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Delusions and dreams in Jensen's Gradiva

Freud 1907a [1906], Delusions and dreams in Jensen's Gradiva, SE 9: 1-95, trs. from Der Wahn und die Traüme in W. Jensens 'Gradiva', Vienna, GW 7: 31. [Volume 9 (1906-1908): Jensen's Gradiva and other works.] Penguin Freud Library volume 14; 27-118.

This was Freud's first published analysis of a work of literature, apart, of course, from his comments on Œdipus Rex and Hamlet in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), SE 4: 261-6. At an earlier date, however, he had written a short analysis of Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's story, 'Die Richterin' ['The woman judge'], and had sent it to Fliess, enclosed in a letter date 20 June 1898 (Freud 1950a, Letter 91). [ed.] 3 [Penguin 29]

But creative writers are valuable allies and their evidence is to be prized highly, for they are apt to know a whole host of things between heaven and earth of which our philosophy has not yet let us dream. In their knowledge of the mind they are far in advance of us everyday people, for they draw upon sources which we have not yet opened up for science. If only this support given by writers in favour of dreams having a meaning were less [35] ambiguous! 8 [Penguin 34-5] [GMG. But Freud, too, is a 'creative writer.']

[The resume of the story occupies pp. 10-44.]

[Gradiva accepted his delusion to set him free from it. 21 Penguin 47]

No-one forgets anything without some secret reason or hidden motive. 22 [Penguin 48]

It is so easy to draw analogies and to read meanings into things. Is it not rather we who have slipped into this charming poetic story a secret meaning very far from its author's intentions? 43 [Penguin 68]

The description of the human mind is indeed the [44] domain which is most his [the creative writer's] own; he has from time immemorial been the precursor of science, and so too of scientific psychology. But the frontier between states of mind described as normal and pathological is in part a conventional one and in part so fluctuating that each of us probably crosses it many times in the course of a day. 43-4 [Penguin 68 9]

Thus the creative writer cannot evade the psychiatrist nor the psychiatrist the creative writer, and the poetic treatment of a psychiatric theme can turn out to be correct without any sacrifice of its beauty. 44 [Penguin 69]

A psychiatrist would perhaps place Norbert Hanold's delusion in the great group of "paranoia" and possibly describe it as "fetishistic erotomania," because the most striking thing about it was his being in love with the piece of sculpture and because in the psychiatrist's view, with its tendency to coarsen everything, the young archæologist's interest in feet and the postures of feet would be bound to suggest "fetishism". Nevertheless all such systems of nomenclature and classification of the different kinds of delusion according to their subject-matter have something precarious and barren about them. 45 [Penguin 70]

… displaced [46] it on to women of marble or bronze. 46-7 [Penguin 70]

The state of permanently turning away from women produces a personal susceptibility, or, as we are accustomed to say, a 'disposition' to the formation of a delusion. 47 [Penguin 71 2]

Thus the childhood impression was stirred up, it became active, so that it began to produce effects, but it did not come into consciousness—it remained 'unconscious', to use the term which has today become unavoidable in psychopathology. … For the time begin we possess no better name for psychical processes which behave actively but nevertheless do not reach the consciousness of the person concerned, and that is all we mean by our 'unconsciousness'. When some thinkers try to dispute the existence of an unconscious of this kind, on the ground that it is nonsensical, we can only suppose that they have never had to do with the e corresponding mental phenomena, that they are under the [48] spell of the regular experience that everything mental that becomes active and intense becomes at the same time conscious as well, and that they have still to learn … that there are most certainly mental processes which, in spite of being intense and producing effects, none the less remain apart from consciousness. 47-8 [Penguin 72]

'Unconscious' is the wider concept; 'repressed' is the narrower one. Everything that is repressed is unconscious; but we cannot assert that everything unconscious is repressed. 48 … 'Unconscious' is a purely descriptive term, one that is indefinite in some respects and, as we might say, static. 'Repressed' is a dynamic expression, which takes account of the interplay of mental forces; it implies that here is a force present which is seeking to bring about all kinds of psychical effects, including that of becoming conscious,but that there is also an opposing force which is able to obstruct some of these psychical effects, once more including that of becoming conscious. The mark of something repressed is precisely that in spite of its intensity it is unable to enter consciousness. 48 [Penguin 73]

I indicated, in most detail in connection with the states known as hysteria and obsessions, that the individual determinant of these psychical disorders is the [54] suppression of a part of instinctual life and the repression of the ideas by which the suppressed instinct is represented, and soon afterwards I repeated the same views in relation to some forms of delusion. 53-4 [Penguin 78]

How was it that the author arrived at the same knowledge as the doctor—or at least behaved as though he possessed the same knowledge? 54 [Penguin 79] [Because the doctor {Freud} is also an author—a writer of fiction? … GMG]

It is, as it were, a distortion by displacement: what we have is not Gradiva in the present but the dreamer transported into the past. 58 [Penguin 82]

Thus, interpreting a dream consists in translating the manifest content of the dream into the latent dream-thoughts, in undoing the distortion which the dream-thoughts have had to submit to from the censorship of the resistance. 59 [Penguin 83]

If we apply these notions to the dream we are concerned with, we shall find that its latent dream-thoughts can only have been: "the girl you are looking for with the graceful gait is really living [Penguin 84] in this town with you." [Penguin 83-4] [GMG. Note how Freud slowly and carefully constructs these alternative narratives to the one given by his text (what the patient presents with—or the manifest dream) so that, bit by bit, we are to be persuaded by this trope, by his rhetoric, to suspend our disbelief in the fiction he is creating. Another example—there must be many—is in the Leonardo story.]

