Psychoanalyse des Névroses et des Psychoses, La

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La psychoanalyse des névroses et des psychoses (The psychoanalysis of neuroses and psychoses), by Emmanuel Régis and Angélo Hesnard, was the first book on psychoanalysis ever published in French. Prior to its publication, Freud mentioned it in a letter to Karl Abraham dated January 2, 1912: "Today I received a letter from a pupil of Régis at Bordeaux written on his behalf apologizing in the name of French psychiatry for its neglect of psycho-analysis and announcing his willingness to publish a long paper about it in Encéphale " (Freud and Abraham, 1965, p. 111). To Ernest Jones he wrote more specifically twelve days later: "There is some stir in France even now, another man Hesnard a pupil of Régis at Bordeaux presenting in the name of his master to me 'the excuses of the French nation' for so continued a slighting and declaring himself prone to work for YA [psychoanalysis] in the French papers" (Freud and Jones, 1993, p. 126)

Régis and Hesnard published two articles in L'encéphale in April and June 1913 on "the doctrine of Freud and his school" (1913a; 1913b). They were introduced as follows: "Freud's system, whatever may be said of it, seems to constitute one of the most important scientific movements of our psychological times. Irrespective of whether its renown, now worldwide, is justified or not, we must surely be shocked and rightly so, that this system is almost completely unknown in our country."

Régis and Hesnard's book recapitulated and expanded on the two articles. Based on a reading of Freud and written with the collaboration of Oswald Hesnard, Germanist and brother of Angélo, the book presented the basics of Freudian theories as faithfully as possible at the time. The authors were very clear in their preface, dated May 1, 1914: "Possibly some will be shocked to see this popularization of a German theory that is at once so widely endorsed, so contested, and in certain ways so foreign, undertaken by French psychiatrists who are far from partial to the current fashion for German science. There is no cause for surprise, however. It is one thing not to accept blindly whatever comes from outside, another to ignore or misunderstand it. Impartiality and independence regarding what comes from elsewhere should not turn into xenophobia."

The first part of the work ("The Theory of Psychoanalysis") has six chapters: "Description and History of Psychoanalysis," "The Dynamic Psychology of Freud," "The Sexual Theory of Freud," "The Morbid Sexual Constitution," "The Technique of Psychoanalysis, Dream Analysis," and "The Psychoanalysis of Associations of Ideas and Daily Life" (titles are translated from the French).

The second part ("Applications of Psychoanalysis") has five chapters: "Extramedical Applications of Psychoanalysis," "The Psychoanalysis of Neuroses," "The Psychoanalysis of Psychoses," "The Therapeutic Role of Psychoanalysis," and "The Critique of Psychoanalysis." There followed a bibliography listing the works of Freud, various books and articles in French, and some non-French works on psychoanalysis.

Sándor Ferenczi (1915) quickly recognized the significance of the book, but nevertheless found serious fault in it because it lacked the notion of the unconscious and repeated throughout the error of deriving almost all emotional tendencies from the sexual instinct. Ferenczi also challenged the judgments of the last chapter, which he correctly attributed to Régis. He vigorously stated his objections: the book lacks scientific value; it depends on "mystical concepts" and "teleological conceptions" that are more philosophical than medical; and it bases psychoanalysis on "ingenious hypotheses" and "fragile, uncertain techniques" whose "symbolic interpretation is sometimes an insult to common sense."

One statement from Régis and Hesnard's book served as a leitmotif for a good number of authors in the decades that followed: "Freud's method and conceptions are based on those of Janet, by whom, it seems, he was constantly inspired. Changing Janet's 'psychological analysis' to 'psychoanalysis' changed nothing as far as the method common to both students of Charcot was concerned." For his part, Freud, in his "On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement" (1914d), merely noted, "Régis and Hesnard (Bordeaux) have recently [in 1913] attempted to disperse the prejudices of their countrymen against the new ideas by an exhaustive presentation, which, however, is not always understanding and takes special exception to symbolism" (p. 32). Freud never forgave Hesnard for his ambivalence, which he let pass only around 1926, and then only partially.

The First World War put an end to any serious discussion in France about psychoanalysis, and hence Régis and Hesnard's work, until 1920 (an exception being André Breton's discovery of Freud in 1916). Régis died in 1918, and Hesnard alone was responsible for the new edition of 1922, where he wrote, "Science without scientific nationalism can be neither alive or fruitful. Freud's teaching, which derives not, as has been claimed, from the French genius of Charcot, but rather from Germanic philosophy could have no more deniable adversary than moderation, a trait of Latin genius, from one point of view of the search for truth." Freud did not much appreciate this remark, and four years later he spoke sarcastically to René Laforgue about such "bowing and scraping before Latin genius."

In the third edition, appearing in 1929, Hesnard revealed that the chapter critical of psychoanalysis had been written by Régis, even if Hesnard had agreed at the time. "At present," Hesnard added, "with the benefit of five years of daily experience of it, we are in a better position to confirm the great value and significance of psychoanalysis. It is a therapeuticand especially an exploratorymethod that is indisputably superior to all others, in this, despite the drawbacks, it inevitably shares with all 'heroic treatments."'

Alain de Mijolla

See also: France; Hesnard, Angélo Louis Marie; Régis, Emmanuel Jean-Baptiste Joseph.

Source Citation

Régis, Emmanuel, and Hesnard, Angélo. (1914). La psychoanalyse des névroses et des psychoses: Ses applications médicales et extramédicales. Paris: Alcan.


Ferenczi, Sándor. (1915). Die psychiatrische schule von Bordeaux über die psychoanalyse. Internazionale Zeitschrift für Artzliche Psychoanalyse, 3, 352-369.

Freud, Sigmund. (1914d). On the history of the psychoanalytic movement. SE, 14: 1-66.

Freud, Sigmund, and Abraham, Karl. (1965). A psycho-analytic dialogue: The letters of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907-1926 (Bernard Marsh and Hilda C. Abraham, Trans.). New York: Basic Books.

Freud, Sigmund, and Jones, Ernest. (1993 [1908-1939]). The complete correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908-1939. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Hesnard-Félix, Edith. (1984). Le Dr. Hesnard et la naissance de la psychanalyse en France. Doctoral thesis, University of Paris I.

Régis, Emmanuel, and Hesnard, Angélo. (1913a). La doctrine de Freud et de sonécole (1re partie). Encéphale, 8, 356-378.

Régis, Emmanuel, and Hesnard, Angélo. (1913b). La doctrine de Freud et de sonécole (suite et fin). Encéphale, 8, 537-564.

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Psychoanalyse des Névroses et des Psychoses, La

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