Like every year of late, 2006 was marked by "big birthdays": the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth, the centenaries of Dmitri Shostakovitch’s and Hannah Arendt’s birth and, of interest here, the sesquicentenary of Freud’s birth, on 6 May 1856 in Príbor, Moravia. While in the case of Mozart, the memories of the 1991 celebrations of the 200th anniversary of his death had hardly faded, for the others – Shostakovitch, Arendt and Freud in particular, these commemorations were welcomed as an opportunity to revive interest in their subjects.
Providing a properly exhaustive compendium of every event held in dear Sigmund’s honor last year would be a thankless task. Freud Year 2006 featured a veritable multitude of events, exhibitions, film screenings, theatrical performances, concerts, gala evenings, lectures, talks, and publications, in addition to academic conferences; helpful English- and German-language guides are available online at: http://www.sigmund-freud.co.uk/ and http://www.freud-institut.com/home.asp. The scope of the commemorations is indicated on the official Austrian site of the Freud Institute, which is part of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. International events the Ministry was involved in (mostly via the Austrian Cultural Forum), and therefore listed on their site, took place in Cairo, Sydney and Melbourne, Beijing, Berlin, Tallin, Paris, Athens, London, Guatemala City, Teheran, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Milan, Rome, Ottawa (3. Juni 2006 Freud Gedenkveranstaltung mit Prof. Patrick Mahony (University of Montreal), Dr. Arthur Leonoff (Psychologe und Psychoanalytiker) und Botschafter Dr. Otto Ditz), Riga, Luxembourg, Mexico City, Den Haag, Lima, Bucharest, Moscow, Bern, Zurich, Bratislava, Ljubljiana, Belgrade, Madrid, Pretoria, Cape Town, Prague, Istanbul, Kiev, Budapest, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Hanoi.
This contribution was supposed to be a report on the international conference “Freud in Translation, Freud in Transition,” which took place at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies at the University of London on 24-25 November 2006, and it will be. However, after having attended that gathering and looking into the many other forms Freud celebrations took last year, it did not seem to me to do the conference justice not to present it in its larger context.
And that context was indeed large. Among the academic gatherings held during Freud Year 2006 (cf http://www.sigmund-freud.co.uk/authors/2/Stephanie-Ebdon) were:
- Freud Yesterday, Freud Today, 27 - 29 January 2006 University of Westminster, London (http://www.wmin.ac.uk/page-9336) – A weekend of talks, discussion, exploration and dialogue organised by the Institute of Psychoanalysis, in conjunction with the Freud Museum, London. Introductory address by Ilse Grubrich-Simitis with panels by leading lights on Clinical Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Sexuality and Gender, History and Biography, Literature and Art, Politics and Power.
- “Freud at 150 - Freud at York: New Directions” at York University – Paul Antze from Social Science, Steve Bailey from Humanities, Christina Kraenzle from German and John O’Neill from Sociology held a roundtable discussion on 6 April 2006, on Freud’s continued relevance to scholarship and society in the 21st century (http://www.ccges.yorku.ca/Roundtable-Discussion )
- The Dead Father: an international symposium, 29-30 April 2006 at Columbia University, New York. Presented by the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine this discussion of the changed place of real and symbolic fathers in our contemporary world and consequences for our individual lives, clinical theories, and institutions, featured papers by featuring André Green (plenary), Vincent Crapanzano, and Julia Kristeva, among others.
Screen Memories in the Light of the Contemporary Psychoanalysis and
Neurosciences, 4 - 6 May 2006, Dorint
Novotel Don Giovanni, Vinohradska 157, 130 20 Prague, Czech Republic.
The aim of this conference on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud is to ponder and assess to what extent the dream of the creator of psychoanalysis approached its fulfilment. The conference will be followed by an excursion to Sigmund Freud's birthplace on May 7th. Organised by the Czech Psychoanalytic Society.
- “Psychoanalysis and Literature: 150 Years After the Birth of Freud,” a presentation of the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute on 6 May 2006. Cathy Caruth, Emory, Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly, the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis and Meredith Anne Skura, Rice University were on the panel moderated by Paul Fry, Yale University.
- Madness, Memory, Dreaming, Sex and Trauma, 10 - 13 July 2006 Royal College of Psychiatry, Glasgow in conjunction with the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
- Psychoanalytic Technique Today, 13 – 15 October 2006 City University, Northampton Square, London. The British Psychoanalytic Society's English-Speaking Weekend Conference 2006 was open to members and students of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and members and students of member organisations of the British Psychoanalytic Council.
- Freud in Translation, Freud in Transition, 24 25 November 2006 at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London.
