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Masson, J.M. (1985). Introduction to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, 1-13.
Masson, J.M. (1985). Introduction to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, 1-13
Introduction to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Sigmund Freud's Letters to his closest friend, Wilhelm Fliess, are probably the single most important group of documents in the history of psychoanalysis. At no time intended for publication, the letters date from 1887 to 1904, a period that spans the birth and development of psychoanalysis. During the seventeen years of the correspondence Freud wrote some of his most revolutionary works: Studies on Hysteria, The Interpretation of Dreams, “The Aetiology of Hysteria,” and the famous case study of Dora. Never has the creator of a totally new field of human knowledge so overtly and in such detail revealed the thought processes leading to his discoveries. None of the later writings have the immediacy and the impact of these early letters, nor do any reveal so dramatically Freud's innermost thoughts as he was in the very act of creation. The result is an extraordinarily compelling set of writings. They are presented here, for the first time, without any excisions.
At the time the correspondence began, Freud was a thirty-one-year-old lecturer in neuropathology at the University of Vienna. Newly married to Martha Bernays, he had just established his own neurological practice after having studied in Paris for six months with the noted neurologist Jean Martin Charcot. Fliess, twenty-nine, was already a successful ear, nose, and throat doctor in Berlin. In the fall of 1887 he went to Vienna to study with specialists there, and apparently the eminent physician Josef Breuer (1842-1925), then Freud's mentor, colleague, and friend, suggested that Fliess attend Freud's lectures at the university. A few months later, after Fliess had returned to Berlin, Freud wrote the first of a long series of letters that was to chart the origins and evolution of psychoanalysis.
Within five years Freud and Fliess were regular correspondents.
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