Freud Course

IMG_1785For the complete course, visit my Freud seminar on

Also, check out one student’s interesting journey!

Comments and suggestions are welcome!!

This course is designed to incorporate CLAC (Cultures and Languages across the Curriculum) pedagogy. Please see the respective CLAC components within the individual topical units.

Title: The Renaissance of Psychoanalytic Thought: Studying Freud in the 21st Century.

Description of Topic

The study of Sigmund Freud’s work has not lost its seminal relevance and importance across the academic disciplines despite at times sharp criticism of some of classic psychoanalysis’ basic concepts. Freud’s emphasis on sexuality, the repression of the sex drive as the central source for psychopathology and his views on female sexuality, have instigated much controversy over his theories among academics and non-academics alike and have in many cases led to dismiss Freud as a humanistic and scientific thinker altogether.  Scholars with a more comprehensive picture of Freud’s work have foremost critiqued psychoanalysis as a non-science due to its lack of empirical evidence. Freud himself had wrestled with these reproaches throughout his long career, but nevertheless early on settled on the notion that since his patients showed positive results with his psychotherapeutic methods his theories must have clinical – and by extension – scientific validity.

Equally important is the notion that Freud himself was at all times keenly aware of the fact that if science was much further along, many of his theories could be scientifically proven. For example in his theoretical revision of the death instinct elaborated in his book Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud wrote: “The deficiencies in our description would probably vanish if we were already in a position to replace the psychological terms with physiological or chemical ones…. We may expect [physiology and chemistry] to give the most surprising information and we cannot guess what answers it will return in a few dozen years of questions we have put to it. They may be of a kind that will blow away the whole of our artificial structure of hypothesis.”

Eric Kandel, one of only two Nobel laureates in the field of Psychiatry, put Freud’s brilliantly conceived of status quo of the sciences during his time this way: “Had [brain] imaging been available in 1895, when Freud wrote “On a Scientific Psychology,” he might well have directed psychoanalysis along very different lines, keeping it in close relationship with biology, as he outlined it in this essay” (In Search of Memory, 371), the same notions Freud echoed again in his paper “On Narcissism” (1914): “We must recollect that all of our provisional ideas in psychology will presumably one day be based on an organic substructure.” A whole new way of thinking has since emerged that sees great promise in the joint or linked studies involving Neuroscience, Biology, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis which refers to itself as Neuropsychoanalysis.

But not only in the sciences has classic psychoanalysis gained new momentum. Most recently (2000 on), Penguin Classics has published a comprehensive edition of the “new Freud,” re-conceptualizing the former Standard Edition of Freud’s works under the general editorship of James Strachey now with a re-translation of the original German works under the general editorship of Adam Phillips. Inspired by Bruno von Bettelheim’s criticism of the translations in the SE as misguiding the reader by leading him or her away from Freud’s humanism in that it renders Freud’s language as overly scientific and medicalized, Phillips’ project of restoring a much more humanistic Freud can be seen as a viable response to Bettelheim’s challenge. Furthermore, this new Freud edition is meant to offer humanistic scholars of Freud’s theories a more holistic approach, one that groups together connected concepts and ideas rather than merely a chronological collection of Freud’s ideas rendering these more accessible and fresh for today’s scholarly communities.

The study of Freud’s theories and their fundamental concepts, still provide an essential foundation for cultural and literary scholars as well. All too often are Freud’s idea misconstrued and misappropriated because they are employed without an informed understanding – or any understanding at all – precisely because they have not been studied from the original source but rather have been borrowed and applied from secondary (often uninvestigated) sources. Furthermore, Freud continues to be important for students of Psychology, especially those who wish to do clinical work and need to have a solid foundation in the various psychotherapeutic methods for which understanding Freud’s thinking is instrumental.

In short: Freud’s ideas are as relevant and important as always, and continue to inspire, most recently a whole new cohort of scientists and humanistic thinkers alike.

My course is open to students across all disciplines, most interestingly it crosses the boundaries of Science on one hand and Arts and Humanities on the other. These are traditionally separated rather than connected even in a Liberal Arts setting.  This course incorporates a lot of (new) ideas that are linked outside of  disciplinary confines such as neurospychoanalysis in order to advance human knowledge. The course could be especially of special interest to students interested or majoring in Biology, Neuroscience, Psychology, History, Education, German, English, Modern Languages, Fine Arts, Sociology, Anthropology, and more.

