What, I wonder, would Sigmund Freud have made of Hannibal Lector? The fictional psychoanalyst, so sophisticated and in control, moonlighting as a bloodthirsty cannibal… a perfectly grim rejoinder to Freud’s ideas about humankind’s perpetual discontent with the painful repression of our darkest, most antisocial drives. While Freud’s primary taboo was incest, not cannibalism, I’m sure he would have appreciated the irony of an ultra-civilized psychiatrist who gives full steam to his most primal urges.
Freud—who was born on this day in 1856, in the small town of Freiberg—also had a carefully controlled image, though his passionate avocation was not for the macabre, salacious, or prurient, but for the archaeological. He once remarked that he read more on that subject than on his own, an exaggeration, most likely, but an indication of just how much his interest in cultural artifacts and ritual contributed to his theoretical explication of individual and social psychology.
In the film above, we see Freud in conversation with a friend, a professor of archaeology, whom the psychiatrist consulted on his extensive collection of antiquities. Later, we see Freud with his dog, then reclining outdoors with a book. Over this footage we hear the narration of Freud’s daughter Anna, who only allowed this film to be viewed by a small circle until her death in 1982.
Though Freud lived many decades into the era of recording technology, precious little film and audio of the founder of psychoanalysis exists. While the home movies at the top may be the only moving image of him, perhaps the only audio recording of his voice, above, was made in 1938, the year before his death. At 81 years old, Freud’s advanced jaw cancer left him in considerable torment. Nonetheless, he agreed to record this brief message for the BBC from his London home in Maresfield Gardens. Read a transcript of the speech, and see Freud’s handwritten copy, below.
I started my professional activity as a neurologist trying to bring relief to my neurotic patients. Under the influence of an older friend and by my own efforts, I discovered some important new facts about the unconscious in psychic life, the role of instinctual urges, and so on. Out of these findings grew a new science, psychoanalysis, a part of psychology, and a new method of treatment of the neuroses. I had to pay heavily for this bit of good luck. People did not believe in my facts and thought my theories unsavory. Resistance was strong and unrelenting. In the end I succeeded in acquiring pupils and building up an International Psychoanalytic Association. But the struggle is not yet over. –Sigmund Freud.
The Library of Congress online exhibit Sigmund Freud: Conflict & Culture has many more primary documents including a holograph page from Freud’s manuscript of Civilization and its Discontents, in which he theorized the bedrock impulse of serial killers, fictional and real: the so-called “Death Drive,” our “human instinct of aggression and self-destruction.”
Many important texts by Freud can be found in our collection, 600 Free eBooks for the iPad, Kindle & Other Devices. And you’ll inevitably find a few courses covering Freud’s thought in our collection of Free Online Psychology Courses, part of our list of 950 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.
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Download Sigmund Freud’s Great Works as Free eBooks & Free Audio Books: A Digital Celebration on His 160th Birthday
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.
I notice that in his handwritten script, Freud plans to end with “a short sentence in German,” but in the end must have decided against it..
The missing sentence appears to be on this version of the recording: http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/sites/default/files/bbceng.mp3
Missing sentence(s): Im Alter von 82 Jahren verließ ich infolge der deutschen Invasion mein Heim in Wien und kam nach England, wo ich mein Leben in Freiheit zu Enden hoffe. My name is Sigmund Freud.
[please correct if not exactly right]
Freud has been debunked, yet the apparatus that defends him persists. Why do his ideas endure?