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Mann, T. (1941). Freud's Position in the History of Modern Culture. Psychoanal. Rev., 28(1):92-116.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Review, 28(1):92-116

Freud's Position in the History of Modern Culture

Thomas Mann

If I should be asked which one of Freud's courageous and revolutionary contributions has made the strongest impression on me, and which of his literary works first occurs to me when his name is mentioned, I should answer without hesitation: “Totem and Taboo”, the great essay in four parts in the tenth volume of his “Collected Papers”. It is not likely that I am alone in this preference. It is an evidence of almost touching scientific modesty, in view of the world-wide appreciation today accorded to all of his writings, both in relative and positive sense, that Freud feels called upon to draw a line of distinction between this and others of his writings, ascribing to it, as an exception, a claim on the interest of a larger circle of cultured persons. Indeed in purpose and insight this essay goes far beyond the medical sphere into that of general science and opens up for the reader interested in the questions confronting mankind, a boundless perspective and throws light into the spiritual past, the early historical and prehistorical moral, social, and mystical depths of human development.

Its extraordinary fascination may be explained in various ways: first of all it is without doubt the one of Freud's productions which has the greatest artistic merit; both in conception and literary form, it is a literary masterpiece allied to, and comparable with, the greatest examples of literary essays.

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