Tuesday 1 January 2013

Freud’s ‘Katharina …’ Case. Inner Circle Seminar 193 (7 July 2013)

The Ottohaus on the Rax (where Freud met ‘Katharina ...’ in August 1893)
A photograph in winter by her brother, Camillo Kronich

Freud’s ‘Katharina …’ Case

120 years after their mountaintop meeting
An historical investigation and revaluation

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 193
Sunday 7 July 2013
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In three 1896 papers Freud expounded what others have called his ‘seduction theory’ of childhood sexual abuse as the ‘specific aetiology’ of ‘hysteria’. He never published any case studies as evidence either for the theory or for his subsequent retraction of it. But in his short case study ‘Katharina ...’ in Studies on Hysteria (1895) he comes closer than in any of his other case studies to stating the ‘seduction theory’ of 1896. Psychoanalysts usually describe the ‘Katharina ...’ case, condescendingly, as ‘pre-analytic’. But perhaps ‘Katharina’ was lucky to be spared Freud at his more ‘analytic’, as in the 1905 ‘Dora’ case. And ordinary readers, who have often felt particular affection for the ‘Katharina ...’ case, may have more insight into its true importance.

On 20 August 1893 Freud wrote from Reichenau, at the foot of the Raxalpe south of Vienna, that on the 18th and 19th he and a friend had made a ‘tour around and on the Rax’; that on the 19th he had been in the new refuge house on that mountain; and that he had been ‘consulted by the innkeeper’s daughter on the Rax’: ‘it was a beautiful case for me.’ In Studies on Hysteria (1895), Freud disguises the daughter as ‘Katharina …’; the year as ‘189–’; the mountain as in the Hohe Tauern; and her father (who, he says, she told him had sexually molested her) as her ‘uncle’ (though, in a 1924 footnote, he reproaches himself for this particular disguise).

Freud says that his case-histories in the Studies ‘read like novellas’ but that they have the advantage over psychiatric case-histories that they show the relation between ‘Leidensgeschichte’ (‘existential suffering history’, ‘passion narrative’) and ‘illness-symptoms’. The ‘Katharina …’ case study does indeed read like a novella, or even a Sherlock Holmes story; but does it justify Freud’s claim? Was she ‘nervously ill’, as he says she said? Was hers a case of ‘hysteria’, as he diagnoses? Or was she really a ‘schizophrenic’, as psychiatrists such as Goshen have insisted? Was this ‘less an analysed case than one solved by guessing’, as Freud grants? Does that diminish its value, as psychoanalysts generally appear to believe? Was it a ‘wild analysis’, as Anna Freud called it? Was his ‘guessing’ correct? Was Freud’s chronology of the case seriously wrong, thereby throwing into doubt his theory of the ‘aetiology’ of ‘hysteria’, as Swales has argued? Did her conversation with Freud help ‘this girl so early wounded in her sexual sensibility’, as he hoped? And, as regards her later life, did ‘Katharina’ and her husband get divorced, as Fichtner and Hirschmüller assert?  

To try to answer these questions, Anthony Stadlen has researched the case historically in Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Canada. In this seminar he will report some of his still unpublished findings, for example from interviews with a daughter; a daughter-in-law; and a half-brother and half-sister of ‘Katharina’, her father’s children by her cousin ‘Franziska’ with whom she discovered him having sexual intercourse.

Whether you are a psychoanalyst, an existential psychotherapist, or a family therapist, or are simply intrigued by this short case study, you are welcome to contribute to the discussion of its possible historical revaluation and implications for psychotherapy today.

Venue:  ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £116, others £145, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail: stadlen@aol.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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