Freud Today


The “Freud Today” conference to be held at the Sigmund Freud Museum on 30/31 October sets out to trace the influence of psychoanalysis on the humanities in the United States. Organised by the Sigmund Freud Museum in co-operation with Princeton University, the conference will bring together researchers from a wide range of disciplines. The keynote lecture entitled “What is Psychoanalytic Thinking” will be held by Tim Dean (Buffalo University), one of the most fascinating minds in the field of post queer studies.

Seven lecturers of the Princeton Psychoanalysis Reading Group will be presenting research projects from the fields of cultural studies, gender studies, race studies, architecture and literary studies, among others, which draw on psychoanalytic concepts and ideas. In line with the Sigmund Freud Museum’s transdisciplinary research programme the conference will be subjecting the range of references to Sigmund Freud’s oeuvre to a contemporary discourse.

Psychoanalysis “alone among the medical disciplines, […] has the most extensive relations with the mental sciences”, Freud stated in 1923, pointing out what is so distinctive about his work. The theory he developed is indeed an interdisciplinary basic science that allows for very different applications. But psychoanalysis not only found its way into all kinds of scientific disciplines, it also spread geographically, becoming an international movement very early on. Its conquest of the New World started as early as 1909 when Freud, accompanied by C.G. Jung and Sándor Ferenczi, travelled to the United States to give a series of public lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. In light of new societal developments – capitalism, mass consumption and new forms of media production – Freudianism enjoyed great popularity in North America in the 1920s. In the two decades that followed, the United States became a new home for numerous German and Austrian psychoanalysts fleeing Nazi persecution.

However, the success of the psychoanalytic movement in North America was accompanied by a growing tendency towards conformity and a loss of subversiveness. The rejection of lay analysis as promoted by Freud transformed it into a purely medical discipline faced with marginalisation both in terms of clinical training programmes and the American healthcare system as of the late 1960s.

A reinterpretation of psychoanalysis took place in the 1970s and 1980s when it was discovered by, and became particularly influential in, the humanities. Similar to its acceptance in the German-speaking academic world, psychoanalysis was able to assert its status as a scientific discipline within the sphere of American humanities and cultural studies, with psychoanalytic concepts becoming an integral part of numerous theoretical categories. The “Freud Today” conference sets out to investigate this fruitful and sometimes conflictual relationship between psychoanalysis on the one hand and various fields of research within the humanities on the other.

In Cooperation with Princeton Psychoanalysis Group

Admission free, please register:


"What Is Psychoanalytic Thinking?"

Friday, 30 October 7 p.m.: Keynote lecture by Tim Dean

This paper addresses the specificity and use-value of psychoanalysis as a mode of thinking. How might we consider Freudian psychoanalysis not just as a hermeneutic, a therapeutic, and an ethic, but also as a practice of thought that, thanks to the unconscious, is perpetually in conflict with itself?  The paper endeavors to answer that question while also assessing the status of sexuality in psychoanalytic thinking.

Tim Dean is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA.  Until recently he was Director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis & Culture at the State University of New York at Buffalo, USA.  He is the author or editor of 6 books and many articles on psychoanalytic topics.  His most recent book is PORN ARCHIVES (Duke University Press, 2014).


Programme on Saturday, Oct 31

10 a.m. - 12:30: Panel 1


Avraham Rot: The Postulate of Anxiety in Freudian Theory

Kierkegaard considered anxiety as the presupposition of the dogma of original sin. It is likewise arguable that anxiety is the presupposition of Freud’s repression theory. Inasmuch as psychoanalysis is a positive rather than dogmatic science, however, alternative presuppositions may be considered, such as boredom, which can be defined as anxiety without fear and which accordingly involves no sense of guilt.

Avraham Rot is a doctoral candidate at the Humanities Center of the Johns Hopkins University. Having published articles dealing with questions of historiography, collective memory, and political identity, he currently works on issues that pertain to the intersection of phenomenology and psychoanalysis and to the history and philosophy of the emotions.


Rubén Gallo: Freud, Sex and Money: Psychoanalysis and Prostitution 

What did Freud have to say about prostitution? Many of his contemporaries — from Stefan Zweig to Robert Musil — wrote about prostitution in Vienna and Austria. Freud, in contrast, remained tight-lipped about this issue. Through a close reading of key passages in Freud’s texts, Rubén Gallo unearth’s the psychoanalyst’s views on this issue. 

