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Bolkosy, S. (1982). The Alpha and Omega of Psychoanalysis: Reflections on Anna O. and Freud's Vienna. Psychoanal. Rev., 69(1):131-150.

(1982). Psychoanalytic Review, 69(1):131-150

The Alpha and Omega of Psychoanalysis: Reflections on Anna O. and Freud's Vienna

Sidney Bolkosy, Ph.D.

O Tell me all about Anna …

James Joyce

Cultural historians have argued that art forms and styles as well as scientific attitudes and discoveries are best understood and appreciated when viewed in their historical, societal, and broad cultural contexts. Even intellectual and aesthetic revolutions and revolutionaries inescapably, at their core, contain and convey the essential ethos of their environment. Psychoanalysis, whether art or science, therefore, ought to carry something of the essence of Vienna in the second half of the 19th century, and something, too, of that western civilization Vienna seemed to crown. Not only Freud, but the precursor of psychoanalytic patients, Anna O., and her physician, Josef Breuer, Freud's friend, mentor, and paternal collaborator, were products of Viennese culture. And that culture itself was derived from diverse historical and social forces that shaped it from the clay of western history in general. It was both typically European and uniquely Viennese. And Freud, too, was typical and atypical, a creature of his time and place, yet an extraordinary interpreter of the Viennese and of mankind.

Stereotypic glosses of charming, waltzing, gay, witty Vienna are balanced by descriptions of its character as a city replete with genius, the intellectual crossroads of Europe. Neither gaiety nor intellectual experimentations in Viennese life were the internalized, deep seated forces that helped fashion psychoanalysis.

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