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Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis


Freud delivered his Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis in September 1909 at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. He had been invited by Stanford Hall in honor of the university's twentieth anniversary. He was accompanied by Carl Gustav Jung, Sándor Ferenczi, and Ernest Jones. Upon their arrival in New York, he was welcomed by Abraham Arden Brill. These lectures were a key moment for the recognition and dissemination of psychoanalysis on an international level. Freud delivered these five lectures in German, without notes, and wrote them up later.

The text was published in English in the American Journal of Psychology in 1910. The work went through eight editions in German, and it was translated into ten languages. In the course of these lectures, Freud first revealed Josef Breuer's role in the discovery of psychoanalysis. Freud recapitulated the case of a young girl (Anna O.) who was suffering from conversion hysteria and whom Breuer had treated. Freud described how catharsis (remembering traumatic events and their attendant affects under hypnosis) suppressed Anna's symptoms. But he quickly abandoned this technique. Research on hysteria being carried out at the same time by Jean Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet, in Paris, and Hippolyte Bernheim, in Nancy, allowed Freud to confirm his own theory. He discerned that a symptom is a disguised form of conflict between the conscious and the unconscious, provoked by incompatible desires, and he discovered the phenomena of resistance and repression.

Next Freud explained the basis for psychoanalytic technique: free association and the interpretation of slips of the tongue and, in particular, dreams, which he called "the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious." Making use of free association, the analyst identifies the latent content hidden behind dreams' manifest content (the actualization of hidden repressed desires) and the processes of condensation and displacement that are an obstacle to understanding the repressed desires.

Freud then approached the central issues of infantile sexuality, the Oedipus complex, and the sexual origins of neurosis. He showed the existence of transference by noting that in the relationship with the analyst, the patient relives old affects and repressed desires that have become unconscious and are returned to consciousness under the influence of transference. Finally, Freud refuted objections against psychoanalysis stemming from the fear that the liberation of repressed desires might endanger morality and social life. He believed that psychoanalysis, by bringing these desires back into consciousness, enabled people to accept and master themor better yet, sublimate them.

These five lectures, written in a simple, lively style and filled with anecdotes, describe the origins of psychoanalysis and the trajectory of Freud's thinking up until the end of 1909.

MaÏtÉ Klahr and Claudie Millot

See also: Clark University.

Source Citation

Freud, Sigmund. (1910a [1909]). Five lectures on psychoanalysis. SE, 11: 7-55.


Jones, Ernest. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work. London: Hogarth.

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