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What Freud Learned in Theodor Meynert's Clinic

The Letter, Issue 49, Spring 2012, Pages 65 - 72


Tom Dalzell

This paper examines what Freud learned from the famous Viennese psychiatrist, Theodor Meynert, during his time at Vienna’s second psychiatric clinic in 1883. It argues that psychoanalysis’ refusal to accept unscientific theories of mental illness and uncritical emphases on heredity is due in no small part to the influence on Freud of Meynert. It also contends that Freud’s subsequent parting from institutional psychiatry, because of Meynert’s rejection of his use of hypnosis and belief in male hysteria, was unfortunate since Freud later gave up hypnosis and Meynert admitted to being a male hysteric.

Keywords: Freud; Meynert; Subjectivity; Heredity; Second Viennese Medical School


In Seminar Seven, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan encourages his listeners to read Freud’s text in a different way to the historian. He suggests that psychoanalysts should read Freud without wondering whether he was influenced by Herbart or Helmholtz, as the historians do.[1] But then he proceeds to speak like a historian himself and to consider the influence on Freud of Aristotle. This paper will say something about the influence on Freud of Theodor Meynert, the famous psychiatrist in Vienna when Freud was studying medicine.[2]

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