Sigmund Freud Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111203073-Freud.jpgSigmund Freud Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Sigmund Freud (froyd) is undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century; the concept of the individual would be unthinkable without his psychological analyses of the self. Freud was the son of a wool merchant; the family moved to Vienna when he was four years old. He began studying medicine at the University of Vienna in 1873 but never intended to be a practicing physician, wanting instead to be a research scientist. He graduated in 1881 with a specialty in neurology, but because of Vienna’s anti-Semitism (which would have made a university career difficult), he established a medical practice for the treatment of patients with nervous disorders. Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886, and they had six children. When the Nazis came to power in the 1930’s Freud left Vienna and emigrated to London, where he died in 1939 at the age of eighty-three.

From 1885 to 1886 Freud studied in Paris with the French doctor Jean Charcot, who was having some success using hypnosis as a method of treatment. The Viennese physician Joseph Breuer used a form of talk therapy to treat the disorder of hysteria, and Freud adapted these techniques to his practice. Through analyses of his patients’ speech in free association, Freud gradually came to recognize the existence of an unconscious mind that appeared to be the repository of psychic conflict. These conflicts—which he believed were rooted in sexual trauma—seemed to be expressed, in veiled fashion, through the structure of dreams. A combination of these methods led him to posit the functions of the unconscious self and to devise a method of treatment—called psychoanalysis—that sought to resolve the mental disorders that plagued his patients. The Interpretation of Dreams was his first major work, in which he described, through case studies and analyses of his own dreams, the dream processes of condensation and displacement through which the unconscious was expressed. The scientific...

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Sigmund Freud Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brunner, José. Freud: The Politics of Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995. Examines the influence of political thought in the development of psychoanalysis.

Clark, Ronald W. Freud: The Man and the Cause, a Biography. New York: Random House, 1980. A very readable biography, which is especially good in its treatment of Sigmund Freud’s private life.

Fine, Reuben. The History of Psychoanalysis. New York: Continuum, 1990. Traces the development of psychoanalysis and Freud’s pivotal role in it.

Frankland, Graham. Freud’s Literary Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. A study that argues for the influence of literary themes on the development of Freud’s thinking.

Fromm, Erich. Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought. New York: Harper & Row, 1980. This is a critique of Freud by a dissenting psychoanalyst. Fromm believed that Freud exaggerated the role of sex in determining human behavior and that Freud’s concept of love was narrow and self-serving.

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: W. W. Norton, 1988. Gay is a historian of distinguished reputation. In this artfully written and exhaustively researched biography, he employs the psychohistorical technique to shed additional light on Freud’s personality, his relations with his associates, and his career as the creator and propagator of psychoanalysis.

Grubrich-Simitis, Ilse. Back to Freud’s Texts: Making Silent Documents Speak. Translated by Philip Slotkin. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996. This important contribution to the study of Freud offers understanding of the man as a writer as well as insight into Freud’s creative process. The text details the history of Freud’s German-language publications and examines key works.

Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. New York: Basic Books, 1981. A thorough biography. Jones’s deep knowledge of Freud and his circle remains unmatched, but his worshipful attitude toward his subject precludes objective criticism.

Osborne, Richard. Freud for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, 1993.

Rosenzweig, Saul. Freud, Jung, and Hall the King Maker: The Historical Expedition to America. St. Louis: Rana House, 1993. Rosenzweig describes Freud’s only visit to the United States in 1909. The 1909 expedition was important because it introduced Americans to the theory and development of psychoanalysis and allowed Freud to interact with Carl Gustav Jung, and G. Stanley Hall, the organizer of the visit. Text includes completed correspondence between Freud and Hall.

Sigmund Freud Biography (Survey of World Philosophers)

0111203073-Freud.jpgSigmund Freud (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis and as such has had a tremendous impact on contemporary thought and popular culture by baring the irrational and subconscious roots of much human action.

Early Life

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, a small Moravian town within the Austrian Empire. The infant, who was named Sigismund Schlomo, was the son of a somewhat ineffectual and rather poor, nonreligious Jewish wool merchant, Jacob Freud, and his young and energetic third wife, Amalia Nathansohn. Young Freud had two half brothers, who were older than his mother, and a nephew, simultaneously his best friend and archrival, who was his senior by a year. Freud’s later recall of his ambivalent feelings toward these relationships within his family served as the basis for the discovery and elaboration of many of his psychoanalytic theories.

