There is no Freud scholarship without a transference onto Freud.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon's the mystery of things,As if we were God's spies…
Spring, 1999. A decade ago I wrote a paper on Freud's unpublished five year (1895-1900) treatment of a male hysteric, which I constructed as an origin tale of psychoanalysis in transition from positivist-etiological to transferential-narratological discipline. I've been realizing these past months that it's time to attempt a telling of another, more troubling, latent story from Freud's couch: his four year "treatment" of his daughter Anna. I heard one of the (counter)transferentially loaded versions of this therapy -- by analyst/English prof. Patrick Mahoney -- at a conference on Freud in Toronto in 1990 (Mahoney, 1992). I was moved and angered by Mahoney's parable of Anna's transformation on her father's couch from jealous, depressed, masochistic, anorectic, latent-homosexual teenager to the paragon of Freud-guarding 'altruistic surrender' she became in the last years of her father's life. Mahoney points to the richly overdetermined meanings of Anna for Sigmund Freud as Cordelia/Antigone, a hedge against personal mortality and professional defection as Freud’s “metapsychological” papers of the nineteen-teens beget the troubling gender and death theories of the early 20s. In Mahoney’s account Anna is shaped by her father in the image of a goddess, an uncanny virgin who assuages her father’s pain and prepares him for the under-world even as she takes over his legacy in this one -- Antigone to his Oedipus, Cordelia to his Lear. Like Cordelia, she finally has her mad father’s love; and he (as, for 16 years, she ministers to his cancerous mouth), the maternal/pre-oedipal love so long sought. In contrast to the compelling and disturbing story Mahoney told, Elizabeth Young-Bruehl's biography, by far the richest source of information about Anna's life and the basis for Mahoney's treament, seemed to me to pull its punches, to skirt issues of Anna's sexuality as a teen-ager, and her (a)sexuality as an adult. For my purposes here, the key biographical datum is Anna's notes on a dream she had after her father's death, while she was caring for children separated from their parents by the London Blitz. D.M. Thomas's appropriation of the Sigmund-Anna relationship for a chapter of his novel, Eating Pavlova, constructs the erotic fantasies a dying Freud might have had about his daughter's love of him, and his of her. Young-Bruehl, Mahoney, and Thomas spin their three Annas around the same relationship, and somewhere in the middle, I imagine, we might get a glimpse of the lost girl who is all these women, and none.Anna's fate has seemed to me to complement and fulfill her father's, in the double-tragedy that is the origin tale of psychoanalysis. My own complex relationship to this story became apparent as I compared my reactions to the Young-Bruehl, the Mahoney, and the Thomas tellings of the story of Anna.
Anna was the sixth and last of the children born to Martha and Sigmund Freud. She was born late in 1895, the year of Freud and Breuer published Studies on Hysteria, the year Wilhelm Fliess operated on Emma Eckstein. Her conception seems to have resulted from a failure either of her parents’ contraceptive technique or their resolve to employ it; and she took form along with Freud’s hermeneutic in the summer of the “Irma” dream. Her childish speech is quoted by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams, where he describes her expressing her longing for strawberries. She admired and envied her two older sisters, Mathilde and Sophie, lacking the former’s feminine home-craft and the latter’s beauty. She seems to have been a serious girl, but she remembered her father's characterization of her as his "Little blackamoor." In early adolescence she developed a severe psychopathology, consisting of sado-masochistic fantasies accompanied by compulsive masturbation, an eating disorder, and depression. Her father treated her with a several points in her adolescence, and initiated regular psychoanalytic sessions in the fall of 918, when she was approaching 23. She and her father reconstructed her fantsies in three phases, from the masturbatory beating fantasies of puberty to the 'nice stories' of her mid-teens and finally the poetry and romantic fiction she composed as a young adult. As both youth and adult, Anna found herself ugly, clumsy, dumm, especially when the adolescent “nice stories,” with their tortured, princely, self-sacrificing youth would intrude on her sublimated analytic work, entice her back to the body’s demands, and she would give in to sado-machochistic fantasy, and to lust. In her own analysis of the beating fantasies, presented as her candidacy paper to the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society in 1922, Anna tells her "nice story" fantasy as follows, referring to herself in the third person as befits a case history:
The material she used in this story was as follows: A medieval knight has been engaged in a long feud with a number of nobles who are in league against him. In the course of a battle a fifteen-year-old noble youth (i.e., the age of the daydreamer) is captured by the knight's henchmen. He is taken to the knight's castle where he is held prisoner for a long time. Finally, he is released.
Instead of spinning out and continuing the tale (as in a novel published in installments), the girl made use of the plot as a sort of outer frame for her daydream. Into this frame she inserted a variety of minor and major episodes, each a completed tale that was entirely independent of the others, and formed exactly like a real novel, containing an introduction, the development of a plot which leads to heightened tension and ultimately to a climax. In this she did not feel bound to workout a logical sequence of events. Depending on her mood she could revert to an earlier or later-occurring phase of the tale, or interpose a new situation between two already completed and contemporaneous scenes-until finally the frame of her stories was in danger of being shattered by the abundance of scenes and situations accommodated within it.
In this daydream, which was the simplest of them all, there were only two figures that were really important; all the others can be disregarded as incidental and subordinate by-players. One of these main figures is the noble youth whom the daydreamer has endowed with all possible good and attractive characteristics; the other one is the knight of the castle who is depicted as sinister and violent. The opposition between the two is further intensified by the addition of several incidents from their past family histories -- so that the whole setting is one of apparently irreconcilable antagonism between one who is strong and mighty and another who is weak and in the power of the former.
A great introductory scene describes their first meeting during which the knight threatens to put the prisoner on the rack to force him to betray his secrets. The youth’s conviction of his helplessness is thereby confirmed and his dread of the knight awakened. These two elements are the basis of all subsequent situations. For example, the knight in fact threatens the youth and makes ready to torture him, but at the last moment the knight desists. He nearly kills the youth through the long imprisonment, but just before it is too late the knight has him nursed back to health. As soon as the prisoner has recovered the knight threatens him again, but faced by the youth's fortitude the knight spares him again. And every time the knight is just about to inflict great harm, he grants the youth one favor after another.(Freud, A., 1922)
She then works out the psychosexual twists of her story in classic Oedipal fashion:
In the first phase the person who beats also was the father; however, the child who was being beaten was not the fantasying child but other children, brothers or sisters, i.e., rivals for the father's love. In this first phase, therefore, the child claimed all the love for himself and left all the punishment and castigation to the others. With the repression of the oedipal strivings and the dawning sense of guilt, the punishment is subsequently turned back on the child himself. At the same time, however, as a consequence of regression from the genital to the pregenital anal-sadistic organization, the beating situation could still be used as an expression of a love situation.
This was the age 14-15 successor to the "nice stories" of childhood (age 7-9), themselves reactive transformations of the original wishes that the father might beat one's siblings. The resolution of these tendecies in the final phase is a nice story, indeed:
The sublimation of sensual love into tender friendship is of course greatly facilitated by the fact that already in the early stages of the beating fantasy the girl abandoned the difference of the sexes and is invariably represented as a boy.
Thus equipped, Anna Freud entered the profession of psychoanalysis she would inherit from her father. From the self-conscious and self-critical teenager sent off to visit the English relatives, she was able to become the dedicated companion of several women and surrogate mother to other women's children. She remained devoted to her father thoughout his lifetime, and to a strict-constructionist expression of his theories throughout hers.