Freud and Dora: repressing an oppressed identity *

Michael Billig

Department of Social Sciences
University of Loughborough
Leicestershire, LE11 3TU

To appear: British Journal of Social PsychologyR


This paper re-examines Freud's famous case-study of 'Dora', in order to show that psycho-analytic discourse not only expresses themes, but it also creates its own dialogic repressions. In recent years, the case of Dora has attracted renewed attention, particularly from feminist scholars. What is surprising is that even scholars, who criticise psycho-analysis for being apolitical, have ignored the political background to Freud's and Dora's world. As Jews, they were directly affected by the worsening climate of political anti-semitism in turn-of-the-century Vienna. The 'Fragment' is analysed to show how Freud and Dora managed to avoid Jewish issues. Particular attention is paid to Freud's interpretation of the second dream and to the reported dialogues between Dora and Freud. The avoidance of Jewish themes is particularly apparent in the moments in which Dora reports staring at Raphael's Madonna for two hours. Later analysts, including feminist critics, have themselves reproduced this avoidance in their analyses. In this way, Freud's early writings have created habits of discourse, which not only reveal the unconscious but also which constitute their own dialogic repressions.

In October 1900, Philip Bauer, a Jewish industrialist living in Vienna, took his eighteen year old daughter to see Dr Freud. This was the same doctor who, a few years earlier, had successfully treated him for venereal symptoms. Now, his daughter was acting peculiarly, saying strange things; she had even threatened suicide; could Dr Freud restore her to reason? From Freud's point of view, the case did not seem to be particularly promising, at least in terms of offering new features for the theories which he was developing. The young woman was displaying the typical signs of 'hysteria', which he had encountered many times previously. However, Freud took her on. His finances at the time were none too secure. A few days later, writing to his friend Wilhelm Fleiss, Freud mentioned that the "case has smoothly opened to the existing collection of picklocks" (Freud, 1985: 427). The young patient was to terminate the treatment abruptly at the end of that December. Freud wrote up his case-notes in the January of the new year. It was not until 1905 that the cautiously entitled 'Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria' was published in a specialist journal.

This was the inauspicious beginnings of a report which has become recognized as "the first of Freud's great case histories" and which has taken its place as "one of the classic reports in the psychiatric literature" (Loewenberg, 1985: 188; see also Marcus, 1986). 'Dora', the pseudonym, which Freud gave to the patient, Ida Bauer, has become a familiar name in psycho-analytic circles. In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Dora and in Freud's treatment of her (see, inter alia, Blum, 1994; Cixous and Clémont, 1986; Gallop, 1982 and 1986; Gearhart, 1986; Jacobus, 1987; Lacan, 1986; Masson, 1990; Moi, 1986; Ramas, 1983; Rose, 1986; for background studies of 'Dora' and her family, see Appignanesi and Forrester, 1993; Deutsch, 1986; Rogow, 1978 and 1979; and, above all, Hannah Decker, 1991). Much of the renewed interest has stemmed from feminist questioning of psychoanalysis. Scholars have debated whether psycho-analytic ideas should be rejected outright for their masculine assumptions or whether a reformulation is possible (see, for example, Brennan, 1989; Frosh, 1994; Gallop, 1982; Holway, 1989; Mitchell, 1974; Sayers, 1990). These debates have led feminist scholars to look at the famous case-studies in new ways. This has involved reinterpreting what went on in the Bauer household and in Dr Freud's cramped consulting-room. For some feminists, Dora has become a heroine, who disrupts the deceits of the patriarchal family. Others have seen Dora as a tragic victim of masculine power. Freud's role in the saga is being reassessed. He no longer appears as a passive listener and detached scientist. He is part of patriarchal power. He thinks like a man; acts like one, and his new theories, it is said, expressed masculine assumptions in the guise of science.

Without doubt feminist re-analyses have succeeded in revealing aspects of the case which previously lay unnoticed. It is hard now not to see the behaviour of the males in the story as the problem, with Dora's symptoms as the effect. Dora tells Freud of the complex web of deception which has drawn her family close to the life of the K's. The two families often go on holiday together. Dora looks after the K's young children. She is particularly friendly with Frau K. The connections are not innocent. Her father, who has encouraged the closeness between the families, is having a protracted affair with Frau K, who is somewhat younger than himself. Herr K has been pursuing Dora since she was fourteen. On a couple of occasions, he grabs hold of her, trying to kiss her; one holiday he even tries to enter her bedroom while she sleeps. After an incident by a lake, when again he propositions her, Dora tells her father. However, her father accuses Dora of inventing the whole tale, suggesting that she is engaging in unhealthy sexual fantasies. Freud, for his part, accepts Dora's story. Yet he wonders why Dora claims to feel disgust, rather than sexual desire, when Herr K grabs her, pressing his erect phallus against her body. Freud is of the opinion that Dora unconsciously desires Herr K. For good measure, he also claims that she desires Frau K. Dora denies both desires.

In the late twentieth century, the problem is no longer seen to be Dora's resistance to the male phallus, but it has become Freud's assumptions about women's desires. Freud claimed that he was uncovering hidden desires, but critics suggest that his revelations conceal as much as they expose. Feminist re-analyses often seek to reveal what Freud, unknowingly, was concealing, such as, for example, his own unadmitted attraction to the patient, whom he describes as being "in the first bloom of youth - a girl of intelligent and engaging looks" ('Fragment', 1977 ed.: 53). Yet, as will be suggested, revelation is not a simple matter. Just as Freud's revelations also involved omissions, or forgettings, then so do some of the present revealings of what Freud forgot to reveal. And, it will be argued, politics is central to these revelations and forgettings.

Omitting Politics

Feminist critics and other radicals have often accused Freudian psychoanalysis of being apolitical. It is said that Freud reduces all to family dramas, which he interprets in terms of universal, or biological, drives. In consequence, it is argued that Freud not only fails to discuss general politics, but also he does not notice the politics of the family. For instance, Jane Gallup writes of "the pernicious apoliticism of psychoanalysis"; she claims that "one of psychoanalysis's consistent errors is to reduce everything to a family paradigm, sociopolitical questions are always brought back to the model father-mother-child" (1982: 144). Toril Moi claims that an understanding of gender politics is vital for any re-analysis of Dora's case. Freud, she argues, failed to have an awareness of the inequalities of gender; in his treatment of Dora, he showed that he is necessarily on the side of oppression, for he is in a "patriarchal educated bourgeois male, incarnating malgré lui patriarchal values" (Moi, 1986: 192).

Freud appears, in such critiques, as the powerful male, at one with the patriarchal forces of his society. The doctor and the wealthy industrialist conspire, whether knowingly or unknowingly, against the young girl. Orthodox psychoanalysis, with its lack of political perspective, cannot understand its own complicity in the operation of social power. As such, psycho-analysis is deeply implicated in the politics of gender. There is much that can be said to support such a general picture. However, in the detail of Freud's relations with Dora, and in the lives both were leading, something crucial is being omitted.

Freud was not a comfortable member of his society. The description 'educated, bourgeois male' neglects a category which was central to Freud's political and social position. He was a member of a much discriminated minority; and so was Dora. Ultimately both Freud and Dora were to be driven from their society in fear of their lives. The politics of anti-semitism, nevertheless, did not begin in Vienna with the arrival of the nazis. When Freud and Dora met at the turn of the century, the anti-semitic parties controlled the city. The elected mayor was a notorious demagogue, whose popularity stemmed from his anti-semitic tirades. Neither Toril Moi nor Jane Gallup, in calling for political analyses, discuss this political context. Their 'politicising' of psycho-analysis involves finding the political in the personal, thereby extending the conventional definition of what is political. This concern with the politics of the personal leads them to overlook the more conventional politics of public power. Given the nature of conventional politics in fin-de-siècle Vienna, this entails a neglect of the overt politics of race.

