Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud

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This was the title given by James Strachey in 1948, and adopted by the British Psycho-Analytical Society Memorial Appeal, to the English translation of all of Freud's psychoanalytic works. In accordance with Freud's wishes, the Standard Edition does not include Freud's prepsychoanalytic work as a neurologist.

The Standard Edition, which consists of twenty-four volumes published between 1943 and 1974, was prepared by James Strachey and his wife, Alix, with the collaboration and supervision of Anna Freud and the help of Alan Tyson. The twenty-fourth volume of the Standard Edition, which includes the "General indexes" and the "Addenda and corrections," was edited and published in 1974 by Angela Richards, a collaborator of the late James Strachey. In addition to the English translation, the Standard Edition also contains "Notes on some technical terms whose translation calls for comment," edited by Strachey, who made use of the old Glossary of Psychoanalytical Terms, published in 1924 and edited by Ernest Jones, and of Alix Strachey's New German-English Psychoanalytical Vocabulary, published in 1943. Furthermore, the Standard Edition has a considerable editorial apparatus: the introduction to each work of Freud's establishes its various dates of publication in German, English, or other languages; the context in which the text has to be read, in terms of the progression of Freud's work; the links that can be made with Freud's earlier and later work; and all the additions or deletions Freud made if a specific text, such as The Interpretation of Dreams, had more than one edition in German. In some instances, Strachey and his coworkers tried to check the various German editions of each text, and Strachey also added explanatory and informative notes at the end of each of the texts that he and his colleagues translated.

One of the main organizational problems of the Standard Edition concerned the rights of translation into English, which Freud had given to his nephew Edward Bernays and to Abraham Arden Brill in America. For decades this made Strachey's task of a systematic translation of Freud's work impossible. For instance, only as late as 1949 was Strachey able to retranslate The Interpretation of Dreams.

Ernest Jones first conceived of the project of preparing a standard edition of Freud's work in English in the early 1920s (Steiner, 1989). Together with Abraham A. Brill, he had already translated many of Freud's technical terms into English when he was in America at the beginning of the twentieth century (Steiner, 1987). He sent James Strachey and his wife and then Joan Riviere and John Rickman to Vienna to be analyzed by Freud, with the added intention of creating a team of translators who could then systematically translate Freud into English and take over the leadership of Freud's translations from Abraham Brill. The result of those first systematic attempts were the first four volumes of Freud's Collected Papers, which were translated by the Stracheys, Joan Riviere, and others, often under the supervision of Jones, and were published in the 1920s and 1930s in London. It is important to remember this, since there is a clear line of continuity between the translations done by Jones and his group of translators in the 1920s and 1930s and the Standard Edition. Strachey did not make many changes to the Glossary of Psychoanalytical Terms, published in 1924 for translators and edited by Ernest Jones, which already contained translations for the most famous and questionable technical terms: "ego" for "Ich," "superego" for "Über-Ich," "instinct" for "Trieb," and so on. To Strachey in particular are attributed the translations of "cathexis" for "Besetzung" (a term, incidentally, also accepted by Freud) and "anaclitic" for "Anlehnung." All four volumes of the Collected Papers were republished in the Standard Edition, with corrections and improvements; apart from the papers on metapsychology, which had been badly translated, Strachey did not make many alterations to the translations done in the 1920s.

The Standard Edition reflects not only the personal idiosyncrasies of the Stracheys but also Jones's project to create in English a scientific Freud acceptable to the medical and scientific psychiatric establishment. Although Jones and the Stracheys in the 1920s disagreed on many aspects of how to translate Freud (Meizel, 1986) Jones and James Strachey consulted each other constantly on technical and interpretative matters even during the 1950s, when they were working on the biography of Freud and on the Standard Edition. The supervision of the translation was also important, particularly by Anna Freud. Like any other translation, the Standard Edition bears the marks of the cultural context in which it was conceived; the complex political, institutional, and financial pressures that surrounded this colossal enterprise; and the personalities and ageing of the translators, James and Alix Strachey. Among the shortcomings of the Standard Edition were that Freud's polysemous, elegant, and expressive literary vocabulary and style were at times excessively stifled and rendered scientific, and that its editorial apparatus was inevitably restricted by the information, documents, personal letters, and notes of Freud's life and work available at that time. Yet there is no doubt that the Standard Edition constitutes a unique and irreplaceable instrument for the study of Freud. Perhaps one of the most amazing achievements of the Standard Edition is that other translations and editions of Freud's work depended on the Standard Edition rather than on the original German texts.

Riccardo Steiner

See also: British Psycho-Analytical Society; Great Britain; Second World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis; Hogarth Press; Jones, Ernest; Ego; Scoptophilia/scopophilia; Strachey, James Beaumont; Strachey-Sargent, Alix; Studienausgabe .


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Ornston, Darius Gray. (1992). Improving Strachey's Freud. In Darius Gray Ornston (Ed.), Translating Freud. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud

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