Catholic Cults and Devotions: A Psychological Inquiry

By Michael P. Carroll | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Blood Miracles of Naples

Of all the books written by Sigmund Freud, the one that seems to have proven the most popular with the general public (after, possibly, The Interpretation of Dreams) is his The Psychopathology of Everyday Life ( 1901). This book is concerned with "parapraxes," a broad term that includes "Freudian slips" (slips of the tongue and the pen); the sudden forgetting of otherwise familiar terms and memories; the bungling of usually simple tasks; and so on. There is very little theory in the book ( Freud's only theoretical point is that parapraxes result when an unconscious thought or desire overcomes and influences a conscious action). Most likely it is this very absence of theoretical discussion, coupled with the colourful examples that Freud presents, which has ensured the book's popularity.

The analysis cited most often in the book is the one that takes up most of the second chapter, "The Forgetting of Foreign Words" ( Freud 1901, 8-14). Freud begins with a personal anecdote: While travelling through Italy by train, he once shared a compartment with a young man who, like Freud himself, was Jewish. They began discussing the status of Jews in Europe. After complaining that the current generation of European Jews would not be allowed to fulfil their potential, the young man wanted to end the conversation with a dramatic flourish. He tried to do this by quoting a line from the Aeneid, a line in which Dido commits the next generation to vengeance. But he couldn't get the Latin quotation just right; he knew a word was missing but couldn't remember what word it was. In frustration, he asked Freud to supply it. Freud did: the missing word was "aliquis." 1 The young man, who obviously knew something about Freud's work, then challenged Freud to explain his inability to remember correctly such a well-known quotation. Freud good-humouredly took up the challenge.

As in all psychoanalytic investigations (including those in this book) Freud started with associations, and so he asked the young man to free-associate with the word aliquis. The primary associations turned out to be an associa

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