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  • Freud and His Manuscripts: A Critical Edition of Beyond the Pleasure Principle
  • G.W. Pigman III (bio)
“Jenseits des Lustprinzips”: Neu-Edition, Erstabdruck der Urfassung (1919) und Kommentar. Sigmund Freud. Edited by Ulrike May and Michael Schröter. In Luzifer-Amor: Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Psychoanalyse 51 (2013), 7–169.

This edition of Beyond the Pleasure Principle is the first edition of any work by Freud to include complete variants. Ulrike May and Michael Schröter reproduce the text in the Gesammelte Schriften (1925), the last print supervised by Freud, and report variants from the first (1920), second (1921), and third (1923) editions, as well as from the pre-publication versions. In addition, they provide a diplomatic transcription of the first of these versions. To these scrupulously edited texts May has added a long, valuable essay on the genesis of Beyond the Pleasure Principle and proposes a new interpretation of this controversial work. Taken together, the edition and commentary represent a milestone in the study of Freud’s methods of composition—a worthy successor to the pathbreaking book by Ilse Grubrich-Simitis (1993), in which she announced her discovery of the pre-publication versions in the Sigmund Freud Archives of the Library of Congress and discussed some of their essential features (pp. 234–244).

The first of these versions of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, probably written between the middle of March and the middle of April 1919, is an autograph fair copy with corrections. The second, composed between July 1919 and July 1920, is a type-script of the first with extensive additions and corrections in Freud’s hand. The second version is forty percent longer than the first; it adds what is now chapter six (almost a third of the whole book) and several other important passages. In their edition, May and Schröter indicate when passages entered the [End Page 85] manuscript in a way that avoids cluttering the critical apparatus with ‘not in such and such’ notes. They have facilitated the identification of the layers of composition by printing in gray the copy-text’s departures from the original manuscript; a siglum indicates the first appearance of the variant. Two other shades of gray indicate changes within changes. Although this method may sound complicated, in reality it takes very little time to get used to. The editors have fulfilled the two divergent goals they set themselves: provide an accurate designation of the layers of the text, while at the same time allowing for smooth and continuous readability. The transcription and reporting of variants appear to be extremely accurate. My only disappointment was that the editors did not state when Freud used a different ink or pencil in his additions and corrections to the typescript. Grubrich-Simitis inferred from the different inks that Freud reworked the end of the final chapter on different occasions (1993, pp. 243–244).

May and Schröter describe their work as a “critical edition,” yet they have stopped one step short: they do not make substantive changes to their copy-text. Even when it is clear that a reading in the original manuscript is superior, they content themselves only with noting that there was probably an error in transcription or in typesetting. To take perhaps the most obvious example: in the book’s sixth chapter, even though Freud quoted extensively without using quotation marks (pp. 160–163), it is hard to believe that he would have intentionally removed the manuscript’s quotation marks from his citation of Weismann (p. 46). When a note indicates, as is often the case, that a later variant was probably a mistake, one can assume that the editors would have placed the reading from the manuscript in the text if they had not regarded that procedure as inappropriate in a critical edition. Several times, however, the notes simply question, for example, “slip of the pen?” As suggested by the etymology of the word critical, editors of a critical edition must exercise their judgment and make the hard choices. Is the reading subsequent to the manuscript a mistake or a reading that Freud preferred? Readers are entitled to the opinion of the scholars who have devoted so much time...


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pp. 85-88
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