It might be thought that there is something curious about a position, which is self-consciously political, yet which can so ignore the party politics of racism. A hypothetical parallel, which would be virtually unthinkable in the current intellectual climate, might illustrate the oddity of the position. The equivalent would be a radical writer, who discussed the work of a black male doctor, living under the apartheid regime in South Africa, but who never once mentioned apartheid - nor indeed, ever once mentioned the politics of race or that the doctor in question was black. Were this to occur, one might suspect something strange was going on. Nevertheless, this is exactly what is occurring in some current 'politicised' reanalyses of Freud's relations with his patients and his society.

The present paper aims to look again at the relations between Freud and Dora, in order to show how the position of the Jews was not irrelevant to their conversations. In doing this, the focus is not upon criticising those feminist reanalyses, which ignore the political context of Freud's life. Indeed, it is to be hoped that following the publication of Hannah Decker's superb Freud, Dora Vienna 1900 such neglect will become far less common. There is, however, a wider point. One can ask how the political dimensions can have been so easily overlooked. This question takes us to the heart of psychoanalysis. The issues of forgetting, and the pushing of awkward thoughts from conscious memory, are central to psychoanalytic theory. As feminist critics have argued, psychoanalytic writers themselves, including Freud, often created a forgetfulness: as the personal unconscious is remembered, so politics is forgotten. And, similarly, as the politics of the personal is remembered so the politics of race can be forgotten.

The dialectic of remembering and forgetting can be examined in relation to language and dialogue. As one matter is spoken (or written) about, so others are kept from immediate dialogic attention. Where topics of conversation become ritual, one might speak of a 'dialogic unconscious': what is habitually spoken about may be dialogically functioning to prevent, as a matter of routine, other matters from coming to conscious, conversational attention (Billig, in press a; Billig, 1997). In this way, the processes of dialogue can operate both expressively and repressively. The dialogues of psychoanalysis need not be excluded. Not only might such dialogues reveal, or express, what is elsewhere repressed, so they might also, by directing concentrated attention towards these repressions, create their own silences.

The 'Fragment' presents an early account of this new form of conversation - the psychoanalytic dialogue. The text permits us to catch echoes of the conversations which must have taken place between Freud and Dora, although the precise words are lost. And so are the notes, which Freud, according to his practice, would have written in the evening after each session and on which he would have based his final, published report. What is reported in the published text can be read for absences. The two speakers can be heard, collaborating to avoid the sort of Jewish themes, which Freud overtly excludes from his published text.

Contexts: politics, Freud and Dora

The 'Fragment' contains no overt signs that the author was Jewish. In this respect, it differs from The Interpretation of Dreams and Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, which were also written during this period. In Dreams Freud analyses a number of his own dreams which have Jewish themes and which he interprets in terms of his Jewish identity. In Jokes, he gives numerous examples of Jewish jokes, with enough hints to suggest that he is an 'insider' bearing tales to 'outsiders'. By contrast, the 'Fragment' does not mention Freud's Jewishness; nor does it indicate that the other main characters - Dora, her family and the K's - were also all Jewish.

The omission implicitly suggests that Jewishness was not relevant to the themes of the 'Fragment'. Dora's problems stemmed from her family relations and her own suppressed desires - not from her ethnic background. Similarly, her doctor was offering scientific diagnoses and these did not depend upon his particular ethnic location. Thus, the patient's problems and the doctor's analyses are presented in universal terms, as if to a 'universal audience' (see Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1971, for a discussion of the concept of the 'universal audience'). In other political contexts, no particular significance might be attached to this sort of omission of ethnic identity. For instance, it might be argued that, for many purposes in anglophone societies today, the Jewish/Christian division does not carry major sociological weight and that in describing psychoanalytic relations the categories can often be omitted without crucial loss of understanding. In this respect, these categories differ from racial categories, such as 'black' and 'white', which continue to have major sociological force, and which, as such, shape personal and interpersonal relations in countless ways.

In turn of the century Vienna, the Jewish/Christian division was central, politically, socially and culturally. It fashioned the very conditions of Freud's and Dora's lives. In order to illustrate this, a two-step argument is necessary. First, there will be a brief outline of the situation of the Jews in Vienna at that time, and how the lives of Freud and Dora fitted this background. It is not enough to say that background factors pushed the two towards each other, at least for a brief period, so that Freud's status as doctor and the patient's choice of physician were shaped by the racial politics of the time. A second step in the argument is necessary to show how the background affected what they said to each other. The 'Jewish Question' seems to have crept shamefacedly into the conversations, only for Freud and Dora to push it out again in ways which were very much part of the Jewish situation of those times.

To begin with, it is necessary to present a few words about the historical position of the Jews in turn of the century Vienna (for more details see, inter alia, Decker, 1990; Oxaal et al, 1987; Pulzer, 1964; Rozenblit, 1983; Schorske, 1980; Wistrich, 1989). For most of the nineteenth century, an ever increasing number of Jews in the Austro-Hungarian empire were leaving the restrictions of ghetto life, and its traditional culture, to join the wider civil society. Emperor Joseph II, in his Toleranzpatent of 1782, had at last recognized the Jews as citizens of the empire (Oxaal, 1987). Economically successful Jews could reasonably look forward to a progressively assimilated life. This was especially true of the many Jews who had travelled from the outlying areas of the Empire to Vienna. Such was the migration that the Jewish population of Vienna rose from six thousand in the mid nineteenth century to nearly one hundred and fifty thousand in 1900 (Pulzer, 1964; Rozenblit, 1983; Oxaal, 1987).

The journey taken by the Freuds was typical of many others, both physically and culturally. Sigmund Freud was born in the mid-nineteenth century in Moravia. His father had been descended from a long line of Chasidic Jews, while his mother came from the ghettoes of Galicia (Gay, 1995; Roith, 1987) When Sigmund was a young child, the family moved to Vienna, leading a bourgeois, but not altogether prosperous, life. Freud's parents passed down to their children less of their Jewish heritage than they had received from their parents. In his turn, Sigmund, who had been taught Hebrew as child, was to transmit even less to the next generation. His son recounts growing up in a household which celebrated no Jewish festivals and in which the children were not taught to read Hebrew (Martin Freud, 1957).

Sigmund belonged that generation of Viennese Jews, who grew up expecting the old restrictions to disappear in good time. No position, they believed, would be barred to them in the future. Jews, at least male Jews, might even become political leaders in the new liberal Austria. In a famous phrase, written in the final years of the century, Freud described the hopes of his youth: he wrote that in the 1860s and 1870s "every industrious Jewish schoolboy carried a Cabinet Minister's portfolio in his satchel" (1976: 281). Many Austrian Jews expressed their optimism by embracing the German culture wholeheartedly, often showing their allegiance by becoming committed pan-German nationalists. Freud, again, was typical. As a first year undergraduate at the University of Vienna in 1878, he joined a pan-German nationalist student society, the Leserverein der deutschen Studentum (McGrath, 1986: 97f). Ten years later, he would not have been able to so join. By that time, the nationalist societies were officially excluding Jews (Schiechl, 1987).

