Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939)
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Something happened around 1890, something that John C.Fout has called “a ‘new,’ historically specific stage in the history of sexuality” (389). It is quite clear that our reading of what exactly happened around 1890 will be contingent in large measure on our assessment of Freud’s “discovery” of the Oedipus complex, and thus of psychoanalysis, just at this time. The key to understanding the development of Freud’s Oedipal model is the “invention of homosexuality,” or rather, the “invention of heterosexuality” in his lifetime. Freud’s original hysteria (or “seduction”) theory was as much about men as about women, and he said as much openly. It is well known that what most aroused the ire of the Viennese medical audience that heard Freud’s first lecture on his return from the French psychologist Jean-Martin Charcot was that it was about male hysteria. In his first model, Freud reconstructed (or invented) memories of child abuse not only for female patients but for boys as well-including his brother-as a means of accounting for his own male hysteria. Six of the eighteen cases mentioned in the paper on which the seduction theory is based, “The Aetiology of Hysteria” (1896), are cases of boys, not girls. In one of the most famous of his letters to his friend Wilhelm Fliess, Freud writes: “Unfortunately my own father was one of these perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose symptoms are identification) and those of several younger sisters” (Freud and Fliess 230-31; see also 264).