#16 Todd Dufresne


■ 1: Enter Dr. Todd Dufresne, Deconstructor of Psychoanalysis (Takayuki Tatsumi)

[From “Todd Dufresne’s Workshop on Moses and Monotheism: A Transdisciplinary Approach” (July 4th, 2019)]
■ 2: Caught Together, Hanged Together: Freud, Christianity, & Moses & Monotheism (Todd Dufresne)

■ 3: Patricide of Monotheism or Metapsychology: Freud’s Historiography of Transcendental Negativity (Fuhito Endo)

■ 4: The Rhetoric of Exodus: Somewhere between Freudism and Americanism (Takayuki Tatsumi)

[Special Interview (August of 2019; updated in June of 2020)]
■ 5: Freud Unbound: Literary Studies, Trumpism, Climate Change, & Covid-19: An Interview With Todd Dufresne (Ayano Matsumaru and Todd Dufresne)

■ 6: Related Articles

■ 7: Related Books

1: Enter Dr. Todd Dufresne, Deconstructor of Psychoanalysis 
Takayuki Tatsumi

I first met Professor Todd Dufresne of Lakehead University, Canada on November 11th, 2016, when I joined Professor Fuhito Endo’s moderated panel  ““Psychoanalysis as an American Frontier: What Freud Discovered”” at the 114th annual conference of PAMLA (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association) held at The Westin Pasadena, California, with Ms. Keiko Ogata (SUNY Buffalo), me and Todd as panellists. Since this is the first time for me to visit Pasadena, we could also enjoy going sightseeing and visiting places of interest, thanks to one of my former students Amanda Kennel, Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California (Clinical Assistant Professor, Japanese Studies, University at Buffalo since 2018), who gave us a ride very generously. What impressed me most is Huntington Library and Art Gallery, whose huge property included a gorgeously designed Japanese garden. Of course, this is only part of what Collis Huntington achieved. Huntington, along with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, came to be known as “The Big Four” capitalists or “The Associates” in Sacramento, California. One hundred and fifty years ago, they joined forces to make possible the American transcontinental railroad in 1869, the heyday of what Mark Twain called “The Gilded Age” (for more detail, see Richard Rayner, The Associates: Four Capitalists who Created California [Norton, 2008]).

When the Gilded Age saw the rise of billionaires in the United States, who explored economic space as the new frontier in the American west, Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, entered the University of Vienna, Austria at the age of seventeen, who was to give a keen insight into the unconscious or the “inner space” as another frontier we had to explore. In this respect, our Pasadena panel on Psychoanalysis as an American Frontier, coinciding with the news that Donald Trump became the first billionaire president in the US history, turned out to be incredibly exciting and very symptomatic of theory to come in the 21st century. Thus, Todd very naturally acknowledges the very panel in his 2017 book The Late Sigmund Freud: or, the Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, and All the Riddles of Life (Cambridge UP., p. 162). For your information, let me paste our abstract below:

Psychoanalysis as an American Frontier: What Freud Discovered
Despite or because of Freud’s disdain of America as “the New World”, psychoanalysis in the United States developed itself as a cultural discourse. However, its decisive and irreversible impacts on American literary and critical languages have distinguished itself from a variety of its counterparts in European countries. Such discursive and historical uniqueness deserves reconsideration and provides us with a chance to grapple with quite a few topics the hardcore Freudians left unexamined; the New York intellectuals; psychoanalysis and the Yale deconstruction; a set of “traumas” as film representations after the Vietnam war or 9/11; unexpected transactions between literary and psychoanalytic languages in specifically American contexts; or the hegemonic or marginalized positions of psychoanalysis in the humanities of American universities today.

