Sigmund Freud, thankfully, has made the graceful transition from demi-god of mind science to literary totem. For this, we can be thankful: Freud's ideas are appalling science, but (along with the dreams of his patients) makes for fascinating, vivid literature.
Consider his patient Sergei Pankejeff, dubbed 'The Wolf Man' by Freud. The image above is a drawing of Sergei's recurring dream: hearing cacophonous howling outside his window, Sergei crept to the glass, only to see a thousand wolves perched like lithe, light sparrows on the outstretched branches of a dead tree. They stared in at him accusingly with shimmering eyes.
In the latest episode of the Philosophers Zone, host Alan Saunders interviewed Lawrence Johnson, author of The Wolf Man's Burden, about Freud's theories of Sergei Pankejeff. The common sense interpretation of Sergei's dream is that, at the time, children who were born cowled were thought to be lycanthropes, and both Sergei and Freud were born with cowls. Freud, on the other hand, believed the dream stemmed from an experience Sergei had at 18 months, witnessing his mother and father having sex. Johnson makes an excellent case that although Freud's diagnosis was wildly improbable, it wa an important point Freud needed to make about infantile sexuality to separate from his rivals, including Jung and Adler.
"Freud needed in some sense to have a case that proved the point, and so the Wolf Man was it." The entire show is fascinating background listening, but there's also a transcript if you want to skim the interview.
Who Was The Wolf Man? [The Philosopher's Zone]
Description: Since its inception in 1983, Representations has been hailed as the best journal in interdisciplinary studies. Now in its 17th year of publication, the journal remains at the forefront of innovative scholarship in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. Edited by an outstanding group of scholars, Representations publishes trend-setting articles in a wide variety of fields - literature, history, art history, anthropology, and social theory - as well as special, single-theme issues that attempt to define and bring into focus the pressing intellectual issues of our time. Each issue of Representations captures pivotal developments in a surprising variety of fields and makes them available to a wide community of readers.
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