Hannah Arendt (1970) described the Jews of Germany as having an unrequited love affair with German culture. The tragedy for such Jews was that the culture, which they embraced so passionately, was routinely anti-semitic. The same was true for the German speaking Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Those, who were enthusiastic to be culturally German, adopted many of that culture's prejudices against things Jewish. The bourgeois, assimilating Jews directed these prejudices against the ghetto Jews of the eastern Europe, the Ostjuden, who displayed overt, and shameful, characteristics of Jewishness (Weitzmann, 1987). Jokes about Jewish dress, meanness and unclean habits were common: 'dirty-Jew' jokes were to find their way into Freud's Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. A brittle and painful constellation of feelings was involved: the desire to be German, the separation from Jewishness, the association of Jewishness with despised traits, and a recognition that the true Germans would still see Jewishness in themselves, despite their all efforts. At its extreme, this constellation formed the basis of what has become known as 'self-hatred' (Selbsthass) (Gay, 1978; Lewin, 1948: 186-200; but see Janik, 1987 for criticisms). Traces of the constellation can be found in Freud, especially in his early years (Gay, 1995). The distancing from the yiddishkeit of the Ostjuden was to continue, even as this entailed a distancing from, or denial of, a part of the self. Freud's autobiographical sketch, published in 1925, is revealing. He declared in the second sentence "My parents were Jews and I have remained a Jew myself" (1995: 3). The third sentence claims German origins: his father's family had lived in Cologne until the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and in the nineteenth century had "migrated back...into German Austria" (p. 3). About his mother and her family, of whom there could be no tale of German origins, the text is embarrassingly silent.

As the opening of the autobiography suggests, Freud did not deny his Jewish identity. Indeed, as the situation of the Jews in Europe deteriorated through his life, so his identification became stronger. He was to say in 1926 that his culture was German and that he considered himself to be German "until I noticed the growth of anti-semitic prejudice in Germany and German Austria" (quoted Gay, 1995: 448). While Freud was an undergraduate, he encountered vociferous prejudice, from what he called "the compact majority" (1995: 4). At that time, Freud was able to dismiss the bigotry as representing remnants of the old pre-modern era, rather than as a foretaste of things to come. In the 1890s, however, the liberal left was to collapse in Vienna and political anti-semitism was revealed as a growing, not contracting, force, with agitation against the Jews gathering pace across the Empire.

In Vienna, the two principle anti-semitic demagogues, Karl Lueger and Georg von Schoenerer, joined forces in 1889 to establish the United Christians; the new organization was designed to defend Christians against 'Jewish domination' (Pulzer, 1964: 177f). From this union, Lueger developed the Christian Socials, which attracted support principally from Catholics. In 1895 the Christian Socials became the leading party in Vienna. However, the Emperor refused to ratify Lueger as mayor. Following repeated electoral victories, Lueger was finally confirmed as mayor in 1897. The Christian Socials strengthened their hold on power in the local elections of 1902, when liberals and rival nationalists were comprehensively defeated (Beller, 1987). Thus, while Dora was being treated by Freud, the city of Vienna was firmly in the hands of the anti-semites.

Freud's choice of career, and his prospects within that career, were directly affected by anti-semitic discrimination. Freud had originally wished to be a lawyer (McGrath, 1986). Because of discrimination in the legal profession, disproportionately less Jewish graduates entered the law than would be expected (Beller, 1987). Freud, in common with many other young male Jews, felt there to be more opportunities within medicine. The popularity of medicine for Jews, in its turn, brought a reaction. Senior medical figures were calling for quotas for Jews entering medicine. Lectures by Jewish teachers were boycotted in the university. Promotion was difficult for those Jews, who had managed to enter the profession. In addition, there was the threat of political action. The United Christians had specifically included in its founding programme the policy of excluding Jews from the practice of medicine, as well as other professions. (Pulzer, 1964).

Freud was under no illusions that his progress in the medical profession was being impeded because he was a Jew. The prestigious fields were dominated by Christians. Psychiatry was, of course, not the most prestigious branch - certainly, senior Christian doctors would not expect to rise to the height of their profession by talking to Jewish girls about sex. If Freud's chosen career, and his speciality within that career, were influenced by discrimination, then so were his prospects for academic advancement. Shortly after Lueger was confirmed as mayor, Freud himself was proposed for promotion to a professorship, which he felt his scientific achievements had long merited. He had little hope of success. As he recounted in Interpretation of Dreams, he had evidence that others had been refused for "denominational considerations" (1976 ed.: 218). He had no doubt that 'denominational considerations' were being applied in his case too. When he treated Dora, he had already been turned down several times.

Freud's reaction is notable. A growing number of Viennese Jews at that time were reacting to discrimination by rejecting their background and seeking conversion to Christianity (Endelman, 1987). Freud rejected this path, as one of cowardice: he was not going to share the prejudices of the 'compact majority'. See footnote 1 In bitterness, he turned inwards, rejecting the society which was rejecting him. In the year in which Lueger became Mayor, he joined the Jewish defence and cultural organization, the B'nai B'rith (Klein, 1981; Meghnagi, 1993). At the same, he withdrew from membership of academic and medical organizations. He ceased delivering lectures at the University. His only audience, at this time, was the B'nai B'rith, to whom he delivered early drafts of his important theoretical papers and whose sympathetic contact he greatly valued. Years later, he was to write that at that time he felt "shunned by all", except that "circle of excellent men" in the Vienna Lodge of the B'nai B'rith (Freud, 1961: 367). To a large extent, Freud blamed his situation upon the growing forces of anti-semitism. In late 1901 Freud was finally to visit Rome. He wrote to Fleiss about his reaction to the sights of the Catholic Rome, as distinct from those of ancient and Italian Rome: "I could not cast off the thought of my own misery and all the misery I know about" (Freud, 1985, letter to Fleiss, September 19 1901).

Although assimilating Jews, such as the Freuds and the Bauers, might have hoped to have joined mainstream Austrian society, their lives were spent almost entirely amongst other Jews. Gentile Viennese society was unwelcoming and few Jews mixed socially with non-Jews (Oxaal, 1987; Rozenblit, 1983). Freud's daughter, Anna, was to recall that she mixed with non-Jewish girls at school, but was never invited to their homes (Young-Bruehl, 1988: 47). One might presume that Dora, who was sent to a convent school, faced similar exclusion (Decker, 1990). Freud's own professional relationships followed the pattern of his social ones. His patients and close colleagues were Jewish. The early psychoanalytic movement was entirely Jewish and it was not until 1907 that there were any gentile recruits (Klein, 1981).

In short, Dora met Freud at the gloomiest, most isolated point in his life, when he was experiencing a bitter sense of rejection from mainstream, or Christian, Austrian society. If Freud was rediscovering his identity as a Jew, in the face of growing anti-semitism, then this did not entail a rediscovery of traditional Jewish culture. He continued to reject religious traditions. In Interpretation of Dreams he went out of his way to present himself to readers, rather implausibly, as someone who has to consult philologists to understand elementary Yiddish words (p. 573; there is some evidence that his mother was a Yiddish-speaker - see Yerushalmi, 1991: 69; Roith, 1987: 97). Freud's own dreams suggest he was experiencing difficulty in divesting himself of the desire to be a genuine German. His famous 'yellow beard dream', dreamt in 1897 in anticipation of being rejected for the professorship, indicates, by his own interpretation, a wish to be the government minister who refuses promotion to Jewish candidates (p. 282; for political interpretations of this dream, see Schorske, 1980, and McGrath, 1986). Freud's explanation in Dreams does not draw out the implication. If, as his theory was proposing, all dreams express hidden wishes which are too shameful to admit consciously, then this dream, too, should be powered by unconscious motives, which are disturbing for Freud to admit consciously. Consequently, the dream would seem to express more than the desire to be a powerful government minister, which is not exactly a shameful wish and to which the text openly confesses. The dream-logic also suggests the less admissible desire to be German, not Jewish, and, moreover, to be a persecutor of Jews. Freud's published interpretation does not probe these themes.