Panel: Psychoanalysis as an American Frontier: What Freud Discovered 
From left, Prof. Tatsumi, Ms. Ogata, Prof. Dufresne and Prof. Endo 
At City Hall
From left, Prof. Dufresne, Prof. Tatsumi, Prof. Endo and Prof. Yukiko Fukase
At BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
From left, Prof. Tatsumi, Prof. Mikayo Sakuma, Prof Dufresne,
Prof. Yoshiko Uzawa, Prof. Yuko Takase and Prof. Endo
At Bodega Wine Bar
From left, Prof. Tatsumi, Prof. Endo, Prof. Takase, Ms. Ogata and Prof. Dufresne
At Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain
From left, Prof. Endo, Prof. Amanda Kennell, Prof. Tatsumi and Prof. Takase
Prof. Mari Kotani and Prof. Dufresne
Prof. Michiko Shimokobe, Clara and Todd Dufresne
 At Keystone Club, Roppongi
Therefore, while Todd stayed in Tokyo in the spring of 2019 as visiting professor of Seikei University, I was happy to help Todd’s translator Fuhito to produce a workshop on July 4th, 2019 ( 17:30-19:30), sponsored by Keio Society of Arts and Letters and Keio American Studies Association, at the second conference hall of North Building at Keio University. Since we intended to continue and further develop our discussion at Pasadena, with special emphasis on Freud’s late style exhibited in Moses and Monotheism (1939), Todd’s Workshop came to be entitled as “Moses and Monotheism: A Transdisciplinary Approach” with Fuhito as moderator, me and Professor Yoshiko Uzawa of Keio University as discussants. Our controversy got so heated that we continued it even at our reception at the restaurant CORE. The topics also included his new book The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (McGill Queens UP, 2019), which marks his shift from psychoanalysis to eco-criticism. Although published last year, this book will undoubtedly inspire us very much in the days of COVID-19.

Workshop: Moses and Monotheism: A Transdisciplinary Approach
Back row: from left, Prof. Uzawa and Prof. Endo
Front row: from left, Prof. Dufresne and Prof. Tatsumi
Reception at CORE

Now our Panic Literati #16 reproduces all the papers delivered at the Keio workshop as well as a recent provocative interview with Todd skillfully conducted by Ms. Ayano Matsumaru, one of the graduate students at Seikei University, a member of Prof. Michiko Shimokobe’s American Literature Seminar. For more detail about Todd’s bio-bibliography, please take a look at Ayano’s introduction.

From “Todd Dufresne’s Workshop on Moses and Monotheism: A Transdisciplinary Approach”
Keynote Speaker: Todd Dufresne (Lakehead University, CANADA)
Discussants: Takayuki Tatsumi (Keio University), Yushiko Uzawa (Keio University)
Chair & Discussant: Fuhito Endo (Seikei University)
July 4th, 2019, 17:30-19:30 
Conference Room #2, North Hall, Keio University, Mita
2: Caught Together, Hanged Together: Freud, Christianity, & Moses & Monotheism
Todd Dufresne

[Moses and Monotheism] contains an investigation based on analytical assumptions concerning the origin of religion, specifically Jewish monotheism, and is essentially a sequel to and an expansion of another work which I published twenty-five years ago under the title Totem and Taboo. New ideas do not come easily to an old man; there is nothing left for him to do but repeat himself. Freud, October 31, 1938 (Freud, 1960: 453)

It takes a certain perverse willfulness to invert the normal order of things and insist on linking Christianity to Freud’s last major work, Moses and Monotheism (1938). For of course the Moses is Freud’s famous, or infamous, analysis of the Mosaic tradition, Judaism, and of the pre-historic and collective origins of individual Jewish psychology. It’s certainly true, moreover, that Freud rationalizes a religious tradition set apart from Christianity. Indeed, the raison d’être of this book is just that: Jews have a different, and much longer, history than Christians; Jews have a different relationship with patricide and, therefore, with the Oedipus complex, than Christians; consequently Jews have a different relationship with Kultur, that is, with society, culture, and civilization, than Christians; and, finally, Jews have a different character or psychology than Christians.

On the other hand, this tradition set apart from Christianity is still a tradition verily defined against it. As Freud says of Christianity and Judaism, qualifying his remarks cited in the epigraph above, Mitgefangen mitgehangen! – “Caught together, hanged together!” (Freud 1960: 453).

Strictly speaking, though, Freud in the Moses isn’t interested in analyzing Christianity, which he already did in The Future of an Illusion, or even anti-Semitism. Instead he asks a question shockingly perverse in its formulation: What have the Jews done to warrant such hatred? This focus on the supposed culpability of Jews, their guilt or masochism, in the face of racial hatred obviously pushes against good sense and taste at the worst possible time: on the eve of the Holocaust.

And so Freud’s Moses has been treated as an aberrant outlier in his life’s work, to wit, as a work set apart from his trenchant critique of Christianity; outside of the logic and structure, moreover, of everything else he wrote in his middle and final phases. Consequently, while Freud himself considered the Moses a suitably auspicious exit to his life and work – as he says on 12 March 1939, “The Moses made its appearance today in two copies. Quite a worthy exit, I believe” (Sachs, 1945: 184) – the book has been routinely dismissed as the byproduct of a cranky, misanthropic, doddering, self-loathing, racist, biologistic and, finally, insufficiently analyzed Sigmund Freud. It would seem that in this last major work Freud lost the thread of his own creation; lost the thread of his own interminable self-analysis; lost even the thread of his own style.

