‘Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ by Sigmund Freud

‘Dora’ is the crucible for Freud’s thinking about fantasy, reality, and truth, as well as for his developing understandings of dream analysis and transference. It’s been hugely controversial, for Freud’s imputation to a teenage girl of a desire for the sexual advances of a much older man. It has figured in the last decades as a lightning rod for feminist critiques of Freud and psychoanalysis.

But it’s also a remarkable story, one in which the reliability of narration is the central, raging theme – narration by the protagonists in the story (Dora herself), and narration by the narrator and author. All Freud’s early case studies can be read as often dramatic documents in which Freud the scientist and Freud the writer are trying to find a narrative voice, a persona, and a style. His long career of revision, amendment, and revisiting cast him as his own obsessive editor and annotator. In these case studies, his authorial stance, and the voices of his subjects – sometimes speaking with agonizing clarity, and sometimes struggling to be heard, muffled by Freud’s own wishes – jostle for space and authority. The stories he told, with their own conflicting desires, sometimes contradictory aims, unexamined assumptions, erratically brilliant self-analyses, glaring lacunae, their unsteady implications constantly threatening to outpace Freud’s own attempts to keep them in his mastery, are some of the most exciting narratives ever written.

First published in 1905, otherwise known as ‘Dora’. Available from Oxford World Classics, translated by Anthea Bell, 2013.