The anxiety in anxiety-dreams, like neurotic anxiety in general, corresponds to a sexual affect, a libidinal [61] feeling, and arises out of libido by the process of repression. When we interpret a dream, therefore, we must replace anxiety by sexual excitement. … I am aware that this explanation of anxiety in dreams sounds very strange and is not easy to credit; but I can only advise the reader to come to terms with it. 60-1 [Penguin 85] [my emphasis: GMG]

Dreams and delusions arise from the same source—from what is repressed. Dreams are, as one might say, the physiological delusions of normal people. 62 [Penguin 87] [See further pp. 58-9 [Penguin 82 3] and 62-3 [Penguin 87] for excellent summaries of the theory of dreams and the part played in their construction by repression. GMG]

The fact, finally, is familiar to every psychiatrist that in severe cases of chronic delusions (in paranoia) the most extreme examples occur of ingeniously elaborated and well-supported absurdities. 72 [Penguin 95]

So far the dream welded together ('condensed', as we say) two experiences of the previous day into one situation, or order to bring to expression (in a very obscure way, it is true) two discoveries which were not allowed to become conscious. 76 [Penguin 99]

… could it not also mean in the 'Sun'—that is, Gradiva is staying in the Albergo del Sole, the Sun Hotel? 82 [Penguin 105]

… and we have probably often roused a suspicion that what we pretended was the author's meaning was in fact only our own. I am anxious to [84] do all I can to dissipate this suspicion, and for that reason I will gladly enter into more detail over one of the most delicate points—I mean the use of ambiguous words and phrases, such as: 'somewhere in the Sun Gradiva was sitting.' 83-4 [Penguin 107]

It is nothing other than a counterpart to the twofold determination of symptoms, in so far as speeches are themselves symptoms and, like them, arise from compromises between the conscious and the unconscious. 85 [Penguin 108]

This method of treatment, to which Breuer first gave the name of 'cathartic' but which I prefer to describe as 'analytic', consists, as applied to patients suffering from disorders analogous to Hanold's delusion, in bringing to their consciousness, to some extent forcibly, the unconscious whose repression led to their falling ill … 89 [Penguin 112]

The disorder vanishes while being traced back to its origin; analysis, too, brings simultaneous cure. 89 [Penguin 112]
[Freud explains simply how psychoanalysis works: on page 89 {Penguin 112}]

The author no doubt proceeds differently. He directs his attention to the unconscious in his own mind, he listens to its possible developments and lends them artistic expression instead of suppressing them by conscious criticism. Thus he experiences from himself what we learn from others—the laws which the activities of this unconscious must obey. But he need not state these laws, nor even be clearly aware of them; as a result of the tolerance of his intelligence, they are incorporated within his creations. We discover these laws by analysing his writings just as we find them from cases of real illness; but the conclusion seems inescapable that either both us us, the writer and the doctor, have misunderstood the unconscious in the same way, or we have both understood it correctly. 92 [Penguin 115] [See also 54 {79}: because the doctor {Freud} is also an author—a writer of fiction? … ]

[GMG from here]
Is there a comparison to be made between Gradiva and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom? Both are about a love interest to be resolved (but then almost all Hollywood films have a love interest), both feature an archæologist who denies women in order to devote himself to his calling. Do they both have delusions and dreams?

Condensation: the relief of Gradiva and Zoë are the same girl he sees in Pompeii. SE 16
Overdetermination: Zoë represents both the object of sexual desire for Norbert Hanold and also the object of his intellectual desire.
Sublimation of his libidinal desire into his intellectual work.
Cf. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.

Chinese box effect of analytic recursion. I analyse Freud on W. Jensen on Norbert Hanold: but ZB is the real analyst of NH who therefore reveals to WJ his own secret who discovers it for Freud …

Kinds of desire in Gradiva.
1. incest: brother/sister (26 etc.)
2. foot-fetishism
3. coitus (lizard/lie down etc.)
4. father/daughter (27-8)


Pompeii, 12 [Penguin 38 9] (Freud's interpretation of the significance of burial: 5, 40 & n., 51, 84-5; Freud takes Pompeii up again in the Rat Man (1909d, v. PFL 9: 57); discusses the dream Penguin 79-.

lizard, 25 [Penguin 50] (Freud's interpretation of the lizard: 72-3, 75-7, 83, 93.) [Penguin 96-, 116: where he discovers that it is a masochistic desire!]

Note that 'days' residues' are referred to in the index under 'dreams'. There is a good clear discussion, among others, in Penguin 115-6. See also 82, 97, 99-100; and Traumdeutung, 1900a, PFL 4: 249ff.

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