The only prerequisite is an open mind and a willingness to engage with ideas no matter how controversial they may be.

This course is pedagogically  innovative in that German speaking students have the opportunity to take a directed studies course with me in addition to the seminar itself. The course has a special unit on issues of translation (Bettelheim readings, unit 9), which in the case of Freud studies are especially important because here translations have led to much misunderstanding and to increased ideology formation. Students can learn from each other about these translation issues since they have formed their own views by having studied the source text rather than me as the instructor being the sole authority for these readings.

I envision this course to be pedagogically experimental on several levels:

  • Faculty-faculty team teaching of individual sessions, for example inviting a colleague from Biology or Psychology to teach a unit on brain functioning and, if possible, introduction to brain imaging.
  • Faculty-student team teaching of individual sessions with a student who already has acquired specific relevant knowledge in some of the interdisciplinary areas. Example: my summer scholar Kurt has studied Freud and translation in depth and then took a directed-studies course with me on Kandel’s work on biology and psychoanalysis.
  • Specially designed directed studies modules for reading works in the original language and reporting back on these to the class for an enhanced learning experience. Student-centered learning, collaborative student-student and student-faculty learning further imbue the course with collaborative learning skills development.

Student Learning and Engagement

This course is meant to address the interests of individual students as closely as possible. Towards that goal, I have created a flexible syllabus with exchangeable components. There will be a general introduction to Freud’s major ideas that all students will study together in order for them to have a sound basic foundation first. Depending on the composition of the student body and the knowledge students bring to the class from their respective fields, the syllabus should accommodate those interests by being flexible in breadth and depth regarding the respective special topics. For example, students from biology and neuroscience may be particularly interested in neuropsychoanalysis, whereas students interested in literature will want to explore Freud’s own ideas on literary creations, the uncanny, and Freud’s writing style.

The course itself consists of carefully selected readings, response papers to the readings and to the discussions, student presentations, and research papers. The course will be writing intensive.

Collaborative Aspect of the Course

For the unit on the brain (within the unit on neuropsychoanalysis) I will invite an expert on brain functioning to teach one or two classes with me. This could be thought of as a mini-collaboration that, if there is sustained interest, could at some point grow into a team-taught course. This would be in a sense a testing of the waters. A more radical idea, which I would also like to try, is augmenting the brain overview portion with a MOOC component. I would carefully review the MOOC itself and integrate it into my course as a hybrid, blended course component.

Sample Syllabus Units

Directed studies components are integrated in these units.

1.     Beginnings of Psychoanalysis 

Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1910); also called: The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis

On the History of the Psycho-analytic Movement (1914)

Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora) (1905)

Discussion points:

What strikes you as different from the “scientific inquiry” you have encountered before?

What stands out to you as “unusual”? Things you notice? Surprises?

What is the tone in the introductory pages to “Dora” like?

What are some of the challenges Freud encountered?

Why did “Dora” remain a “Bruchstück” (fragment)?

What are the three “Unvollständigkeiten” (incomplete aspects) of the case?

What role does the dream/dream interpretation play here specifically?

Add to that: what are the functions of symptoms in the analysis of hysteria? What are symptoms in that context?

Be ready to provide examples specific to Dora’s case.

Be able to describe/summarize the case.

CLAC: Pay attention to the language itself. Read tbd some passages in German. Report back to class.

2.     What is Psychoanalysis?

Look up the term “analysis.” What is the “whole” here?

Sigmund Freud on “What is Psychoanalysis?”

See: Sigmund Freud’s Self-Analysis by Jean Chirac, (Freuds_self_analysis_freudfile.docx)

And: Freud: What is Psychoanalysis? – overview/pdf

The Interpretation of Dreams, for now just the dream “Irma’s Injection” (II/III, S. 110ff.) and Chapter III (Dream as wish-fulfillment).

CLAC:  Read: Traum ist eine Wunscherfüllung. Make yourself familiar with the vocabulary in German from the table of contents.

How does P/A cure? What is responsible for pathology?

As a „science“ Freud needed an empirically based methodology that would give him access tot he inner workings of the mind. What did he discover?

Parallel to dream analysis Freud employed the „associative method.“ How?

How is the dream as wish fullfilment contested and how does Freud respond to these challenges?

Freud did not „invent“ the unconscious, rather he….. (complete sentence).

