A mix of museum staff, volunteers and visiting scholars, we meet on Friday evenings at about six o’ clock to read Freud’s works.
Attendance varies from between four to ten people. This evening there are seven of us. The wine bottles are opened, the crisps and chocolates are spread along the table in the upper office.
Tom, our Volunteer Coordinator arrives with the texts.
We are starting Freud’s case history of his patient known as Dora.
Taking it in turns to read aloud, we tackle his ‘Prefatory Remarks’. The first section is a defence of his flouting of patient confidentiality in the cause of science.
We pause to discuss the aggressiveness of the defence, and what is meant by ‘science’ in the context of psychoanalysis.
Next Freud claims ‘the rights of the gynaecologist’ to call ‘the organs and functions of sexual life’ by their proper names. To us this is less controversial and we comment briefly on it.
When he gets onto the interpretation of dreams, a lively conversation breaks out.
Everyone has an interest in dreams. We discuss the different varieties of dream, we recount dreams, we comment on different cultures’ interpretation of dreams, and the contributions of contemporary science to our knowledge of the function of dreams.
Tom has to remind us gently that time is running out. We carry on for a couple more paragraphs in which Freud compares himself to an archaeologist, ‘bringing to the light of day’ long-buried relics, and idea which is reproduced in material form in his study downstairs, where his collected archaeological artefacts crowd his desk and shelves.
There are a few crumbs left in the crisp packet, more spaces in the chocolate box. The wine bottles are empty.
I said there were seven of us at the table this evening. Actually, there were eight. Courtesy of his translator, Sigmund Freud talked with us out of these pages.