Of course this is all a myth – all of it. As I’ve argued elsewhere (Dufresne 2017), Moses and Monotheism is not just Freud’s last major word on psychoanalysis and metapsychology, one that he developed with great care between 1934 and 1938. It’s essentially his last will and testament, the exit he very doggedly planned and wanted, but the one that scholars have refused to grant him.

And so tonight I want to start over by returning Freud to Freud, in effect, by simply giving him what he wants. To that end I briefly consider the context of Freud’s biologism and then pose three basic but highly clarifying questions of his cultural works. And then, by way of conclusion, I will defend my claim that Freud’s developmental theory of culture takes us back to his analysis of Christianity and primitive belief, and reveals a Moses and Monotheism that is every bit the exit Freud believed it was, and why.

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Ultimately it must be the developmental history of our earth and of its relation to the sun that has left its mark on the evolution of organisms.  Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920: 77)

The final phase of Freud’s own development was made possible by the speculations of Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). But Beyond is itself the culminating achievement of Freud’s “metapsychology” of the middle period, his attempt to resolve the problems of narcissism and war neurosis. It’s only in the cultural works that the broadest and most questionable implications of the metapsychology become clear. Surprisingly, though, scholars have paid insufficient attention to later works like The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism. That’s almost certainly because these works double down on the biologism that most scholars do their best to ignore, downplay, whitewash, or negate altogether.

That the father of psychoanalysis, a medically-trained neurologist, framed his thinking about Kultur in terms of biology shouldn’t be surprising (see Sulloway 1979). True, he isn’t always explicit about his reliance on 19th century theories of biology. But at every stage of his development Freud’s work relies upon and extends two popular theories of 19th century biology: the inheritance of acquired characteristics and recapitulation. In practical terms, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s and Ernst Haeckel’s theories are often linked in the literature. The first insists that organisms inherit the experiences of everyday life, including experiences of the natural environment, and pass them on; the second insists that individuals repeat all the evolutionary conditions that made them possible, albeit in abbreviated fashion. Freud’s own brand of ‘psycho-Lamarckianism’ presumes these beliefs and extends them to include incredibly bullish claims about his ability – based upon an analogy with the psychoanalysis of individual psychology – to find in dreams, myths, rituals, neuroses, and religious belief the inklings of long buried events from pre-history.

The most famous and enduring of all these events is first advanced in Totem and Taboo of 1912-13. In this work, written in the wake of his break with Carl Jung, Freud claims to have discovered the origin of civilization in the inherited sense of guilt. According to Freud’s tale, the primal father once possessed all the women. In response to this untenable situation, the sons grouped together and killed the father – thus ending the perfect happiness of the absolute narcissist. The development of culture and civility is nothing less than the reaction formation built on the guilt of this original crime. It also establishes an Oedipus complex neatly outside of written history – and outside of clinical experience, too. This pre-historical tale is literally ‘meta’, beyond, Freud’s biology a meta-biology.

The word ‘metapsychology’ first appears in a letter of February 1896 to Wilhelm Fliess. But it was only during the First World War and the interwar period that Freud had the time to address nagging problems of psychoanalytic theory, which reignited his interest. And while Freud didn’t publish the twelve essays he planned on metapsychology, he did publish five – and, more importantly, wrote the culminating text of this entire period, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). In it Freud introduces a grand explanation for what he calls elsewhere “all the riddles of life”: namely, the ceaseless interplay of life and death drives.

During the writing of Beyond Freud began another book that bridges the metapsychology with his late interest in ego defense and society. While Beyond investigates the “demonic” drive to death and nonexistence, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) investigates life, love, and group existence. Each work reflects the other, in other words, the mysterious and finally silent death drive finding its counterpart in the noisy realm of Eros, the life drive.

Similarly, The Ego and the Id (1923) begins (in the Preface) by reminding readers that the turn to ego psychology was made possible by the speculations of Beyond. In short, even Freud’s more clinically-minded work about defense, sociality, and “object relations” is infused with the speculative theory of the death drive. Logically, they cannot be set apart – although many have tried. The same point holds for the cultural works, only more so, including even The Future of an Illusion (1927), which has for generations been misread as another puzzling outlier: a simplistic argument for a rationalistic psychoanalysis, one steeped in the style and attitudes of Enlightenment philosophy.