The Psychopathology of Everyday Life/Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (read the book over next three weeks, but make yourself familiar with the subjects he takes on by reading the table of contents, read chapter 4, Deckerinnerungen (screen memories) now. Be able to explain the nature and purpose of screen memories.

CLAC: make yourself familiar with the subjects he takes on by reading the table of contents (learn these words in German), read chapter 4, Deckerinnerungen and explain the nature and purpose of Deckerinnerungen in German.

Watch: (Kandel also available on DVD in Doane Library: BF109.F74 C47 2007)

Steven Roose on Depression

Eric Kandel, and others on Freud/how the mind works

Studies on Hysteria (Breuer) 1895, read intro and one case of your choice, and “On the Psychotherapy of Hysteria.” This is a quick read. Vol. I. 80 ff.


Be able to explain hysteria and neuroses.

CLAC:  Read “Vorläufige Mitteilung” in German, one Krankengeschichte of your choice, and “Zur Psychotherapie der Hysterie.”

Read: Some Elementary Lessons In Psychoanalysis (title is in English, text in German) – 1940, all, 7 pages, XVII, 140.

Read: Kurzer Abriss (der Psychoanalyse). (Dr.D. will provide all German copies)

Psychoanalysis/Psycho-Analysis – 1926 = all, 8 pages, XIV, 299

The Claims of Psychoanalysis to Scientific Interest/Das Interesse an der Psychoanalyse – 1913, all, 30 pages, VIII, 390

— Be able to briefly summarize which areas of scientific interest PA pertains to and in what way. Which one do you find most compelling?

Read Newsweek (Freud on cover, 2006) article. (Handout from Dr.D.)

A Short Account of Psychoanalysis (Kurzer Abriss)- 1924, all, 22 pages; XIII, 405

On Psychotherapy/Über Psychotherapie – 1904 [1905], all, 13 pages, V, 13ff

What cannot be treated with P/A? What can be treated?

Can P/A damage patients?

Who should not treat patients psychoanalytically?

Role of sexuality emphasized. What are common misunderstandings?

Describe the overall tone of the lecture.

3.     Topographical Model of the Mind

The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) (excerpts), Chapter 7, II/III.

Think about the word “Das Unbewusste.” What does it mean directly translated?

The “unconscious” is a psychic agency. What are the other agencies in the topographical model?

Be able to explain the concept of psychic determinism. Recall what you learned from your readings in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and continue to read in that book.

CLAC: Discuss the term “Das Unbewusste” and “Traumdeutung” with class.

Read chapter 7 of Die Traumdeutung:  Zur Psychologie der Traumvorgänge, II/III in German.

Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious/Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten (1905): read all.

CLAC: read “Einleitung” and “Die Beziehung zum Traum und zum Unbewussten,” in German. What is the relationship between “Witz” and “Traum” and “Witz” and  “Unbewusstem”?

Be ready to explain to class how the word “Witz” is difficult to translate into English.

4.     Psychoanalytic Therapy

Recall “Dora,” specifically how Freud conducted the sessions.

Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy (Little Hans) (1909) Vol. 7, 241ff. Part I and II (III is for later).

Pay special attention to HOW Freud conducts the therapy. Later, we will look at chapter III when we discuss the Theory of Sexuality.

CLAC:  Read Analyse der Phobie eines fünfjährigen Knaben, Teil I und II.

5.     Psychoanalytic Methods: The Free Association

(Exercise: Free-writing and analysis of sample)

Be clear on the role of Free Association in the p/a process/therapy.


Try to write down everything that crosses your mind, without starting from some preconceived idea. Write freely, as if making notes in your personal diary. Do not overlook or leave out anything. Write like that for at least 20 minutes. Then try to see what is repeated in your account. There is a certain topic all your free associations are riveted to, just like a railway node all rails are merging into. Identify this topic, relating it to your daily life concerns. You will have thus reached an updated psychic complex.

CLAC: Do this assignment in German. Report to the class on challenges and rewards on doing this exercise in a second language.

6.     Analysis of a Faulty Act (Freudian Slip)

Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901). This book was extremely successful outside of P/A as well. Why is that?

Revisit the idea of psychic determinism from above.

Read letter to Fließ from August 26, 1898.

CLAC: Be ready to explain: „Fehlleistungen sind ebenso wie neurotische Symptome Kompromissbildungen zwischen einer bewussten Absicht und dem Verdrängten.“

Explain:  „Dann aber sind Tatsachen zum Vorschwein gekommen..“

Share this with class.