To put the matter briefly, Freud, like so many of his background was marooned in the worsening climate. There was no going back to the ghetto, or the traditions of Jewish religion; on this issue, he shared many of the prejudices of the compact majority. His culture was German, but, as he realized, this culture was rejecting him. His way forward was the attempt to construct a universal perspective through the science of psychoanalysis. He realized that this universal outlook, which would reject all religions, needed to be created by Jews, but could not be seen to be exclusively Jewish. He was to write to Karl Abraham in 1908 that "our Aryan comrades are really completely indispensable to us, otherwise psycho-analysis would succumb to anti-semitism" (Abraham and Freud, 1965: 64).

Dora was twenty-six years younger than her doctor, but she was living through similar dilemmas, although born too late to have experienced at first hand the optimism of the seventies. Her parents had come from Bohemia, to which the family periodically returned. Her father retained business interests there, but these were being affected by the growing anti-semitism, which was taking disturbingly dramatic forms (Decker, 1990). Two years before Dora came to Freud, Leopold Hilsner, a Bohemian Jew living not far from where Dora's mother had grown up, was accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child. The accusation was becoming common. Between 1898 and 1905, the year in which Freud published the 'Fragment', there were thirty different cases of blood libels against Jews in the Austro-Hungarian empire (Wistrich, 1989).

Like the Freuds, the Bauers looked towards an assimilated future. Socially they avoided unassimilated Ostjuden (Decker, 1991: 29). Dora's parents observed no religious practices; nevertheless, they made sure that their son, Otto, was circumcised (Decker, 1991: 28). Dora's older brother, like Freud, sought a way to 'universalise' German culture. Otto's path was socialism, which he combined with a sense of German nationalism. He became one of the leading theoreticians of Austro-Marxism and, later, briefly Foreign Minister of Austria, only to resign when his policy of Anschluss with Germany was rejected. His great work Die Nationalitatenfrage und der Socialdemokratie (1907) claimed that nations were based upon a psychological sense of 'common-fate'. In his book, Otto expressed sympathy for the nationalist aspirations of the peoples of the Empire. Die Nationalitatenfrage has become recognized the classic work of Marxist theory to take seriously the problem of nationalism, and, as such, it has influenced later works such as Benedict Anderson's (1983) conception of the nation as an 'imagined community'. If, according to Otto, peoples could legitimately aspire to nationhood, there was one significant exception. The Jews, he argued, were a 'historyless' people, whose fate lay with the nations in which they lived. For Otto, this meant allegiance to the ideals of Pan-Germanism, interpreted through a socialist framework (see, for example, the extracts in Bauer, 1978; and more generally Wistrich, 1982, and Loewenberg, 1985).

Dora was always to admire her brother, keeping a picture of him in her room (Decker, 1991). She was to attempt to practice what Otto preached in theory: the dissolving of Jewish identity. When Freud published the 'Fragment', he noted that Dora had recently married. The following year Dora gave birth to a son. Almost immediately after the birth, she had her child baptized as a Protestant, while she and her husband also converted (Decker, 1991: 127). The turn to Protestantism, rather than Catholicism, tended to be the course taken by those Jews who converted for career reasons, rather than factors of faith (Endelman, 1987). In Dora's case, the timing suggests that it was her infant son's future career which concerned her. Perhaps, there would have been no conversion had the child been a daughter, for whom the parents, following the discriminatory conventions of the time, would have entertained few hopes of a successful career.

Ostensibly, Karl Lueger's party claimed to accept Jewish converts as Christians. Indeed, Hitler, in Mein Kampf, was to compare Lueger unfavourably with Schonerer on this issue (1974 ed.: 110). In practice, however, the converts were socially ostracised. In 1901, one of Lueger's close associates, Ernst Schneider had publicly recommended an improved technique for baptising Jews: they should be immersed in the baptismal water for a period of five minutes (Wistrich, 1989: 222). It was the sort of joke to gain a laugh at that time.

Baptism would not ensure Dora, or her family, received better treatment in Vienna than did the unbaptised Freud. If Otto believed that the Jews as a non-national people shared no common-fate, then the fate of his sister and her famous doctor was to prove him wrong. Years later, Hitler was to be welcomed into Austria, ostensibly to realize the ideal of Anschluss, which the young Freud and Otto Bauer had supported in theory. No distinctions, then, were made between male and female, baptised and unbaptised Jew. Freud and Dora, despite differences in fame, achievements, gender and professed identity, were to suffer a common-fate. Both were to become refugees, Freud fleeing to Britain and Dora to the States, as their familiar world was destroyed and the majority of its members murdered.

Christmas for Freud and Dora

The background details may help to understand how Dora and Freud happened to meet when they did. The background suggests why Freud became a doctor, not a lawyer; why, like his mentor Josef Breuer, he was specialising in nervous ailments; why Philip Bauer might have chosen Freud, rather than any gentile specialist; why Dora might have been isolated with few friends of her own age. Background factors might also explain, as Decker (1991) suggests, why young Jewish women, suffering from double discrimination, might be particularly vulnerable to mental illness in general, and hysteria in particular.

'Background', if it is to be socially important, cannot remain as background all the time; it must intrude upon foreground. As far as the conversations between Freud and Dora are concerned, one would need to know whether 'Jewish themes' were discussed or whether, just as importantly, they were avoided; and if they were avoided, then how was this managed. Unfortunately, there is no record of the conversations, which would permit the sort of micro-conversational analysis, which discursive psychologists have been employing, especially in the close study of 'identity-work' (Antaki, 1994; Billig, 1996 and in press a; Drew, 1995; Edwards and Potter, 1992 and 1993; Potter and Wetherell, 1995; Wetherell and Potter, 1992; Widdicombe and Wooffitt, 1995). All that survives are Freud's reconstructed fragments, which are employed to tell their own particular stories.

These fragments convey the impression that Freud directed the conversation to the personal, not the political - that is, of course, to Dora's personal world, not to his own intimate life. As feminist scholars have been pointing out, Freud made no effort to make the personal political. Nor does he seem to have made the political personal. Decker (1991) remarks that there is no evidence that Freud and Dora talked about the Hilsner case nor about the boycotts of Jewish shops that were taking place in Vienna. There is evidence that such topics tended to be avoided by educated Jews of the time. The leading liberal newspaper of Vienna, Neue Freie Presse, which Freud, and no doubt, the Bauers read, tended not to comment on anti-semitic outrages, despite (or perhaps, because of) having Jewish editors (Wolff, 1988).

An absence of a conversational theme, on its own, does not indicate an avoidance, suggestive though it might be. The discursive evidence for avoidance would be contained in just the sort of details, which Freud omits as irrelevant to his story about the discovery of Dora's hidden (personal) desires. Freud's 'Fragment' tends to omit the routine, banal elements of those conversations. The greetings, the small talk, the ways of saying goodbye - all these are gone, almost without trace. Instead, the 'Fragment' claims to preserve the psycho-dynamically dramatic. In so doing, it seems to suggest the conversationally banal has little to do with the business of repression and its exposure. Yet, the conversationally banal, even in psychoanalytic dialogues, can fulfil repressive functions (Billig, in press a; 1997).

