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Rees, K. (1995). The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XLVII, 1992. The Moses of Freud and the Moses of Schoenberg: On Words, Idolatry, and Psychoanalysis. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Pp. 1-20.. Psychoanal Q., 64:426.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XLVII, 1992. The Moses of Freud and the Moses of Schoenberg: On Words, Idolatry, and Psychoanalysis. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Pp. 1-20.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 64:426

The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XLVII, 1992. The Moses of Freud and the Moses of Schoenberg: On Words, Idolatry, and Psychoanalysis. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Pp. 1-20.

Katharine Rees

This paper examines how words are central to psychoanalytic thought and practice, yet how their use inevitably raises questions about the relation of speech to reality. The author compares Freud's Moses and Monotheism and Schoenberg's opera Moses und Aron. In the opera Moses realizes that the words of the tablets are them- selves also idols, attempting to express the inexpressible. Freud's Moses, on the other hand, believed in the power of words to communicate his idea. Freud also believed in the magic of words as the means of access to the unconscious and as pivotal to the therapeutic process. He explored the power of words to bring back their strange but vital cargoes.

Today we are faced with a lack of confidence in the ability of words to convey outer or inner reality, a linguistic despair and skepticism that language can express anything beyond itself. The radical mistrust of words impinges on psychoanalysis at four crucial junctures: the speech of the patient; the speech of the analyst; reconstruction of the patient's life history; the written case history.

But other disciplines, such as history, have long realized that there is no fact waiting to be found without interpretation, no communicable historical truth apart from its narrative. Psychoanalysts should be among the primary custodians and explorers of language, not merely to reflect the crisis of language, but to inquire how much this crisis is really progress in knowledge and awareness, and how much it is only an absorption of cultural fashion.

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Article Citation

Rees, K. (1995). The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XLVII, 1992.. Psychoanal. Q., 64:426

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