Self and Identity in Freud's Vienna: Science, Ideology,
and Cultural Crisis
140.376, Fall 1995, Johns Hopkins University
Chandak Sengoopta, Wellcome Institute for the History of


During the so-called Age of the Enlightenment, European
thinkers believed that all humans possessed a unified,
rational self that exerted firm control over the external
world as well as on its own emotions. Liberal political
theory was based on the notion of the rational subject and
citizen, in control of himself and responsible for his
actions. From the late nineteenth century, however, this
model began to be criticized by scientists, cultural
critics, politicians, and philosophers. This debate on the
self became part of broader, political questions of identity
concerning race, nationality, and gender. Was the Male Self
different from the Female? Was the personal identity of a
Jew different from that of an Aryan? 

These questions preoccupied thinkers throughout Europe,
particularly in Vienna, the capital of the multinational and
multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the failure of
liberal politics in Austria and the rise of antisemitic and
nationalistic movements in the late nineteenth century, the
questions became acute and the debates especially rich.
Physicists, novelists, artists, philosophers, feminists, and
political activists all contributed to these discussions.
One of the most famous outcomes of the Viennese debates on
self and identity was Sigmund Freud's model of the self as a
potentially unstable consortium. Freud retained the concept
of the rational ego but subjugated it to "three severe
masters": the unconscious instincts, the punitive
superego, and the demands of external reality. This
tripartite notion of personal identity was far removed from
the Enlightenment concept of Rational Man. 

This course will explore the Viennese debates on self and
identity, placing Freud's views in their scientific,
political, and cultural contexts. We shall examine Freud's
theories and reconstruct the complex discursive universe
within which they evolved.


1. There will be a 1-hour lecture and a 2-hour discussion
section every week. Attendance is mandatory, and 25% of your
grade will be based on your participation in the

2. At each discussion section, one student will introduce
that day's reading in a brief 10-15 minute presentation.

3. During the last two section meetings, you will have to
present the premises, facts, and major conclusions of your
research paper to the class in another 10-15 minute talk.
25% of your grade will be based on these two presentations.

4. A 20-30 page research paper is required, the subject of
which should be discussed well in advance with the
instructor. This paper will contribute 50% of your grade.

The course will NOT be graded on a curve.


The following books are REQUIRED and have been ordered
for purchase at the JHU Book Center:

1. Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna.

2. Sander L. Gilman, The Case of Sigmund Freud.

3. Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities.

4. Hugo von Hofmannstahl, The Lord Chandos Letter.

5. Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, Studies on

6. Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id.

The following book is RECOMMENDED for purchase:
Rosa Mayreder, A Survey of the Woman Problem.

Week 1 (September 11 & 13)
Dual Monarchy and Multiple Identities: Political, Social,
and Cultural Tensions in the Habsburg Empire

Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, vol. 1,
  Chapter 8:"Kakania."

Barbara Jelavich, Modern Austria: Empire and Republic,
  1815-1986(1987), pp. 29-147.

Week 2 (September 18 & 20)
The Rational Self: A Brief History

Niklas Luhmann, "The Individuality of the Individual:
  Historical Meanings and Contemporary Problems," in
  Thomas C. Heller, Morton Sosna and David E. Wellbery
  (eds), Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy,
  Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought(1986).

Week 3 (September 25 & 27)
The Self and its Vicissitudes in Vienna

Carl E. Schorske, "Introduction", and
  "Politics and the Psyche: Schnitzler and
  Hofmannstahl", in Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle
  Vienna: Politics and Culture(1981).

Week 4 (October 2 & 4)
Ernst Mach and the Dissolution of the Ego

E. Mach, The Analysis of Sensations(Dover edition,
  1959): Chapter 1: Introductory Remarks-antimetaphysical,
  pp.1-38. Chapter 4: The Chief Points of View for the
  Investigation of the Senses, pp. 57-82. Chapter 15: How
  My Views Have Been Received, pp. 354- 71.

Hugo von Hofmannstahl, The Lord Chandos Letter,

John T. Blackmore, Ernst Mach: His Work, Life, and

Week 5 (October 9 & 11)
The Self without Qualities

Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, vol. 1,

R. Musil, Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses,
  ed. and trans. Burton Pike and David S. Luft (1978):
  Politics in Austria, pp. 17-21; "Nation" as
  Ideal and as Reality, pp. 101-116.

Week 6 (October 18)
Against Mach: Gender, Race, and the Self

Otto Weininger, Sex and Character(1903), Chapters 6,
  9, 13.

Vincent M. Cooke, "Kant's Godlike Self",
  International Philosophical Quarterly, 28 (1988):

Week 7 (October 23 & 25)
Against Weininger: Female Intellect and Feminist Self

Rosa Mayreder, A Survey of the Woman Problem(1905,
  trans. 1913), pp. 1-36, 74-123, 242-75.

Week 8 (October 30 & November 1)
The Politics of Racial Identity: Zionism and

C. E. Schorske, "Politics in a New Key: An Austrian
  Trio", in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna.

Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State(trans. 1946), pp.

Week 9 (November 6 & 8)
Racial Identity, Science, and Culture

Sander L. Gilman, The Case of Sigmund Freud: Medicine and
  Identity at the Fin de Siècle(1993), pp.
  1-112, 216-26.

Week 10 (November 13 & 15)
The Splintered Self: Hysteria, Gender, and

Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, Studies on
  Hysteria(1893): Chapter 1: On the Psychical
  Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena. Chapter 2: Case

Dianne Hunter, "Hysteria, Psychoanalysis, and Feminism:
  The Case of Anna O.", Feminist Studies, 9

Week 11 (November 20 & 22)
The Self and its Unconscious 

S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams(1900), Chapter

S. Freud, The Ego and the Id(1923), Chapters 1-2.

Week 12 (November 27 & 29)
A Precarious Union: The Ego and its "Three Severe

S. Freud, The Ego and the Id(1923), Chapters 3-5.

Presentations of paper topics begin.

Week 13 (December 4 & 6)
Identity after Freud

Anthony Elliott, Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in
  Transition: Self and Society from Freud to
  Kristeva(1992), Chapter 7, pp. 234-74.

Presentations of paper topics.

Week 14 (December 11)
Conclusion: Psychoanalysis, History, and Philosophy

Papers due. 
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