Freud in America Part 3: The Lectures on Psychoanalysis

About Freud's trip to the United States, the general discussion of his lectures given at Clark University.

Dr. Freud Visits America

By Irving Wallace

After a week in the U.S., some of it spent preparing his 1st of 5 lectures, Freud and company traveled by sea from New York to New Haven, Conn., and then by train to Boston, and finally they continued on to their destination, Worcester, Mass., seat of Clark University.

The party was welcomed by their host, G. Stanley Hall, the college president, who had reserved rooms for them in the local Standish Hotel. Freud was quite taken by Hall, later writing a friend: "It is one of the pleasantest phantasies to imagine that somewhere far off, without one's having a glimmering of it, there are decent people finding their way into our thoughts and efforts, who after all suddenly make their appearance. That is what happened to me with Stanley Hall. Who could have known that over there in America, only an hour away from Boston, there was a respectable old gentleman waiting impatiently for the next number of the Jahrbuch, reading and understanding it all, and who would then, as he expressed it himself, 'ring the bells for us'?"

When Freud learned that President Hall had introduced psychoanalysis into the university curriculum, and that members of the faculty had read his books and were discussing them with their students, Freud was astonished. He called Hall a "kingmaker," and was pleased the instructors were so unexpectedly free of "prudery."

At last the lectures began. Jung had suggested the subject be dreams. Jones advised against it, feeling the subject too specialized. Freud finally "agreed that Americans might regard the subject of dreams as not 'practical' enough, if not actually frivolous." He decided to concentrate on discussing the birth and growth of psychoanalysis.

During 5 days in September of 1909, addressing himself to a gathering of psychologists at Clark University, Dr. Sigmund Freud delivered his 5 lectures. Except for the 1st lecture, each talk was prepared during a stroll on campus with Ferenczi a half hour before Freud faced his audience. Freud spoke without a single written note, addressing his listeners in German in a conversational tone of voice.

Years later he would remember his feelings as he entered to begin his opening lecture: "As I stepped onto the platform at Worcester to deliver my 'Five Lectures Upon Psychoanalysis,' it seemed like the realization of some incredible daydream: Psychoanalysis was no longer a product of delusion--it had become a valuable part or reality." With each lecture, Freud gained confidence, still recalling 15 years later, "In Europe I felt like an outcast, here I saw myself received by the best men as their equal."

Among those who came to hear and meet Freud was Dr. James J. Putnam, professor of neurology at Harvard University. Earlier, Putnam had put down psychoanalysis as "immoral." But Freud's lectures turned him into a vocal defender and advocate of the new therapy.

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