Freud on Women: A Reader by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (ed) - review by Christopher Wood

Christopher Wood

Freud’s Fallacies

Freud on Women: A Reader


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Woman, for Freud, was a problem he never completely felt he had cracked. Towards the end of his life, he declared, shoulder-shrugging:

'That is all I have to say to you about femininity. It is certainly incomplete and fragmentary and does not always sound friendly ... If you want to know more about femininity, enquire of you own experiences of life, or turn to the poets, or wait until science can give you deeper and more coherent information.'

Freud cannot have believed this would still the voices raging over his analysis of female sexuality, and indeed it did not.

Peter Gay, in his recent biography, expresses the popular view when he attributes Freud's attitudes to women to 'cultural conservatism' and his 'Victorian style'. This anthology to an extent backs him up: citing 'acuteness of comprehension' and 'lucid objectivity' as masculine qualities shows much unquestioning conservatism, and is not untypical

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