Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism

By Ellen Brinks | Go to book overview

5
The Gothic Romance of Sigmund Freud
and Wilhelm Fliess

LOOKING AHEAD FROM COLERIDGE'S CHRISTABEL SOME SEVENTY years, we find Sigmund Freud's correspondence with his friend and colleague, Wilhelm Fliess, uncannily preoccupied with identical concerns: the attractions of mimetic desire and threats of subjective dispossession, both emerging within a homoerotically-charged relationship and permutating into disputes about (discursive or intellectual) originality and property. This continuity within gothic discourse is in part attributable to the enduring presence of the gothic in the popular consciousness. Instead of waning in importance under the increasing pressures of literary realism, gothic forms, tropes, and themes saturate nineteenth-century literature in Great Britain and Germany, whether in the works of the Brontes, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Margaret Oliphant, or Oscar Wilde, or in the legacy of German Romanticism, in writers such as Friedrich Schiller, E. T. A. Hoffman, Wilhelm Hauff, Achim von Arnim, and Ludwig Tieck. It is not surprising that the fantasy material and memories of Sigmund Freud, his friends, and his colleagues, as well as his patients, intimately conversing with one another about the fears associated with repressed desires, should assume gothic contours. What is remarkable is how these terrors resurface, with theoretical power, in his scientific writings.

Thus, when Freud describes his scientific method in his essay “On the Psychotherapy of Hysteria,” he compares the doctor's and the patient's work to the “unlocking of a locked door,” behind which lies a memory too frightening to be acknowledged consciously.1 The end appears relatively simple: through his associations the patient confronts that memory, or the doctor, guessing the secret, presents it at a time when the patient is ready to face it. As if by magic, the closed door opens, a catharsis begins, and “the picture vanishes, like a ghost that has been laid [to rest].”2 Freud's “ghost” behind the door, however, is

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Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture 2
  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Introduction 11
  • 1: Hegel Possessed 24
  • 2: The Male Romantic Poet as Gothic Subject 49
  • 3: Sharing Gothic Secrets 68
  • 4: “This Dream It Would Not Pass Away” 91
  • 5: The Gothic Romance of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Fliess 113
  • Notes 144
  • Selected Bibliography 198
  • Index 213
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