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 Psychology


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.

* 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.

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