Freud Today, 9 – 10 December 2006, hosted by The Psychoanalysis Unit in association with the New Library of
Psychoanalysis; Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing and the Institute of
A major conference to examine Freud’s writing and its contemporary relevance intended to mark Freud's 150th Anniversary, as well as the path-breaking electronic publication of the Standard Edition of his complete psychological works (tr. James Strachey et al) within the PEP Archive. The conference will include contributions from major Freud scholars as well as workshop classes for those interested in learning to use the new electronic edition.
Given the scope of the Freud commemorations as indicated by the above whirlwind tour of international events and conferences, what particularly struck me was the role that place played in the process – hence my title: where it was. In an oddly appropriate way psychoanalytically, where these commemorations were, Sigmund became, or didn’t become, a very different kind of ‘I.’
Vienna, for example, is notably missing in the above listing. Celebrations there were reported as being “subdued in comparison to the festivities for Mozart year... Originally the Sigmund Freud Foundation had hoped that a soiree on Freud would be held at the Volksoper Opera house in Vienna on 5 May. But the Volksoper decided to stage yet another performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4979630.stm). The Sigmund Freud Foundation did receive the Berggasse 19 residence from the City of Vienna; however, that this was not viewed as reason for great celebration can be read between the lines of the following announcement: “In honor of the anniversary year, the city of Vienna donated the building in Berggasse 19 to the Sigmund Freud Foundation. Now, the Sigmund Freud Foundation requires state support for the maintenance and restoration of the building. (press release). Sigmund was also notably absent in the commemorative exhibit at the Sigmund Freud Museum on in the Berggasse 4 May to 29 October 2006. It was on “The Couch: Thinking Reclined” and “trace[d] the levels of meaning transported by this piece of upholstered furniture, measuring out the mental space that arises in a reclining position from the perspectives of science, art and literature” (http://www.sigmund-freud.co.uk/authors/2/Stephanie-Ebdon). The couch also figured prominently in the commemorative exhibit for Freud in Prague, at the Design Centre of Czech Republic, translated as “Sofas Full of Senses for Sigmund Freud”:
Interesting exhibition is dedicated to Sigmund Freud, the
father of psycho-analysis, [...] Sigmund Freud has this year 150th birth
anniversary and Design Centre of Czech Republic presents the exhibition in
Prague – Jungmann street 30. It is called Sofas Full of Senses for Sigmund
Freud and it presents Czech designers design of sofas proposed for
psychoanalytical sessions. You can see a needlework of female patients as an
expressions of their thoughts. Exhibition also shows a display of Freud’s life and
science, so everyone can gain an information about him. The exhibition ends 9th
The couch also appeared in the title of one of the commemorative exhibits at The Freud Museum in London – “On the Couch: Psychoanalysis in Cartoons,” on between 14 July and 20 August 2006 –; and although it did not feature prominently in that exhibit, the material culture of Freud’s workspace was the subject of another: “Freud's Sculpture: A View from the Desk,” which ran 6 May to 9 July & 25 October 2006 to 9 January 2007.
In New York, on the other hand, Sigmund was perhaps more present than non-Body World aficionados felt comfortable with. As the New York Sun announced, in an article with the delightful headline “Sometimes a Birthday Cake Is Just a Birthday Cake,” “Among the most unusual [of the] events [held to mark the Freud celebrations] takes place next Wednesday, when the New York Public Library hosts a program called "Freud's Foreskin” dealing with the intersection of Jewish identity, psychoanalysis, and minor surgery" (http://www.nysun.com/article/32218). Indeed, “Freud’s Foreskin: A sesquicentennial celebration of the most suggestive circumcision in history” was held on 10 May 2006 in the South Court Auditorium of the NYPL, and the program featured four short presentations:
- "Circumcision in Freud’s Context: The State of the Art, 1856-1939" by Robin Judd, Assistant Professor of History at Ohio State University. Her book, Cutting Identities: Jewish Rituals and German Politics, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.
- "Psychoanalyzing Phallacies: Freud and Current Circumcision Controversies" by Eric Kline Silverman, Edward Myers Dolan Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Jewish Studies at DePauw University. His first book, Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the Iatmul Naven Rite in New Guinea, was published in 2001, and his next, From Abraham to America: A History of Jewish Circumcision, is due out in June.
- "Little Hans: A Footnote in the History of Circumcision" by Jay Geller, Senior Lecturer in Modern Jewish Culture in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University. His book, Mitigating Circumcisions: Judentum and the Construction of Freud's Corpus, is forthcoming from Fordham University Press.
