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American Imago 61.1 (2004) 1-5

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Peter L. Rudnytsky

Psychoanalysts are always returning to Freud. Even for those who may question Freud's views on such issues as the drives or female sexuality, or take him to task for one or another of his human failings, there can be little doubt that in order to understand psychoanalysis there is no substitute for a deep and repeated immersion in his texts. Freud's life and work are likewise endless sources of inspiration for intellectual historians and scholars in every branch of the human sciences.

The present issue of American Imago is a contribution to Freud studies unified by the multiple meanings of the phrase "picturing Freud." The three major essays all deal with Freud and the visual arts. In "Forgetting Signorelli: Monstrous Visions of the Resurrection of the Dead," Margaret E. Owens goes back to the origins of psychoanalysis by examining Freud's visit to Orvieto in September 1897 in which he saw the frescoes of Luca Signorelli and climbed into an Etruscan tomb, incidents to which he subsequently reverted (without ever drawing a connection between them) in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (as well as his 1898 paper "The Psychical Mechanism of Forgetfulness") and The Interpretation of Dreams. Owens's discussion of this material takes off from a Lacanian analysis by Anthony Wilden published in 1966 in American Imago, and her own paper is a model of how a Lacanian perspective can be fused with rigorous scholarship and clear writing. Although Owens is by profession a literary scholar and not an art historian, the heart of her paper is its formidable second section in which she turns from Freud's notorious forgetting of the name Signorelli to situate Signorelli's frescoes of The Resurrection of the Dead, painted between 1499 and 1504, in their aesthetic and theological context. As Owens demonstrates, this seemingly consoling doctrine about the afterlife of not only the soul but also the body in fact "tended to generate monstrous fantasies featuring a proliferation of detached body [End Page 1] parts." Seeing in Signorelli's fresco a graphic representation of Lacan's concepts of the mirror stage and the body in pieces, Owens argues that anxieties about disintegration and castration likewise fueled Freud's "Etruscan grave" dream ("Dissecting My Own Pelvis") and his repression of the name Signorelli. She thereby maps the traces of a "double haunting": that of Freud by his "visit to Italian sites steeped in Etruscan and Christian religious significance," and that of the "imagery of wholeness" proffered above all by Christianity by "an insistent strain of fragmentation."

Whereas the paper by Margaret Owens deals with Renaissance painting, those by Lydia Marinelli and Jerrold R. Brandell are both concerned with the quintessentially twentieth-century medium of film. In "Smoking, Laughing, and the Compulsion to Film: On the Beginnings of Psychoanalytic Documentaries," Marinelli, research director at the Freud Museum in Vienna, comprehensively discusses Philip R. Lehrman's Sigmund Freud, His Family, and Colleagues, 1928-1947, "the first known documentary about Freud and the early psychoanalysts." The nucleus of this historical treasure, which is still quite unfamiliar even to scholars of psychoanalysis, is footage shot by Lehrman in 1928 when he journeyed from New York to Vienna, and then on to Berlin and Paris, before and during his analysis with Freud. As Marinelli notes, the film as it exists today (edited by Lehrman's daughter) is augmented by a sound track of commentary provided by Lehrman when the film was screened at meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1950 and 1954, in which the reactions of the audience can also be heard. This "aural self-referentiality" in the reception of the film compounds the intimate glimpse it provides of Freud—showing him, for example, throwing away his cigar at the insistence of his daughter Anna, who did not want her cancer-stricken father caught smoking on film, and who for that reason later refused to cooperate with Lehrman's daughter in identifying the faces of otherwise unknown analytic pioneers. Marinelli goes on to provide a fourfold typology of psychoanalytic encounters with film, each associated...


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