Sigmund Freud Additional Biography

Biography

0111203073-Freud.jpg Sigmund 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.)

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.)

Biography

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.)

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 as a self-contained actor in the moral conflict. By suggesting that personality is a compound of superego, ego, and id, Freud gave writers a way to explore new understandings of self and identity. By describing childhood trauma and interpreting the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, Freud put an end to the myth of family bliss. Readers of novels such as D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913) recognized Freud’s influence in the novel’s depiction of the Oedipal struggle.

Like many writers, Lawrence denied Freud’s influence but read his books. The works of many twentieth century writers were deeply influenced by Freud’s ideas. Freud has also been debunked. For example, few people believe his idea of penis envy. Others complained that a Freudian would make every straight object into a phallic symbol and every round one into a symbol of the womb.

Freud’s greatest influence may be as a writer. He described the eternal struggle of Eros and Thanatos, of love and death. He wrote about the universal parent, adult, and child, which he termed the Superego, ego, and id. A character in J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey (1961) calls Freud a great epic poet. Protagonist in works by Sylvia Plath and Philip Roth voice anxieties in ways that Freud made possible.

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.)