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Dufresne, T. (1996). An Interview with Joseph Wortis. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(4):589-610.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(4):589-610

An Interview with Joseph Wortis

Todd Dufresne

Due to the impracticality of writing out responses to my questions, Dr. Joseph Wortis offered instead to meet briefly if I ever came to New York City. Upon hearing this, I immediately arranged a meeting. Though my intended focus was his fascinating book, Fragments of an Analysis with Freud (1954), he spoke at length about a variety of issues, including his political beliefs. I made little attempt to force the conversation, in part because Wortis spoke easily without much direction from me. Like Freud, he sometime sounded like a book and was able to deliver some fine monologues. At 87, he is not just healthy in appearance, but is absolutely lucid and intellectually engaging. After the interview he told me that the “older I get the more I remember; I can't forget anything.” He may be the last of Freud's analysands living today.

Wortis first majored in English, but then switched to a premedical course before he received a degree from New York University in 1927. Afterward, he studied medicine in Vienna, Munich, and Paris, graduating from the University of Vienna, Medical Faculty, in 1932. With the support of Havelock Ellis and Adolf Meyer, Wortis received a generous research fellowship in psychiatry with the understanding that he would later give attention to problems of sex and homosexuality. Since his mandate was broad, he arranged an analysis with Sigmund Freud. To this end, a sum of $1600 was made available, and Freud agreed to analyze Wortis until that amount was spent: $20 per hour, five times a week, for four months. The analysis took place between October 1934 and January 1935, when Wortis and Freud were 28 and 76 years old respectively.


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