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Freud's Objects

ENGL 095.401
also offered as: GRMN 254, COML 252
MWF 11

How do we look at objects? And which stories can objects tell? These are questions that have been asked quite regularly by Art Historians or Museum Curators, but they take a central place within the context of psychoanalytic studies as well. The seminar “Freud’s Objects” will offer an introduction to Sigmund Freud’s life and times, as well as to psychoanalytic studies. We will focus on objects owned by Freud that he imbued with special significance, and on of Freud’s writings that focus on specific objects. Finally, we will deal with a re-interpretation of the “object” in psychoanalytic theory, via a discussion of texts by British psychoanalysts such as Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott.


The course will meet twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday, for lectures and discussion. In a third weekly session on Fridays, we will take the seminar on the road, and connect via zoom with curators and directors at the Freud Museums in Vienna (Monika Pessler, Daniela Finzi) and London (Carol Seigel), with the Director of the Freud Archives in Washington, D.C. (Louis Rose), with art historians and classicists both in the United States and Europe, and with psychoanalysts from the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. This way, the course hopes to take advantage of the on-line format that we will probably have to adopt in the Spring still (should in-person teaching be possible in the Spring already, we can connect with international scholars in the lecture room).


The course requirements will consist of two short papers, due midterm and at the end of the semester, participation in on-line discussion forum, and participation in synchronic sessions. The lectures and Friday discussions will be recorded, and the recordings placed on Canvas.


The Canvas site will also offer readings for the course, images, and brief films. The material will relate to the objects under discussion and their history, to the conservation of objects, and (if appropriate) placement in museums. A choice of Freud’s writings will be put on line as well.  In addition, readings for the entire course will include:


Lynn Gamwell and Richard Wells (Eds.), Sigmund Freud and Art: His Personal Collection of Antiquities. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989.


Janine Burke, The Sphinx on the Table. Sigmund Freud's Art Collection and the Development of Psychoanalysis. London: Walker Books, 2006.

Daniela Finzi and Monika Pessler (Eds.), Freud: The Origin of Psychoanalysis: IX. Vienna, Berggasse 19. Berlin: Hatje Cranz, 2020.

In German:

Lydia Marinelli (Ed.), Meine ... alten und dreckigen Götter: Aus Sigmund Freuds Sammlung. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Freud-Museum Wien. Frankfurt/M: Stroemfeld /Roter Stern, 1998.


Lydia Marinelli, Die Couch. Vom Denken im Liegen. München: Prestel, 2006.

Lothar Müller, Freuds Dinge: Der Diwan, die Apollokerzen & die Seele im technischen Zeitalter. Berlin. Die andere Bibliothek, 2019.

Additional essays will be added on canvas for each session.



fulfills requirements