Rubén Gallo received his B.A. in English from Yale University, and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. He is the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor in Language, Literature and Civilization of Spain at Princeton University. He is the author, most recently, of Proust’s Latin Americans (2014), Freud’s Mexico: Into the Wilds of Psychoanalysis (2010), Mexican Modernity: the Avant-Garde and the Technological Revolution (2005), New Tendencies in Mexican Art (2004) and The Mexico City Reader (2004). He is the recipient of the Gradiva award for the best book on a psychoanalytic theme and of the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for the best book on a Latin American topic. He is a member of the board of the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, where he also serves as research director.


Spyridon Papapetros: Freud and ornament: Towards a minor architecture of the psychoanalytic text


A pair of dropform earrings, a small ladies’ handbang, the shine of silverware, a lost key, the smell of cigar smoke, or a seemingly superfluous yet highly suggestive question mark left hanging at the end of a sentence in a written note: these are the some of the ornamental scrolls oscillating between the two and three dimensions from the Freudian text, specifically the psychoanalyst’s “Fragment from an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” (1905) . Building on my analysis of Dora’s first and second dreams presented at the Freud Museum two years ago, I would like to expand on a more general yet still minor theory of the way that ornament (a category of things whose legitimacy comes into question during Freud’s early period in Vienna) functions in psychoanalytic interpretation and its structural/ decorative role in the architecture of the Freudian text.   

Spyros Papapetros is Associate Professor of theory and historiography at the School of Architecture and a member of the executive committees of the Program in European Cultural Studies and the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. He studies the intersections between art, architecture, cultural history, psychoanalysis, and psychological aesthetics. He is the author of On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extension of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2012), the editor of Space as Membrane by Siegfried Ebeling (Architectural Association Publications, 2010) and the co-editor (with Julian Rose) of Retracing the Expanded Field: Encounters between Art and Architecture (MIT Press, 2014). 


Moderator: Miguel Caballero


2 p.m. - 4.15 p.m.: Panel 2


Anne Cheng: "Psychoanalysis without Symptoms"

This talk explores the relationship between psychoanalytic thinking and race studies through a larger inquiry about the politics of critical reading bequeathed to us by Freud.  This paper argues that psychoanalysis contributes to the critique of power and an understanding of American racial dynamics, not through a hermeneutics of suspicion, but through its insistence on an ethical principal of susceptibility.

Anne Anlin Cheng is Professor of English and African American Studies and Director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University.  She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief and Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface.  She is currently working on a new book, entitled Radiant Defilement: Ornamentalism and Aesthetic Being.


Miguel Caballero: “The ego is not a master in its own house." Domesticities in Transitioning Cuba

As Cuba restores diplomatic and commercial ties with the USA and gradually becomes a sui generis form of market economy, an anxiety develops in Cuban households. This presentation discusses the architectural uncanny through different cases of field work. Two different families inhabit the same house: the one who went into exile and left their house behind, and the one who occupied that same house after the revolution and are now anxious of the former owners knocking on their doors one day to claim their former home.


Miguel Caballero is a PhD candidate at Princeton University. He studies the relationship between architecture, urban planning, theoretical and literary representations of space. His dissertation, tentatively entitled “Tabula Inscripta. Iberoamerican Modern Architecture and the Underground (1928-1968)”, explores the archaeological dialectics of burying/unearthing in four projects of modern architects. He is the founder of the Princeton Psychoanalysis Reading Group.


Rachel Bowlby: Freud’s Parents

Parenthood is everywhere and nowhere in Freud. On the one hand parents appear all the time as a back-story, part of that constraining Oedipal family which is formative for the future life of every human being. But while parental desires (and fears) are fundamental in most human lives, Freud barely considers the topic from the parental side. This absence is all the more striking now that the forms and possibilities of parenthood have changed so radically since Freud’s time. Why do people want—or want not—to be parents? Starting where Freud started, with Sophocles’ Oedipus, this paper will offer some Freudian suggestions on this topic.

Rachel Bowlby studied at Oxford and Yale, and has taught the universities of Sussex, Oxford, York, University College London, and Princeton. Her work ranges from the history of consumer culture to psychoanalysis and literary theory, with books that include: Just Looking, Shopping with Freud, Feminist Destinations and Further Essays on Virginia Woolf, Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping, Freudian Mythologies, and A Child of One’s Own: Parental Stories. A new book, Everyday Stories, will be published in 2016.


Moderator: Avraham Rot


5 p.m.: round table with all participants


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