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Abrams, S. (2007). Updating Little Hans: An Introduction to the Section. Psychoanal. St. Child, 62:21-27.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 62:21-27

Little Hans Revisited

Updating Little Hans: An Introduction to the Section

Samuel Abrams, M.D.

It is Altogether Fitting that Psychoanal. St. Child publish these up-to-date reflections about Little Hans. For one thing, the release of new data about Hans and his family by the Sigmund Freud Archives has stirred considerable interest among analysts. There are also ceremonial reasons: we have just passed the 150th birthday of the founder of the field and are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Little Hans study. And there is another justification, perhaps the most compelling of all. The disputes that characterize current ways of thinking in our discipline may be more sharply illuminated by a detailed focus upon this case from the past.

For any enterprise, the discovery of new information is bound to evoke mixed responses. Some may simply ignore the new data and stay their conceptual course; others address it in ways that suggest that a paradigm shift may be in order. This was the setting, for example, in seventeenth-century embryology. At the time, scientists were in dispute. Some were inclined to examine the accumulating data of their discipline from the framework of continuity. They held that the adult was a child that had grown larger, just as a child had risen from a fully formed embryo whose structures were simply too tiny to be discriminated. Development was by accretion. They were preformists. They assumed that if it were possible to look more closely at the teeny creatures their theory would be completely affirmed. Consequently, improvements in the microscope were greeted with a certain enthusiasm since much more of the spermatozoa was suddenly visible.

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