The Future of an Illusion represents Freud’s major attack on Christianity – the first major application of Totem and Taboo to religious belief. In it he advances ideas about progress and reason and sells the scientificity of psychoanalysis at a time when, thanks to public attacks in the courts of Austria, it was accused of being quackery (see Freud 1926; cf. Dufresne 2017: 41-55). That’s the first reason for Freud’s scientistic tone. A second reason: the American medical analysts bristled at his defense of lay analysts and the “art” of psychoanalysis, thinking he’d gone soft. Freud thus had two very compelling reasons, in addition to the specter of Marxism in the 1920s, to reaffirm his own bona fides as a scientific thinker. In short, The Future of an Illusion is a kind of public relation pamphlet, which explains why Freud considered it his worst and least Freudian book (see Dufresne 2017: 35).

Unfortunately, Freud’s tactics in the face of critics has in turn confused generations of scholars – who have essentially repeated the 1928 criticisms advanced by Freud’s friend, the Swiss lay analyst and Lutheran pastor Oskar Pfister (see Pfister 1928). Pfister complains that Freud’s attack on Christianity errs on the side of scientism; confuses Catholicism with Christianity more generally; and fails to appreciate that religion may begin with illusion but has slowly evolved into something mature and thoughtful. And so Pfister, adopting Freud’s own developmental rhetoric, tongue firmly set in cheek, compares Catholicism to tadpoles, Protestantism to frogs (Pfister 1928: 119).

What Pfister fails to comprehend in Freud’s work is the complex internal logic of the biologism that he opportunistically uses against him. For although Freud makes some bullish claims on behalf of science, in the tenth and final chapter he in fact withdraws all “optimism,” rendered merely ironical, about the future of human reason: he argues that collective reason, like love and even Marxism, is possible only over “geological” time. Freud’s droll conclusion, so ‘Freudian’ in tone and substance, is perfectly metapsychological. Human nature required millennia to evolve, with reason and civility arriving very late on the scene. It will therefore require the same amount of deep time for the experiences of reason and love to accumulate, be inherited, and thereby become ubiquitous. Until this deep time of future progress there will be no great improvement to what Freud calls the “cultural superego” and “cultural drive.” Until then humanity will of necessity be defined by the battle of life and death drives – with death always winning out.

Metapsychology speaks grandly of our evolutionary pasts as animals, while psychoanalysis deals with the detritus of that past in the face of life in the human present. As for the future – this he leaves to geologists, to a time “far, far ahead, but probably not infinitely far” (1927: 111). Probably – he says with dark irony. And so the field of metapsychology overlaps with psychoanalysis but isn’t simply the ‘theory of psychoanalysis’, as some suppose. Like the death drive, metapsychology is, in Freud’s own estimation, both “older than and independent” of psychoanalysis. And this is why Freud’s founding text of the late period, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, really means ‘beyond the theory of sexuality’ or, more simply, ‘beyond psychoanalysis’. This shift beyond psychoanalysis informs all of his most famous, and also most misunderstood, cultural works.

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‘I can say that the older I get the more sure I grow of everything’.  Freud, 6 December 1934 (in Wortis, 1954: 92)

Let’s address this fundamental misunderstanding by posing three very basic questions of the late Freud. How does Freud think of Kultur? What does he think of Kultur? And who does he think about when he thinks of Kultur? These are questions of method, substance, and history, respectively.

Start with the ‘how’. According to the late Freud, individual neuroses and trauma can go ‘beyond psychoanalysis’, and so must be understood metapsychologically. In this respect Freud uses the psychoanalysis of the everyday life of individuals, his “archeology,” to get him to his metapsychological speculations about culture and its relation to ancient prehistory, his “paleopsychology.” Traces of ancient history are repeated, and repeated compulsively, in the present, so much so that an analysis of these traces is tantamount to an analysis of “archaic inheritance.” In short, the link between individual psychology and group psychology, and between group psychology and the ancient origins of our collective psychology, is made possible by a metabiology that reveals paleopsychology. The penultimate result is Moses and Monotheism, which does to Judaism what Freud, in Totem and Taboo and The Future of an Illusion, do to Christianity: namely, it reveals the long-hidden, ancient origins of monotheism in the pre-historical murder of Moses, primal father of Judaism. To that extent Moses is essentially Freud’s first fully realized work of applied metapsychology (see Dufresne 2017: 243)

Of course many psychoanalysts disagreed with Freud, primarily because Mendelian genetics was rediscovered in 1900. But Freud was immovable. As his follower Ernest Jones says, “Freud never gave up a jot of his belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics” (1957: 313). Freud’s final, blunt response was Part 3 of the Moses, where he claims that science was wrong and that, in any case, “I cannot picture biological development proceeding without taking this factor [from Lamarck] into account” (SE 23: 99-100). Or as he put it to a student a few years before, in 1932, “We can’t bother with the biologists. We have our own science” (in Wortis, 1954: 84).

