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International Conference : Freudian Psychoanalysis and Literary Circles in Central Europe Transnational Circulations and National Scopes (1895-1939)

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Paris-Sorbonne University


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International Conference
18-20 September 2014
Paris-Sorbonne University

Freudian Psychoanalysis and Literary Circles in Central Europe
Transnational Circulations and National Scopes

Organizers :
Jean-François Laplénie (Université Paris-Sorbonne – REIGENN)
Clara Royer (Université Paris-Sorbonne – ORBEM/CIRCE)

Deadline for application : May 4th , 2014.


The reception of Freud and his theories among literary circles was long seen as a homogeneous and straightforward phenomenon. But part of our current European research has eventually reappraised this reception and shown its ambivalence. At first dealt with within monographies dedicated to specific writers, and then to groups of writers, the literary reception of psychoanalysis has lately been reassessed according to a more sociological approach, which sees literature as a field made up of dynamic networks. The very concept of influence has therefore been completed with a more subtle analysis that links the ambivalence of psychoanalysis’s literary reception to the literary endeavours of modernist writers. Whether familiar with Freud’s and his disciples’ works, whether patients or not, whether the friends of psychoanalysts or not, and whether acknowledging or not their debt towards Freud’s teachings, writers displayed many attitudes and positionings, which would be difficult to summarize.

Existing synthetical studies on the reception of psychoanalysis seem to give the priority to the national framework, such as delimited by the various national histories of literature. They also stem from the survey of sociabilities networks, practices of publications, and scholar backgrounds. Yet, if some of these national layouts are well studied (such as the German-speaking world or Hungary and Triest), some of them still lack appraising. Our forthcoming international conference would like to offer a broad comparative frame so to disclose the Central European literary ”fate” of psychoanalysis. This fate has been elusive, partly because of the legacy of the totalitarian regimes that weighed on this part of Europe from 1938 on, to say it quickly. Our chronological frame therefore includes the period preceding the major turning-point of 1938-39 : from Freud’s first psychoanalytical publication (Studies on Hysteria, 1895) to his death in 1939 – a date that partly coincides with the death or exile of many actors and mediators between psychoanalysis and the literary field. For the sake of consistency, we choose to focus on the study of the sole Freudian psychoanalysis in order to appraise the networks it specifically brought about, therefore overlooking the other branches of psychoanalysis (Jung, Adler).

Studies dealing with the literary reception of psychoanalysis within the German or Hungarian literary landscapes have revealed some main common features : the presence of a large urban Jewish community (Budapest, Triest, Vienna), the university background of a generation of writers born in the 1870s-1880s (Arthur Schnitzler, Italo Svevo, Hugó Ignotus), but also the dissemination of German-written texts within the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy and beyond. Such surveys make us ponder about German as a lingua franca, the mobility of a new developing class of intellectuals, or the importance of the Jewish bourgeoisie, and that of doctors and journalists within the various national literary fields. It also seems to us that when writers acknowledged their reading Freud, they would usually be divided between enthusiasm and reluctance, whether out of distrust or disillusion – leading some of them to engage into polemics, some of which even took a satirical turn.

We would like to see whether such patterns apply to Central Europe as a whole, including Czech, Slovak, Polish and so-called South-Slavic cultures, so to achieve a common modelization for the whole region – if possible. We would like to show how the various national situations can compare. When not, can a specific national feature be attributed to a national filter that conditions the reception of the Freudian theories ? Which theoretical elements were excluded ? And to which misunderstandings such selections led to ?

The aim of our international conference is therefore to shed some light on the structures of the dialogue, which grew between the psychoanalytical and the literary networks. We encourage papers dealing with traces of early reception (whether explicit or overlooked), strategies of publications and translations, and public polemics. We also welcome papers showing the places of the reception of Freud’s theories (coffeehouse culture, literary magazines – such as Nyugat in Budapest–, salons, and so forth). Case studies are not excluded as long as they scrutinize field effects and mechanisms that underscore more individual reactions.

Main points of focus – propositions :

1. Central Europe as a homogenous field of circulation
2. The importance of social and historical national structures and their role as filters of the psychoanalytical theories
3. Literary strategies : adoption or rejection.

Please send your title and proposal (up to 300 words) as well as a brief CV (5 publications max.) by the 4th of May to Clara Royer ( and Jean-François Laplénie (
We ask that all participants prepare a presentation of no more than 25 minutes to allow for discussion and questions. The conference will be held in both French and English.

There will be no registration fee. Travel and accommodation expenses up to a limited amount will be covered by the organizers of the conference. Information regarding accommodation in Paris will be sent along with notification of acceptance.

Scientific committee
Pr. Bernard Banoun (Université Paris-Sorbonne)
Pr. Xavier Galmiche (Université Paris-Sorbonne)
Pr. Jacques Le Rider (EPHE)
Dr. HDR Elisabeth Roudinesco (Université Denis Diderot Paris-VII)
Pr. Michael Rohrwasser (Universität Wien)
Pr. Elisabeth List (Universität Graz)
Pr. Paweł Dybel (Académie des Sciences de Pologne)
Dr.essa Rita Corsa (Società psicoanalitica italiana)