AP NEWS
Related topics

Exhibit Shows Resistance to Freud

July 29, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Toward the end of his life six decades ago, Sigmund Freud said the resistance to his pioneering research into the mysteries of the mind remained ``strong and unrelenting.″

A Library of Congress exhibit opening this fall after years of delay and controversy is proving that resistance is still vigorous.

The very idea of the show _ first proposed more than three years ago _ was assailed by a small army of Freud critics who worried that the exhibit would glorify Freud’s reputation and revive the practice of psychoanalysis.

Even Freud’s granddaughter, psychologist Sophie Freud, contends the validity of some of her grandfather’s theories has changed in the flow of scientific research since his death.

``They should never be cast in cement; only religions say that,″ said Sophie Freud, now 73 and retired as a psychology professor from Simmons College of Social Work in Boston. ``His work is a mixture of amazing leaps into the future with other parts embedded in his own time.″

Library of Congress officials say the exhibit, opening Oct. 15, was never meant to prop up Freud’s scientific reputation or to pump new life into psychoanalysis.

Instead, its aim was to tap the library’s Freud archive _ the largest holding of artifacts and documents in the world _ to show the impact of his thought on 20th century culture, said Michael S. Roth, associate director of the Getty Research Institute and curator of the exhibit.

``Our goal was to show how Freud was taken up by the critics, by fans, by writers, artists, filmmakers, scientists ...,″ Roth said. ``He’s a figure in our century we should think about.″

Freud, treating troubled patients in Vienna beginning at the turn of the century, created the modern field of psychoanalysis, coming up with the theories that the unconscious and traumatic events in early childhood affect a person’s emotions and actions as an adult.

The show will feature 150 books, manuscripts, photos, film clips and other objects from the library’s collection, including a reproduction of Freud’s famous couch.

Some sections are lighthearted: a clip from TV’s animated show ``The Simpsons″ illustrates the impact of Freud’s theory of repression on popular culture. In the clip, Homer Simpson tells his daughter, Lisa, ``The important thing is for your mother to repress what happened, push it deep down inside her, so she’ll never annoy us again.″

But during the extra time afforded by the postponement _ which the library attributes solely to financial reasons, not the controversy _ curator Roth commissioned two essays by Freud critics for the exhibit’s catalogue.

Critics’ had complained since the summer of 1995 that the library needed to ensure that the exhibit reflected research over the last 25 years challenging many of Freud’s conclusions. Fifty scholars of Freud’s work insisted in a petition that the exhibit be widened to ``adequately reflect the full spectrum of informed opinion about the status of Freud’s contribution to intellectual history.″

Many signers say they never sought to cancel the exhibit. But the petition’s organizer, Peter Swale, is more outspoken, calling the entire history of psychoanalysis from 1900 to about 1975 ``a history of hype.″

``There is no scientific basis for Freud’s history of mind,″ Swale said in a recent interview. ``It is a fact that Freud fabricated at least a couple of his case studies.″

Adds Adolf Grunbaum, a University of Pittsburgh professor of the philosophy of science who wrote one of the catalogue’s critical essays: ``There is very little evidence that Freud was right about the causes of neurosis, about how dreams are made and about how we develop from childhood onward.″

Yet despite such ``profoundly flawed″ theories, Grunbaum said there’s no question that ``Freud’s writings have been immensely influential in the culture.″

Sophie Freud, meanwhile, said her grandfather’s dream theory ``that all dreams are wishes has been contradicted. His idea of a woman being a castrated man is just silly.″

Despite that criticism, she said Freud’s theories about the subconscious mind have been not just confirmed but expanded. ``The idea that divided the self into id and ego, I find that a pioneering idea.″

And it’s a gross distortion to say she is an enemy of her grandfather’s work, simply because she questions some of his theories.

``I don’t think that by seeing his ideas in a different light I’m an enemy,″ she said. ``I was very warmly related to my grandfather.″

___

EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lawrence L. Knutson has reported from Washington for The Associated Press for more than 30 years.

AP RADIO
Update hourly