In the fragments, the two main characters are presented as bourgeois figures, with nothing marking them as members of a discriminated minority. We do not know whether they spoke 'formally', as if respectable Austrians, repressing those 'ethnic' intonations and expressions, which would have unmistakably characterised the speakers in the well tuned ears of that period (see Cuddihy, 1987, for a discussion of Jewishness and psychoanalytic discussion). Freud shows evidence of switching his talk, when addressing specifically Jewish audiences as compared with more general ones. His published version of 'Death and Us' omits the Jewish asides to be found in the earlier version, which he used as a lecture to the B'nai B'rith (Freud, 1993). In his correspondence with Jewish friends, Freud would include occasional Yiddishisms, such as, for example, the word meschugge in the letter to Fleiss of December 12 1897 (Freud, 1985: 286). If there were moments when Freud and Dora spoke in such ways, then no hint reaches the 'Fragment'. On the other hand, if they did not so speak, then this too says something of the formality in which the doctor and patient conversed about matters of sexual delicacy; most particularly, it would indicate how Jews of their time and class would assume that 'proper', 'polite' speech, even between Jews, should take on the character of gentile speech.

Without the record of the conversation, it is hard to be precise. What can be done is to examine Freud's fragmentary record for clues. Little dialogic scraps, to which Freud attaches little psychoanalytic significance, may indicate conversational presences and absences, especially in relation to the dream which is reported in the 'Fragment' as 'the second dream'. For the present, one tiny phrase in the 'Fragment' will be noted. It is a phrase which escapes attention. In so doing, the phrase helps to convey the universal (ie non-Jewish) nature of the text and its characters. Yet, if the phrase is examined closely, other considerations, which the text glosses over, come to the surface.

The dream starts with Dora, wandering in a strange town. Freud, in conformity with his approach outlined in Interpretation of Dreams, makes a connection with the dream-location and events of the previous days. He states that "at Christmas she had been sent an album from a German healthy-resort, containing views of the town" (p. 135). In the context of the report, "at Christmas" is an unimportant phrase; the German ("zu den Weihnachtsfeiertagen") conveys that the gift was given for 'the Christmas celebration', rather than merely at Christmas-time (Freud, 1972: 258). The phrase appears to set the scene, but not offer any insight: the Christmas gift was to trigger off psycho-analytically interesting connections, but Christmas itself was not to contain significance. Readers, on their way to meatier aspects of the report, need not pause. The rhetorical unimportance of the phrase conveys a message to the reader about the characters in the text. These are people - doctor and patient - for whom the giving of presents for the Christmas holiday is entirely 'natural'. Readers, too, are expected to share this sense of Christmas being a 'natural' festival to celebrate.

By its unobtrusiveness, the phrase blurs the position of the protagonists, positioning them firmly within the German, or rather Christian, culture, whose calendar 'naturally', or secularly, commemorates the birth of Christ. Freud and Dora's parents would have almost certainly belonged to the first generation of Freuds and Bauers to celebrate the festival. Although today we know that Sigmund and his family used to celebrate Christmas (Martin Freud, 1957) - and so apparently did the Bauers (Decker, 1991: 28) - but neither Dora nor Sigmund may have known, or assumed, that the other did. After all, Dora was talking to a respected member of the B'nai B'rith. Perhaps, there were subtle conversational manoeuvres to establish exactly where on the trajectory between ghetto and assimilation their respective households stood regarding the matter of Christmas. Of course, the crucial banal moments of the dialogue are irredeemably lost.

We do not know how the last session before Christmas ended - whether they wished each other a 'happy Christmas' or offered the more ambiguous 'happy holiday'; and what negotiated steps might have led to a mutual greeting, which could be uttered without the risk of embarrassment; perhaps the matter was left in polite silence, as Freud and Dora arranged the next appointment without alluding to the reasons for the gap in their sessions. If the matter had been left unspoken, then was Dora embarrassed later to mention her Christmas present? Did Freud, by nods and smiles, reassure her as she spoke. We cannot know.

We can, however, see that the matter of the Christmas greeting was not simple for assimilated Jews like Freud. In his correspondence with Jewish friends, the letters of late December preserve the subtleties of manoeuvre surrounding the assimilated Jew's Christmas celebrations. Some letters mention Christmas; some offer explicit Christmas greetings; and some cover the festival in silence. In the case of Freud's correspondence with Wilhelm Fleiss, it is the latter who, apparently, takes the first move towards the Christmas greeting. Fleiss, the older, more established man, early on in the correspondence, gives Freud a present in late December; Freud, in his thanks, specifically accepts the present as a Christmas gift (see Freud's letter of December 28 1887 included in Freud, 1985: 16). Thereafter they are at ease with Christmas greetings and occasional Yiddishisms.

With Karl Abraham, a younger colleague, just a few years older than Dora, it is different. Freud in 1907, early in their relationship, acts as Fleiss had to him: he gives Abraham a late December gift, after Abraham had visited him in Vienna. Freud arranges for the present to be left in Abraham's hotel, rather than giving it to him directly. Presumably, the present is not presented unambiguously as a Christmas gift and the recipient has a choice of interpretation. Abraham replies to Freud differently than had Freud to Fleiss. In his letter of December 21st, Abraham thanks Freud, but does not describe the present as a Christmas gift (Abraham and Freud, 1965: 14). So the pattern of subsequent December letters is set. Freud edges politely towards the possibility of offering Christmas greetings, but Abraham, just as politely, ignores the advances, offering only wishes for the New Year. Once, and only once - in 1916 - Freud actually offers "my best wishes for Christmas" (p. 244). The wish is unacknowledged and unreturned. As if admitting his solecism, Freud two years later writes to Abraham on December 25 without even mentioning the public holiday (pp. 282-3). Finally, after Abraham has tragically and prematurely died on December 25 1925, Freud, writing in sympathy to his widow, makes no mention of the particular date of death.

Dora and Freud only used the spoken word, and so their Christmas talk is unpreserved. All we know is that Dora mentions to Freud that she has received a particular Christmas present and Freud reproduces this in the 'Fragment', as if no significance should be attached to the fact. Thus, Freud conveys the pattern of the conversations: they talk openly of sex and he draws attention to their modern daring. They mention Christmas presents, but he draws no attention to this bit of modern emancipation.

Madonna and the Nodal Moment

The conversations between Freud and Dora, as they are presented in the 'Fragment', appear as revelatory dialogues, which reveal the extent and nature of the patient's repressions. The question is whether the talk of 'repression' was itself repressing other topics dialogically. If dialogic repression can be said to occur, then there must be evidence of social taboos or embarrassments which are keeping some topics from the conversational agenda. It is necessary to show how speakers collaborated discursively to create an avoidance. For this purpose, what can be called 'nodal moments' are crucial. These are moments in the dialogue, when the conversation could move - indeed, it seems to be moving - towards a topic under taboo. If, then, the topic is avoided, it becomes possible to examine how the speakers managed to accomplish the avoidance, or dialogic repression.

From Freud's account of the conversations, Dora appears ready to talk and to argue. She is not fazed by the sexual topics. The doctor offers his diagnoses of hidden desires, and the young girl, far from outwardly acquiescing, or lapsing into sullen silence, readily disagrees. The more Dora protested, the more confident Freud was, for, as he wrote, "repression is often achieved by means of excessive reinforcement of the thought contrary to the one which is to be repressed" (1977: 89). Dora is prepared to be ironic. When Freud interprets the jewel-case, which appears in her first dream, in terms of female genitalia, she comments "I knew you would say that" (p. 105, emphasis in original). She has understood the conversational game; and she goes along with it, partially.

The 'Fragment' describes one moment when the conversation seems to be in difficulty. Significantly the nodal moment does not concern sex but Jewish identity. Freud asks a question, which threatens to raise sensitive Jewish issues and Dora appears stuck for an answer. There was a pause - a moment of embarrassment. The nodal moment passed. The talk safely returned to sexual matters.

