The literary quality of Freud’s prose is generally acknowledged, and his case histories have the allure of novellas. The present essay explores what Freud himself, in a letter to Fliess, called “form feeling” (Formgefühl). Focusing mainly on his Gradiva commentary, the author argues that this form sensitivity has not only presentational importance but is deeply involved in the revisionary cultural aims of the new science of psychoanalysis. Freud radically revises the Bildung concept of lifelong educational self-development, as well as a neoclassical style ideal largely derived from Winkelmann’s famous description of Hellenic statuary’s blend of moral and aesthetic qualities (“noble simplicity and tranquil grandeur”). By coming to terms with the unbeautiful in the logic and wit of dreams he creates a dream pedagogy treatment respecting the ecstatic or Dionysian element in human experience, one that fully recognizes what art historian Aby Warburg characterized as a “classical disquiet” (klassische Unruhe). Basic to Freud’s essay on Jensen’s romance is that Zoe/Gradiva figures there not just as a proxy psychoanalyst but as a Hermes type of psychopomp accepting the young archeologist’s dream-delusion, while leading him firmly via this “underworld” into facing erotic feelings he had totally displaced from life to ancient art.


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pp. 505-522
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