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Marcus, S. (1976). Freud and Dora: Story, History, Case History. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 5:389-442.

(1976). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 5:389-442

Freud and Dora: Story, History, Case History

Steven Marcus, Ph.D.


It is generally agreed that Freud's case histories are unique. Today more than half a century after they were written they are still widely read. Even more, they are still widely used for instruction and training in psychoanalytic institutes. One of the inferences that such a vigorous condition of survival prompts is that these writings have not yet been superseded. Like other masterpieces of literature or the arts, these works seem to possess certain transhistorical qualities—although it may by no means be easy to specify what those qualities are. The implacable “march of science” has not—or has not yet—consigned them to “mere” history. Their singular and mysterious complexity, density, and richness have thus far prevented such a transformation and demotion.

This state of affairs has received less attention than it merits. Freud's case histories—and his works in general—are unique as pieces or kinds of writing, and it may be useful to regard them from the standpoint that this statement implies. I shall undertake, then, to examine one of Freud's case histories from the point of view of literary criticism, to analyze it as a piece of writing, and to determine whether this method of proceeding may yield results that other means have not.

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