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Freud's Wishful Dream Book

Freud's Wishful Dream Book

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Freud's Wishful Dream Book
    Book Description:

    Although it is customary to credit Freud's self-analysis, it may be more accurate, Alexander Welsh argues, to say that psychoanalysis began whenThe Interpretation of Dreamswas published in the last weeks of the nineteenth century. Only by going public with his theory--that dreams manifest hidden wishes--did Freud establish a position to defend and embark upon a career. That position and career have been among the most influential in this century.

    In August 1899, Freud wrote to Wilhelm Fliess of the dream book in terms reminiscent of Dante'sInferno. Beginning from a dark wood, this modern journey features "a concealed pass though which I lead the reader--my specimen dream with its peculiarities, details, indiscretions, bad jokes--and then suddenly the high ground and the view and the question, Which way do you wish to go now?" Physician that he is, Freud appoints himself guide rather than hero, yet the way "you" wish to go is very much his prescribed way.

    In Welsh's book, readers are invited on Freud's journey, to pause at each concealed pass in his seminal work and ask where the guide is taking them and why. Along the way, Welsh shows how Freud's arbitrary turnings are themselves wishful, intended to persuade by pleasing the reader and author alike; that his interest in secrets and his self-proclaimed modest ambition are products of their time; and that the book may best be read as a romance or serial comedy. "Some of the humor throughout," Welsh notes, "can only be understood as a particular kind of fine performance." Welsh offers the first critical overview of the argument in Freud's masterpiece and of the author who presents himself as guide.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2136-5
    Subjects: Psychology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE “A Dream Is the Fulfilment of a Wish”
    (pp. 3-28)

    The interpretation of dreamsdeserves to be regarded as Freud’s masterpiece, in two widely accepted meanings of that term: a famous work that contains many of his most important ideas, and the work that qualified him not merely as a member but as the founder of a guild. Among those most devoted to the study of psychoanalysis, both insiders and outsiders have affirmed the book’s prominence. The early disciple and official biographer Ernest Jones calls it “Freud’s most original work,” which established “a secure basis for the theory of the unconscious in man” and remains “the best known and most...

  5. CHAPTER TWO “Dreams Really Have a Secret Meaning”
    (pp. 29-50)

    Instead of fighting the dream book or being mystified by it, we can speculate usefully about what its author was hoping to do. What were the advantages of writing on dream interpretation? What is attractive about the theory chosen? Why should dreams have a secret meaning? What use is the search for motives? What is to be gained from basing narratives on the slightest evidence? There are no fixed answers to such questions, needless to say: one can merely interpret Freud’sInterpretation. But wish fulfillment—that is, in story, not reality—is an excellent guide to understanding narrative, including the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE “So Far as I Knew, I Was Not an Ambitious Man”
    (pp. 51-78)

    Though trained psychoanalysts often say that chapter 7 delivers the important lessons ofThe Interpretation of Dreams, far more readers respond positively to Freud’s attractive self-presentation. One of the ways Freud most pleases—however testily he complained about supposed indiscretions—is by confession of his own dreams. These dreams, with the background and analysis he provides, are absorbing in themselves and partially linked up as autobiography. Only the naive or the doctrinaire, however, can suppose that the success of this broken narrative is due to its honesty per se. Confessions are by definition formally honest, since unless they reveal what...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR “It Had Been Possible to Hoodwink the Censorship”
    (pp. 79-108)

    In the dream book, the insistence on secrets supports the censorship: dreams have a secret meaning; the censorship is in the business of keeping secrets. The censorship figures in the formal conclusion of the book, with its affirmation of “the two psychical systems, the censorship upon the passage from one of them to the other” (607). Freudian censorship is very much the invention ofThe Interpretation of Dreams. Freud had employed the word (Zensur) casually inStudies on Hysteria(1895, 269, 282) and an early paper, “The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” (1896, 182, 185), but in the dream book he expressly...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE “The Only Villain among the Crowd of Noble Characters”
    (pp. 109-138)

    The last two stories embedded in the dream book certainly pose something of a puzzle. They are not about dreams, they feature the censorship, and—as I trust I have shown—they are spurious. The first is blatantly anecdotal, a joke on women clearly meant to amuse; the second is part fiction, part autobiography, and finally neither one nor the other. Yet the pair of stories, supposedly about actual consultations involving a careless girl and naughty boy, offer the last evidence in the book for Freud’s theory as well as the last bit of humor. Except for the humor, they...

    (pp. 139-145)