This nodal moment occurs just after Christmas during Freud's interpretation of the second dream. As has been mentioned, the dream-story begins with Dora walking in a strange town. She wishes to return home because she had heard that her father is ill. She asks where the railway station is and she meets a young man, who offers to accompany her. She cannot reach the station. The dream ends with Dora back home; her father is dead and the maid tells her that her mother is out with "the others" at the cemetry. There is a coda, which Dora apparently forgot when she first told Freud of the dream, but which she added subsequently. Dora climbs the stairs to her bedroom and reads "not the least sadly" from a big book. (1977: 133-4).

Freud describes his analysis of the dream, but admits that he is unsure of "the order in which my conclusions were reached" (p. 134). As he stressed in Interpretation of Dreams, events of the preceding day or days can trigger off the content of dream-stories. The interpretation, presented in 'Fragment', begins with the theme of wandering in the strange town. The theme, as Freud claimed was "overdetermined" (p. 135), in that it combined very recent events, more distant ones and, of course, repressed desires and memories. The recent events included Dora's Christmas present, the photograph album, which a young man had sent her. The town square, which Dora dreamt about, was in one of the photos. Freud, in his interpretation, attaches no significance to the Christmas aspect. His 'picklocks' are designed to open the closed doors of sexual taboo.

Freud claimed that there was another trigger for the dream. The day before the dream, Dora had offered to show a visiting young cousin around Vienna. This reminded her of a previous visit to Dresden, when another cousin had wished to show her around the art gallery. She declined the offer, and went alone. As Dora told Freud, she stood for two hours in front of the picture of the Sistine Madonna.

At this point, Freud appears to ask an apparently innocent, indeed obvious, question. And Dora cannot answer:

"When I asked her what had pleased her so much about the picture she could find no clear answer to make. At last she said: 'The Madonna'" (p. 136).

This is the nodal moment. Dora is in dialogic difficulty. It cannot be known exactly how she conveys her lack of clear answer. Does she offer unclear, mumbled ones, which Freud interrogates? Does she look down in silence? Does Freud repeat the question, when no answer is forthcoming? None of this can be known. What we do know is that Dora, in reacting to the question, gives the sort of response which, as conversation analysts suggest, indicates that the speaker has difficulty in providing a ready (or 'preferred') answer to the question (Pomerantz, 1984; Nofsinger, 1991).

From a psychoanalytic perspective, one might have thought that the reluctance to reply indicated a resistance, signifying a conflict between social convention and a desire which cannot be openly admitted. What is extraordinary is that Freud draws no particular textual attention to Dora's difficulty. Nor, it appears, did he probe the matter with Dora. As Freud writes, the association with Dresden was "a nodal point in the network of her dream-thoughts" (p. 136). The nodal point leads back to sexual issues: Freud makes the connection with station (Bahnhof), box, woman: "the notions begin to agree better", he comments at the end of the paragraph (p. 136). The nodal connection helps the nodal moment to pass. The conversation, and the interpretations, move back towards sex. Things begin to agree better. But something has remained unexpressed.

Freud does not leave the issue of Madonna totally without interpretation. He offers a footnote. In confining the matter to a footnote, he textually downgrades the significance of the theme. Moreover, his interpretation is implausible as an explanation of Dora's reluctance, or inability, to explain what she liked about the picture. But, then, it is not offered as an explanation: Dora's failure to answer readily is not presented as a problem in need of explanation. Nor is the two hours in front of a single picture.

The footnote concentrates upon the sexual aspect. Here, Freud suggests that Dora identified with the 'Madonna', who "was obviously Dora herself" (p. 145n). He adds that the Madonna is "a favourite counter-idea in the minds of girls who feel themselves oppressed by imputations of sexual guilt - which was the case with Dora" (p. 145n). The term counter-idea (Gegenvorstellung) suggests that a socially acceptable image takes the place of another less admissible one. An identification with the virgin mother provides a way for young girls to fantasize motherhood without appearing to fantasize sexual relations. The resulting identification is chaste and socially acceptable, as the image of Madonna replaces sexual fantasies. Freud added in his footnote that, had his analysis with Dora continued, her "maternal longing for a child would have probably been revealed as an obscure though powerful motive in her behaviour" (p. 145n).

These remarks are curious. Superficially they seem to explain why the symbol of the Madonna appeals to young girls. However, as an explanation of Dora's behaviour, and particularly of her reluctance to admit the identification, they are unconvincing. Freud is suggesting that the Madonna provides a culturally acceptable symbol into which can be channelled socially unacceptable sexual desires. Accordingly, Freud's question about what attracted Dora to the picture was inviting a socially 'preferred' response: she need only voice a 'favourite counter-idea', which functions to dispel guilt and which was presented in a famous gallery as a respectable icon of high culture. Educated young women need not be ashamed to visit galleries and to admire the image of the chaste Madonna. Why should a young woman, who regularly looked after the Ks' young children, be ashamed to admit her attraction to the image of a young mother and baby? Why, indeed, should she be ashamed of her own wishes for a baby, for such wishes have the full force of cultural conservatism behind them?

The simple fact is that Freud's account omits something so obvious that it seems to have been left unspoken. Dora is a Jewish girl, staring for two hours at the image of Madonna and Christ. If she identifies with Madonna, then she is identifying with the mother of Christ and with the Christians, who, in the context of Lueger and his Christian Socials were oppressing in the name of Christianity both doctor and patient, and practically everyone they both knew. The logic of Dora's alleged identification with the Madonna, which is contained in that two hour stare, is that she dreams of being a Christian mother - as, indeed, she was to become in the year following the publication of the 'Fragment'. Thus, Dora, like Freud in his dream of the yellow-beard, was edging towards admitting an identification with this oppressor.

It makes little sense to imagine that Freud would have been incapable of making such connections. As his letter to Fleiss nine months later indicated, Freud associated the symbols of Catholicism with his own miseries. In addition, Freud knew the picture in question. Seventeen years earlier, also in late December, he had visited the same art gallery in Dresden. He had written to Martha Bernays, then his fiancée, about the visit. He had spent an hour in the whole gallery, and, amongst other pictures, had looked at Raphael's Madonna. The religious themes did not escape him; he was acutely aware that he was looking at Christian art as a Jew. He compared the depictions of divinity in the various paintings, including the Madonna. Commenting on Titian's 'Maundy Money', he wrote that "this head of Christ, my darling, is the only one that enables even people like ourselves to imagine that such a person did exist" (1960: 97, letter dated December 20, 1883).

Dora sees Raphael's Madonna and is captured by it, in a way which the young Freud had not been, but the doctor, who pursues so many other desires, lets this one pass. Textually, his footnote brushes aside the matter. Identification with the religion of the oppressor was an issue, which had particular topicality. As Endelman (1987) has pointed out, practically every well-to-do Viennese family at that time had one member, who had converted or was contemplating conversion. The issue could split families. So many painful themes, touching on guilt, betrayal and cowardice, beckoned, should the topic have been pursued. Neither Freud nor Dora seems to have pushed the matter in the original conversation; and certainly Freud does not do so in his published text. Freud had asked his question: an answer was demanded. At last, (endlich), the brief, unelaborated answer comes. Freud directs the readers of the 'Fragment' to sexual themes. Thus, the nodal moment is circumvented both conversationally and textually.

Still Not Noticing

Readers of the 'Fragment' have often allowed their critical attention to be guided by the authorial command of the piece. They might remember Dora's two hour gaze, but overlook her hesitation to answer Freud's question. Even feminist thinkers, who have criticised Freud's attempts to control the conversations with Dora, have themselves followed Freud's directions in this matter. There is, however, an obvious difference. Whereas Freud claimed to see in the stare a repressed sexual fantasy for the male phallus, some feminists celebrate an absence of phallus. For them, Dora's stare represents a woman enjoying the image of motherhood without fathers. Dora is identifying with the woman, who did not need a phallus to become a mother. If this is all that is seen in the scene with the Madonna, then critics fail to see in Dora a Jew staring at the mother of Christ.

