image and the accompanying quotation from Oedipus Rex solely on the basis of reading the two pages devoted to the Oedipus story in Die Traumdeutung, published several months previously? This is unlikely. So how else did he make such an historically apt decision?

The stories surrounding the donation of the medallion created by Hugo Schwerdtner's brother Carl in 1906 have been circulating in the public domain for many years. In Jones's biography of Freud, he recounts:

At the presentation of the medallion there was a curious incident. When Freud read the inscription he became pale and agitated and in a strangled voice demanded to know who had thought of it.

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