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Beauty and the butcher -the desire of the hysteric and its interpretation.

The Letter, Issue 3, Spring 1995, Pages 21 - 35




Maeve Nolan*

There was once a clever hysteric. It was the turn of the century and because she was a hysteric she went to see Dr. Freud. In fact, because she was a hysteric she went to outwit him, and to prove to him that his newly-elaborated dream theory was wrong. He had concluded that dreams always represent the fulfilment of a wish, so she brought him a dream which was the exact opposite - a dream in which one of her wishes was not fulfilled and she defied him to fit that into his theory. This was her dream:

I wanted to give a supper party, but I had nothing in the house but a little smoked salmon. I thought I would go out and buy something, but remembered then that it was Sunday afternoon, and all the shops would be shut. Next I tried to ring up some caterers, but the telephone was out of order. So I had to abandon my wish to give a supper party.[1]

Freud devotes only four pages of his dream book to this dream, its interpretation, and the inevitable conclusion that of course it supported his theory after all. There are many things we don't know, like why she came, how long she stayed, and what became of her. Despite this, due to the richness, as ever, of Freud's text, there is much we do know and much more we can deduce from the text we have. By the time Lacan turns his attention to it over fifty years later and uses it in his seminar on The Formations of the Unconscious as an example par excellence of the desire of the hysteric, we have a very meaty story indeed.

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