Mary Jacobus (1987), in her book Reading Woman, suggests that Dora was attracted by the figure of Madonna as "the only consecrated version of femininity available to her" (p. 138). Jacobus does not add the consecration was not available in her own tradition: it was only available, if she forsook her people and joined a dominating majority, which, in any case, would never truly accept her. Jacobus comments that "if Dora identified with the Madonna, it was in order to represent herself as the sexual innocent" (p. 141). The politics of race are omitted. Maria Ramas (1983) claims that she is looking at the case of Dora "with feminist eyes" (p. 74). She does not mention the Jewish identity of the protagonists. When she mentions Dora looking at the Madonna, she sees the denial of the phallus (p. 101). The religious theme and its political aspects are not mentioned.

Jacobus (1987) bases her analysis on Julia Kristeva's discussion of the image of the Madonna. For Kristeva, the Madonna represents motherhood and, in this respect, Christianity comes closer to pagan beliefs with its "pre-conscious acknowledgement of a maternal feminine", as contrasted with "Judaic rigour" (Kristeva, 1986: 177). Freud, according to Kristeva, offers "only a massive nothing" on the experiences of motherhood (p. 179, emphasis in original). Kristeva's contrasts should be disturbing: maternal, affective Christianity is being compared favourably with paternal, rigourous Judaism. According to this logic, it should be no wonder the young girl gazes longingly at the Madonna - and no wonder the Jewish doctor can offer nothing. The resulting analyses of Dora and Madonna, bear uncomfortable, unconscious echoes of Dora's own cultual climate. The symbols of Christianity are presented as desirable. They offer the Jew something better. The analysis seems to celebrate when these images, backed by centuries of cultural and political domination, work their magic over the mind of the young Jewish woman.

Hélène Cixous (1975) has written of her own identification with Dora, seeing the latter's hysterical symptoms as a revolt against the constrictions of patriarchy. In a much quoted passage in The Newly Born Woman, Cixous declared that "the hysterics are my sisters" and that "I am what Dora would have been if women's history had begun" (p. 99). Earlier in the book, Cixous discusses her own background and declares "I am a Jewish woman" (p. 71). Yet, she does not see Dora as a Jewish sister. Whatever the reason, Cixous thinks "the famous scene of the Madonna was terrific". She continues: "It is the capacity for an adoration that is not empty - it is the belief in the possibility of such a thing" (p. 155). In one respect, Cixous is right: the adoration is not empty. However, Cixous seems not to notice the obvious content of the adoration, nor its political and historical context. The consequence is that a Jewish author rejoices in the image of a young Jew staring in adoration at the image of Christ. See footnote 2

Cixous has not invented her own failure of attention. She is following other examples, including the example of that nodal moment, when Freud and Dora rescued themselves by talking of sex and by dialogically repressing other pressing themes. As Freud's report becomes a classic and as commentators criticise the classic, so secondary and tertiary repressions are accomplished. It becomes habitual to talk of Dora and Madonna in ways, which stress the personal and which abolish the overtly political. The words arrange themselves into a matrix of 'Dora', 'mother', 'sexual desire' and 'identification'. With this verbal habit, something is forgotten: the 'Jew' continues to be dialogically repressed.

The Dream's Missing Interpretation

Psycho-analytic theory asserts that connections, made by the unconscious mind, are often not admitted to consciousness, which thereby limits the awareness of mental connections. In Freud's interpretation of the second dream, it is possible to discern a limitation of thematic connections. Freud connects 'Christmas' and 'Madonna', but he links neither to Christianity. The connection between Madonna and Christmas is made towards the beginning of his account of the second dream interpretation. We cannot be sure that the order of the text matches the order of the original conversation. Nor can we be certain of the place of the nodal moment in the conversation. Within the text, and possibly within the conversations between Dora and Freud, the absent connection permits the interpretation to proceed in ways which have become recognizably 'Freudian'. Thematic connections, which might lead back to the topic of Christianity, are ignored. If such connections were made privately by Freud, or by Dora, they are not consciously expressed in the 'Fragment'. They remain outside the analyst's interpretative scheme. In this respect, the resolution of the nodal moment is in harmony with the tradition of interpretation, which Freud was consciously constructing through his text.

The second dream, whose interpretation begins with Christmas and Madonna, can be reanalysed. In recent years, some analysts have offered alternative interpretations, in order to reconstruct Dora's state of mind (see, for instance, Blum, 1994; McCaffrey, 1984). There is another reason for reinterpretation. This is to understand the repressed elements of Freud's thinking, rather than Dora's mentality. For this purpose, the attention should shift from the reasons behind Dora's dream to the assumptions behind Freud's interpretation of that dream - and, most particularly, to the themes which were being repressed by such assumptions.

Two considerations should be born in mind, when considering whether Freud's unspoken themes are repressed, rather than merely unspoken. First, we know Freud's great sensitivity to allusions and his genius for connecting seemingly disparate themes. In this task, he is theoretically committed to the notion of 'overdetermination': one set of connections does not rule out others. Theoretically, the sexual significances, which Freud finds in Dora's dreams, should not preclude other sets of meanings. There is a second consideration. We also know that, at the time of seeing Dora, Freud was preoccupied with his position as a Jew in an inhospitable society. He was turning away from an innocent identification with German culture. Given this preoccupation, and given Freud's unsurpassed talent for interpretation, his failure to develop 'Jewish' themes, which lie near the surface of the dream, is surprising. This is particularly so because the themes of Madonna and Christmas are evoked at the start, together with his patient's resistance to answer a simple question connected directly with the Madonna.

In her dream, Dora is wandering in a strange country. She hears that her father dies and she seeks the railway station in order to return home. Freud suggests that Dora is fantasising revenge against her father. Freud's language at this point is almost biblical in its simplicity: "she had left home and gone among strangers, and her father's heart had broken with grief and with longing for her" (p. 137). Freud's language echoes wider stories: the children of Israel dwelling among strangers and, more germane to Freud's times, daughters breaking their fathers' hearts by marrying outside the traditional faith. There is also the fantasy of being free to marry the stranger, should the father die. Dora is dreaming of meeting a man in the strange country - in thick woods. Freud concentrates upon the symbolism of the woods, not whether the stranger symbolises a Christian, who could be married if the ancestral restrictions were disposed of.

Dora's dream-story continues with her asking the stranger to direct her to the station, which she is unable to reach. Freud makes little of the train symbolism. Sander Gilman (1993) has argued that train journeys had particular significance for Austrian Jewry. They provided one of the few occasions for social contact with non-Jews; as such, "confrontations with anti-Semites took place on trains" (p. 126). Freud himself had suffered a particularly nasty experience some years earlier, to which he alludes briefly in Interpretation of Dreams (1976: 304). Perhaps in his own mind, he made connections with the Dresden art gallery, for the incident on the train took place as he was travelling to Dresden at that time (see his letter to Martha Bernays, Freud, 1961: 92-3). Even if Freud made such connections mentally, he kept them from his analysis and from the report.

Dora, in her dream, does not take the train, but she is suddenly home. Her father is dead; the family is at the cemetery. Freud does not offer the wish to assimilate as an interpretation: to run away with a non-Jewish man, to kill her father, but not be responsible for his death. Instead, with typical brilliance, he pursues the allusions inwards. He connects station, cemetery and sexuality. The words Bahnhof (station) and Friedhof (cemetery), as Freud wrote, directed "my awakened curiosity to the similarly formed Vorhof ['vestibulum'; literally, 'fore-court'] - an anatomical term for a particular region of the female genitalia" (p. 139). Freud adds, in a footnote, that a station is used for Verkehre (traffic or sexual intercourse).

