Sites of the Unconscious

Sites of the Unconscious: Hypnosis and the Emergence of the Psychoanalytic Setting. Author's talk: Andreas Mayer introduced by John Forrester

Sites of the Unconscious: Hypnosis and the Emergence of the Psychoanalytic Setting

Author’s talk: Andreas Mayer introduced by John Forrester

In the late nineteenth century, scientists, psychiatrists, and medical practitioners began employing a new experimental technique for the study of neuroses: hypnotism. Though the efforts of the famous French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot to transform hypnosis into a laboratory science failed, his Viennese translator and disciple Sigmund Freud took up the challenge and invented psychoanalysis. Previous scholarship has viewed hypnosis and psychoanalysis in sharp opposition or claimed that both were ultimately grounded in the phenomenon of suggestion and thus equally flawed. , revealing that the emergence of the familiar Freudian psychoanalytic setting cannot be understood without a detailed analysis of the sites, material and social practices, and controversies within the checkered scientific and medical landscape of hypnotism.

Sites of the Unconscious analyses the major controversies between competing French schools of hypnotism that emerged at this time, stressing their different views on the production of viable evidence and their different ways of deploying hypnosis. Mayer then reconstructs in detail the reception of French hypnotism in German-speaking countries, arguing that the distinctive features of Freud’s psychoanalytic setting of the couch emerged out of the clinical laboratories and private consulting rooms of the practitioners of hypnosis.

Sites of the Unconscious: Hypnosis and the Emergence of the Psychoanalytic Setting is published by Chicago/London: Chicago University Press, 2013

After studying musicology in his native Vienna, Andreas Mayer turned to the history and sociology of science with studies in Paris, Cambridge and Bielefeld. His work centers on various topics in the history of the human sciences, the entangled relationship between music, literature, the arts and the sciences in the modern period, and most notably the emergence of psychoanalysis and its related discourses and practices. His major publications include Dreaming by the Book: A History of Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” and the Psychoanalytic Movement (2003).

John Forrester is Professor of History and Philosophy of the Sciences in the University of Cambridge, author of Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis(1980), The Seductions of Psychoanalysis (1990), (with Lisa Appignanesi) Freud’s Women(1992), Dispatches from the Freud Wars (1997) and Truth Games(1997). He is completing (with Laura Cameron)  Freud in Cambridge, a study of the reception of psychoanalysis in the 1920s. He is interested in reasoning in cases in science, medicine and law. He is Editor of ‘Psychoanalysis and History.

Part of a season of performances, talks, films and events accompanying the forthcoming exhibition ‘Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors’, 10 October 2013 – 2 February 2014.

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