News from Uncle Siggy: Freud’s Ever-Present Influence
In May, Viggo Mortensen, an actor of Danish-Canadian ancestry, will start filming David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” in the role of Sigmund Freud. Gentile actors have frequently played Freud: Max von Sydow in “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (1993); Alec Guinness in “Lovesick” (1983); Montgomery Clift in “Freud” (1962); and Farley Granger in “The Wound Within” (1958). Yet Freud’s Judaism is ever-more prominent in recent books, such as “The Jewish World of Sigmund Freud” and “Freud and Italian Culture” .
The former book is a product of a 2006 Center for Jewish History conference, “Freud’s Jewish World.” One chapter, “The Neue Freie Presse Neurosis,” by Leo Lensing, discusses Freud’s complex dealings with the Austrian Jewish journalist Karl Kraus . Both Kraus and Freud defended the Jewish-born naturalist Theodor Beer (1866-1919), who was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1905, but the two differed on the merits of psychoanalysis. In 1913, Kraus coined the satiric term “Freudknaben,” a pun in German which means, Lensing explains, “both ‘Freud’s boys’ and ‘boy prostitutes.’”
Harold Blum’s chapter, “Antisemitism in Freud’s Case Histories,” notes that Ida Bauer , who Freud called by the pseudonym Dora in his “Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria,” was exposed to antisemitism at a Catholic convent school. This experience, unmentioned by Freud in his study, likely played a role in her later neuroses. Citing the context of the antisemitic blood libel of the Hilsner Affair circa 1900, involving the Bohemian Jew Leopold Hilsner , Blum places Freud’s Dora text amidst “literature on the pre-history of the Holocaust.”
“Freud and Italian Culture” adds further fascinating insights into Freud’s influence on Italian Jewish intellectuals like the author Italo Svevo , born Aron Ettore Schmitz; the analyst Edoardo Weiss ; poet Umberto Saba ; painter Arturo Nathan ; and in our own day, author Giorgio Pressburger . “The Anguish of Assimilation: the Case of Italo Svevo,” a chapter by Elizabeth Schächter , contrasts Freud’s response to antisemitism, which “strengthened his Jewish identity and his capacity to withstand hostility,” and that of Svevo/Schmitz, the “kind of Jew who wishes to remain hidden.”
Listen to Freud speak in English on BBC Radio in 1938 here .