Freud does not pick up on Dora's phrase that the mother and the others had gone to the cemetery (auf dem Friedhofe, p. 137 German edition). As significant as the word Friedhof is the use of the definite article. It is the cemetery. Then, as now, Jews and Christians were buried separately; even an irreligious Jew, like Dora's father, would be expected to be buried in the Jewish cemetery. For a Jew, talking of the funeral of another Jew, the cemetery would be assumed to be the Jewish cemetery. Any other cemetery would need to be linguistically marked: ie. 'the Catholic cemetery' or 'the Protestant cemetery' (for a discussion of the routine use of the definite article, see Billig, 1995, chapter five). The dream story, by its routine language, implies that Dora's father is being given a Jewish burial. None of this outwardly appears in Freud's text. Nor does Freud do anything to recover the implicit meaning. He does not appear to have asked Dora to specify in which cemetery was her father being buried in the dream. Nor, in the 'Fragment', are readers invited to notice the insignificant definite article.

As has been mentioned, Dora added a coda about reading a big book in her bedroom, "not the least sadly". Freud's interpretation seeks sexual significance. He asks Dora whether the big book may been printed in "encyclopedia format" (p. 140). She said it was. According to Freud, children read encyclopedia to find sexual knowledge. Freud adds a further footnote to suggest that Dora "on another occasion" substituted the word 'calmly' for 'not the least sadly' (p 140n). He offers a sexual interpretation: children never read 'calmly' about sex from encyclopedias, because they fear being interrupted by their parents. In the dream, Dora can read calmly "thanks to the dream's powers of fulfilling wishes" (p. 140), for the dream has already disposed of her father, and the rest of the family are out of the way at the cemetery.

Another line of questioning and interpretation would have been possible. Freud could have asked whether the big book was a Bible - a Christian Bible - of the sort Dora would have been familiar with from her years at the convent school. Could the Christian Bible be another book, which Dora might have unconsciously fantasized about reading? Its typographical format would differ from the typical Hebrew/German bible, such as the Philippson Bible, with which Freud was familiar from childhood (McGrath, 1986). If Dora's father were buried in the (Jewish) cemetery, and if the rest of family and friends ("the others") were there too, would she not be able to read the Christian Bible, even bear Christian children, free from guilt? And, perhaps, she might even be free to desire the strange man.

The point is not to uncover the structures of Dora's unconscious mind, but the interpretations, which Freud might readily have made, but did not do so. These unmade interpretations depend upon avoidances, both textual and dialogic. Such avoidances would indicate areas of deep pain and dilemma. When Freud wrote to Fleiss about the sight of Christian Rome reminding him of all his miseries, he did not specify these miseries. There is a reticence. Years later, when finally Freud was to leave Vienna, he was obsessed with finishing a book in which he discussed Jewish themes more openly than in any of his previous works. Strangely, this was not a book to analyse hatred against Jews, whose worst persecution in a long history of persecution was underway. Moses and Monotheism was devoted to showing that Moses was an Egyptian, not a Jew, and, thus, Jewish identity was based upon an illusion. All these are signs of avoidances, which also can be observed in the surviving fragments of Freud's contact with Dora.

Final Words

If there such avoidances, then these are not the personal foibles of Freud or Dora, but they reflect the times and precarious place of the speakers. Hannah Arendt, (1970) discussed how bourgeois Jews of Germany showed self-deception, in refusing to accept the signs that things were really as bad as they feared. The time and place of Freud's work - arguably the greatest analysis of self-deception in Western culture - is no coincidence. Furthermore, it should be no coincidence that traces of self-deception should cling to this work itself. See footnote 3

The unbending search for the roots of universal, personal irrationality involved, at least in a small way, the turning aside from looking too closely at a particular, public irrationality. Indeed, from the perspective of those times, too clear a gaze at the public irrationality could itself seem irrational. Freud shared that perspective, as did his family. This can be glimpsed in comments about Adolphine, the youngest of Sigmund's five sisters. In a letter to Martha, Sigmund described 'Dolfi' as "the sweetest and best of my sisters"; she had, he continued, "such a great capacity for deep feeling and alas an all-too-fine sensitiveness" (1961: 72). Sigmund's son Martin, in his delicate tribute to his family, indicates that 'Dolfi' was considered slightly dotty. She had a tendency to imagine insults - a tendency which the other members of the family attributed to a mixture of silliness and almost pathological phobia. When walking on the streets of Vienna, she would grip Martin's arm and whisper "Did you hear what that man said? He called me a dirty stinking Jewess and said it was time we were all killed" (p. 16). It was a family joke. She was talking absurdly.

In the family of psycho-analysis's founder, the one member, who heard clearly what was too painful to hear, was affectionately, but condescendingly, dismissed as somewhat irrational. Today, Adolphine Freud cannot be so dismissed. On one matter, the youngest sister had heard more acutely than her famous brother who listened fearlessly to the words of personal desire. In the most awful way, Adolphine was to be proved correct. She and three of her sisters were taken by the nazis to the camps, from which none of them returned.


* The author would like to thank Sheila Billig, Hélène Joffe and Angela McRobbie for their helpful and encouraging comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Footnote: 1. Max Graf, one of Freud's earliest followers, has recorded that he asked Freud's advice about whether he should bring up his young son as a Christian. Freud advised Graf against taking such a course (Graf, 1942).

Footnote: 2. Schiach (1989) points to an interesting difference between Cixous's later plays and her two Freudian plays, Le Nom d'Oedipe and Portrait de Dora. The Freudian plays offer no political context: "We are offered exhilaration, difference and disruption, but the rest, unfortunately, is silence" (Schiach, 1989: 165). This differs from the plays set in North Africa or Indo-China, where Cixous represented "the process of differentiation in more social terms" (p. 165). To have depicted Freud and Dora 'in more social terms', and in relation to 'the process of differentiation', would have entailed portraying the context of anti-semitism.

Footnote: 3. One should not exaggerate the role of possible self-deception, as if it were the only, or even dominant, reaction of Jews at the time. There were genuine fears. Freud himself may have also shared a reluctance to make matters worse by drawing attention to faults which could be publicly labelled by anti-semites as 'Jewish faults'. One might speculate about Freud's reluctance to confront sexual misconduct, like that of Herr K, in the families of his patients. Freud's abandonment of the 'Seduction Theory', in favour of the theory of infantile fantasy, took place between 1895 and 1897, at precisely the point when Lueger was advancing towards being mayor of Vienna. Freud would be aware that anti-semites would welcome a theory (or admission), proposed by a Jewish doctor, based upon analyses of predominantly Jewish patients, that fathers (Jewish fathers) regularly seduced their daughters (Wolff, 1988). Defenders of Freud point out that he never denied that child abuse actually did take place. The one case, in which Freud unambiguously points to abuse, was that of Katharina, described in Studies of Hysteria. Significantly, Katharina was not a regular patient. She was the daughter of parents who kept the inn, at which Freud happened to stay while vacationing in the Alps. Her family clearly was neither bourgeois nor Jewish. No political threat was involved in publishing the misconduct of Katherina's male relatives. Of course, much more detailed historical and textual analysis would be required to substantiate the thesis that a political awareness may have contributed to Freud's reluctance, whether consciously or unconsciously, to confront some of the familial misdeeds inflicted on his female, Jewish patients.


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