Try to think of some Faulty Acts you have committed in doing, speaking or writing. Try to recall the circumstances. As you analyze the mistake/s, what underlying motive/s may have caused the slip/s?

Can you also see benefits to these faulty acts?

„A letter to Romain Rolland: A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis“

The Unconscious.1915.

CLAC: Read these in German. Das Unbewusste, 1915, vol. X, S. 264-303. Letter: 1936, Vol. XVI, 249-257.

Read: Freud’s Models of the Mind: An Introduction, Sandler, Holder, Dare, Dreher.

7. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Jenseits des Lustprinzips, 1920, XIII, 1-70/

Also read the introduction by Gregory Zilboorg (Norton edition) (Dr.D.)

What does “Beyond” suggest and what does it really mean?

How accurate is the term “Unlust”?

Be clear on what a “Trieb” is. Think about its translation as “instinct.”

What does Freud mean by “repetition compulsion”? Also see paragraph in “Das Unheimliche”, section II. (

Be able to describe the dichotomy between Eros and the death instinct.

Where do we see signs of the soon to come structural model of the mind?

Revisit: Freud’s Models of the Mind: An Introduction, Sandler, Holder, Dare, Dreher.

CLAC: Read in English (Strachey) but have your German text next to you to read side by side for specific terms. Write those terms down in both languages. Report back to class.

8. Oedipus Complex in Psychoanalysis
 and Child Sexuality

Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, Oct 15, 1897 (Oedipus) = here: <>

Fliess played a very important role in Freud’s life. Inform yourself on that.

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) –

An Outline of Psychoanalysis/Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defense (1940)

CLAC: Read Fliess letter in German. Research Fliess. Report back to class.

9. Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (1983) for Translation Theory Unit

Read all of Bettelheim’s monograph.

Read: Structural Model of the Mind: The Ego and the Id/Das Ich und das Es         (1923)

Readings from Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety/Hemmung, Symptom und Angst (1926); XIV

Look up: Georg Groddeck/Fr. Nietzsche on the term “das Es” (the it).

Comparison between SE and Penguin Edition:

1. The Ego and the Id (SE, in English)

2. The Ego and the Id (Phillips Edition, in English, in: Beyond the Pleasure Principle and other Writings)

CLAC: Read: Thomas Mann: “Freud und die Zukunft,” 8. Mai 1936 zu Ehren von Freuds 80. Geburtstag, in Mann, Gesammelte Werke in 13 Bänden, Band IX, Reden und Aufsätze I, 478 ff.

Look up: Georg Groddeck/Fr. Nietzsche zum Begriff das “Es.”

Report back to class on translation issues.

10. Neuropsychoanalysis

Read: Eric Kandel: In Search of Memory (2006), chapter: Biology and the Renaissance of Psychoanalytic Thought.

Solms and Turnbull: What Is Neuropsychoanalysis?

Mark Solms (Cape Town, South Africa) & Oliver H. Turnbull (Bangor, U.K.) Neuropsychoanalysis, 2011, 13 (2) 133.

Also see:

Thomas Fuchs: “Neurobiology and psychotherapy: an emerging dialogue.”

View lecture by Maggie Zellner on neuropsychoanalysis

View lecture by Eric Kandel:

Visit website:

Neuropsychoanalysis: Building a Bridge between Neuroscience and Psychoanalysis>


Charlie Rose Brain Series  (discussion of mental illness with Kay Redfield Jamison, Eric Kandel, and others)

Read selections from Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind.

Inform yourself about the idea of “Biological Reductionism.” How does Kandel interpret this concept?

Mauro Mancia, ed.: Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience (selections).

Eric Kandel: Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and the New Biology of Mind, 2005 (selections).

Mark Solms: The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience, 2012 – chapter on why we have consciousness at all.

For those students interested in the arts and Neuropsychoanalysis:

Eric Kandel: The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present (2012).

Niall McLaren: Kandel’s “New Science of Mind” for Psychiatry and the Limits to Reductionism: A Critical Review in: Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 10, Number 2, 2008.

CLAC: Read:, Das Hirn auf der Couch.

Read article, listen to program, and report back to class on some of the significant developments in Germany.

“Neuropsychoanalyse: Hirnforscher erkunden das Unbewusste”

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