- "Circumcised Supremacy: Freud’s Final Cut" by Eliza Slavet, a member of the Interdisciplinary Faculty at New York University’s Gallatin School, and a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her work focuses on Freud’s controversial belief in the biological inheritance of memory, as developed in his last book, Moses and Monotheism, into a "theory of Jewishness."
Couching Jewishness in this way, so to speak, draws attention to the underlying imaginary of these Anglo-American commemorative events of Freud 2006 and the fact that they were very much in the spirit of Freud’s own Bildung-oriented history of ideas. For example: although the online announcement for the Freud in Translation, Freud in Transition conference stated that “Freud's writing have been translated all over the world and this event explores the intricacies and difficulties of undertaking that work,” the languages under consideration during the second plenary session were German, English, French, Italian and Spanish. The only non-European presence at the conference came in the form of the figurines on Freud’s desk that Griselda Pollack discussed in a paper on “Psychoanalysis and the Image,” which addressed the question of why Freud surrounded himself with so mute art from mythopoetic pagan cultures. The imaginary these sculptures inform is, however, still very much an implicitly Eurocentric one, and the events of Freud Year 2006 did much to both reinforce it (one notes in passing the presence of Harold Bloom as one of the featured speakers at the “Freud Yesterday, Freud Today” conference) and promise to continue to reproduce it.
The Freud in Translation Freud in Transition conference was the opening event of an AHRC-funded Network on Psychoanalysis and the Arts and Humanities: a multilingual perspective (where further general information on the Network can be found). The next stage of the project is a year of seminars on the areas of the plenaries at the conference: psychoanalysis and the arts, psychoanalysis and politics, histories & transmissions, pedagogy & practice and four language-based seminars (French-language, German-language, Hispanic-language, and Italian-language). This work, like the new series of Freud translations edited by Adam Phillips, has set out to be highly influential in dictating the discourse in Freudian scholarship in the coming years, and much like the new Bond film, Casino Royale, it is very likely to succeed only too well, a sad reflection on the state of the world for women and other unfortunately increasingly marginalized and demonized figures as 2006 recedes into memory.
How to take Freud global? Several possibilities suggest themselves from the relatively straightforward inclusion of work on, or translation of, Freud in non-hegemonic languages, such as Chinese and Catalan, to the more subtle questions of counterhegemonic positioning that those languages imply. Focusing on marginalia, whether in the form of mute pagan sculpures or the marginal characters that are the subject of Freud’s case studies, has also been shown capable of offering a counter-hegemonic challenge to the Eurocentric thematics noted above, very much in line with Sara Lennox's work on post-Eurocentrism (http://daadcenter.wisc.edu/publications/Lennox-globalization.pdf). Dora, for example, became one of the classics of feminist scholarship in the 1970s and 1980s, and continues to prove popular. A play about Dora, Sweet Dreams by Diane Esguerra, which was first performed in 1999 and toured successfully in London and nationally, was part of the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex’s tribute to Freud in May 2006:
Set in Vienna in 1900, Freud, rejected by his young patient Ida Bauer who has refused to continue her treatment, reflects on her case and tries to reconstruct her from his memories of their discussions. He re-creates Ida in his case study, changing only her name – to Dora. The play is set at a crucial stage in Freud's career: he had published The Interpretation of Dreams, and through his work, was demonstrating the importance of dreams in psychoanalysis. (http://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2006/nr20060502.htm)
Work on Freud can be part of the "new scholarly paradigms critical of European knowledges" and "fundamental rethinking of many intellectual paradigms that derive from European modernity" Lennox calls for, but it needs to aim to burst the hermetically Western bubble that seems to be settling over Freud scholarship and help translate Freud’s couch back into a divan. Let’s get on with that work!
the London Review of Books, for example,
three articles appeared in 2006 reviewing books on him: Angering and Agitating:
30 November 2006
Christopher Turner on Freud’s fan club, a
review of Freud’s Wizard: The Enigma of Ernest
Jones by Brenda Maddox; There is no cure: 6
Michael Wood : Freud’s Guesswork, a review of
The Penguin Freud Reader by Sigmund Freud
ed. Adam Phillips; and The
Housekeeper of a World-Shattering Theory: 23 March 2006
Diski on Mrs
Martha Freud: A Biography by Katja Behling trans. R.D.V. Glasgow. In contrast to the two articles that had appeared on him since 1998 in the LRB, this definitely constitutes a revival.
 Cf. especially Hélène Cixous’s 1976 Portrait de Dora and the 1985 collection edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane, In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism.
 I owe this reference to Frank Scherer, the driving force behind the establishment of a Freud in Translation reading group at York’s Canadian Centre for German and European Studies in 2006.