In 1860, Freud’s family, after a brief stay in Leipzig, settled in Leopoldstadt, the old Jewish section of Vienna. There, the family’s poverty was exacerbated by the birth of seven children between 1857 and 1866. Such hardships in Vienna, in contrast to romantic memories of Freiberg, left in Freud an ambivalence toward the city, which he loved but in which he never felt comfortable. The period of liberal ascendancy in Vienna, which accompanied his youth and early adulthood, was both a stimulation and an encouragement. Despite the family’s relative poverty, Freud, always the favorite of whom great things were expected, was pampered. By the time Freud entered the University of Vienna in 1873 to study medicine, his family’s fortunes had improved.

Freud began his university studies shortly after a stock market crash. In the wave of anti-Semitism that followed the collapse, Freud, although intensely antireligious, became acutely aware of his own Jewishness, an experience that prompted the development of a critical independence. Freud was drawn to medicine as a means of channeling his insatiable curiosity and love of nature along more empirical and less speculative lines. The normal five-year course was extended by Freud’s broad curiosity and fascination for research, and he did not receive his degree until 1881. Among the most influential of his professors was the physiologist Ernst Brücke, a positivist who aspired to a complete understanding of humankind through scientific investigation.

Freud spent another year in Brücke’s laboratory before taking a junior position at Vienna’s General Hospital to gain the clinical experience necessary for a medical practice. The compelling reason for Freud’s beginning his practical career was the twenty-one-year-old daughter of a prominent Hamburg Jewish family, Martha Bernays, whom he met in April, 1882, and to whom he became engaged in June. In October, 1885, Freud went to Paris for several months to study under Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière Clinic. Freud was strongly influenced by the personality and skill of Charcot, who indicated the psychological rather than organic origins of hysteria and demonstrated the therapeutic value of hypnosis. It was Charcot who nudged Freud down the path, which had already attracted him, to psychology. A particular legacy of Charcot was a dedication to theory rooted in observable facts.

Life’s Work

In April, 1886, Freud, having returned to Vienna, established his private medical practice and, in September, married Bernays. The first of six children was born in October, 1887. Dissatisfied with the results of hypnosis in the treatment of his neurotic patients and influenced by his friend and mentor Josef Breuer, Freud turned to the “talking cure” as a means of evoking a catharsis in his patients. In 1895, Freud and Breuer published Studien über Hysterie (Studies in Hysteria, 1936), the founding statement of psychoanalysis, in which they described their success with this technique.

Freud’s professional and personal relationship with Breuer was ruptured, as were those with a number of subsequent associates, because of theoretical and personal differences. By the mid-1890’s, Freud was convinced that problems in sexual development were the dominant factor in neuroses. He particularly emphasized the importance of infantile sexuality and what he called the Oedipus complex. Although he rejected his earlier belief that neuroses were rooted in the...

(The entire section is 1815 words.)

Sigmund Freud Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis and as such has had a tremendous impact upon contemporary thought and popular culture by baring the irrational and subconscious roots of much human action.

Early Life

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, a small Moravian town within the Austrian Empire. The infant, who was named Sigismund Schlomo, was the son of a somewhat ineffectual and rather poor, nonreligious Jewish wool merchant, Jacob Freud, and his young and energetic third wife, Amalia Nathansohn. Young Freud had two half brothers, who were older than his mother, and a nephew, simultaneously his best friend and archrival, who was his senior by a year....

(The entire section is 1966 words.)

Sigmund Freud Biography (Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Sigismund Solomon Freud was born into a Jewish family in Freiberg, Moravia, on May 6, 1856. His father, Jacob, was a wool merchant, and his...

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Sigmund Freud Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Sigmund Freud had three public personas. There was Freud the scientist, a neurologist who predicted the development of drugs to treat mental illness. There was Freud the founder of psychoanalysis—he coined the term—who developed the talking cure for patients he could not treat with traditional medicine. Finally, there was Freud the writer, whose brilliant prose turned case histories into compelling detective stories.

Freud first influenced writers and readers of literature as a theorist of the psyche, who offered insight into the meaning of dreams, the association of ideas, and the conflicts within the family and the self. Freud offered these insights at a time when writers questioned the older sense of character...

(The entire section is 337 words.)

Sigmund Freud Biography (Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

Although Sigmund Freud has had a powerful impact on the field of ethics, he did not initially set out to study moral questions. Freud’s original interest was medical research, and he was trained in Vienna as a physician. Financial constraints, however, forced Freud to abandon his chief interest in pure research, and he began to practice during the 1880’s as a neurologist. In 1884, Freud was introduced to Josef Breuer, a Viennese physician, who had developed a “cathartic” method for the treatment of hysterical symptoms. This method involved encouraging patients to talk in a completely free and unencumbered manner about the development of their symptoms. The talking alone seemed to produce a...

(The entire section is 1200 words.)