Without “the archaic heritage,” Freud insists in the Moses, “we shall not advance a step further along the path we entered on, either in analysis or in group psychology. The audacity cannot be avoided.” And Freud was right. Without an audacious theory of phylogenesis he couldn’t do the kind of cultural theory, based on deep history, that interested him. No one could. The key concept is the theory of repetition. Both the biological and psychoanalytic literatures claim, essentially, that “ontogenesis repeats phylogenesis,” which in the context of Freud’s thought means that the neurotic repetitions of everyday life echo the deep past and at times ‘go beyond the pleasure principle’. The famous “repetition compulsion” of 1919, which helped Freud theorize the traumatic neuroses (from railway spine to shell shock), is of course a cornerstone of both the metapsychology and the metabiology.

So ‘what’, then, does Freud think of Kultur? The easy answer is that Freud analyzed the tension between individual drives and the precepts of society or, more simply, between individual and group. And so, most famously in Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud shows how individual happiness is compromised by social norms and obligations. In Freud’s classic terms, the pleasure principle, the idea that our psychology is primarily driven by pleasure, is forced into the shape of a reality principle, the idea that pleasure must often be deferred, achieved only circuitously. So while we all want sexual gratification, society obliges us to take numerous steps, for example the rituals of courtship, before we can achieve that end. People unable to oblige this indirection will find themselves at odds with society, neurotic and unhappy. Cue our modern ‘incels’ – the sad, angry, sometimes vicious men called ‘involuntary celibates’.

The less-easy answer concerns the death drive theory. As Freud says in The Future of an Illusion, “one must accept the fact that in all people there are destructive and therefore antisocial and anti-cultural tendencies, and in many people they are strong enough to determine their behavior in human society” (2012: 74-75). Everyday discontentment with civilization becomes for Freud an inevitable, historically determined battle with a drive for nonexistence. Life begins with death, which always seeks to restore that state through constancy, stability, homeostasis, entropy, and the pull of ‘Nirvana’. Society thereby becomes the face of Eros, of the life drive, and as such compels individuals to identify with the group and to exist, to live – society extending and deferring the rule of death, but never defeating it altogether.  

The still less-easy answer involves the paleopsychology. Cultural advances like religion – and before that myth, fairy tales, and obscure rituals; and before that dreams – contain a “historical truth” both older than and independent of life, love, and sexuality; a “kernel of truth” [Wahrheitskern] independent of psychoanalysis (see Freud SE 23: 268). A Freudian analysis of Kultur is an analysis that reveals this ancient kernel, the audacious truth of the Oedipus complex, that is biologically encoded and passed down through deep time. It also means that Freud can and does distinguish between Greco-Christian and Jewish forms of the unconscious, precisely because paleopsychology reveals that the former values muscles while the latter values Geistligkeit, intellectuality and spirituality.

And with that conclusion we can already guess ‘who’ it is that Freud thinks of when he thinks of Kultur in the late period; and who it was that reflects, always already, the Christian tradition even as Freud, in the Moses, sets apart and analyzes the developmental history of Judaism and individual Jewish psychology: the Swiss psychiatrist and early psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For it was Jung, leader of the ‘Swiss school of psychoanalysis’, who first pushed psychoanalysis into the realm of myth and fairytales. And he did it by deploying basically the same theory of phylogenesis that one finds in Freud.

Jung’s influence has not been well-understood, in part because Freud blacklisted him as a racist mystic. Commentators point to Jung’s theory of the “Christian unconscious”, an idea that, in the context of his leadership role in Germany during the Second World War, helped ruin his post-war reputation. But few comprehend that both Jung and Freud believed in this idea, albeit from either side of the supposed divide between Christian and Jewish versions of the unconscious. Both men accepted that the unconscious is biologically determined; indeed, to use Jung’s term, that it is “collective.”  It’s just that Freud privileged Jewish psychology over Christian, a form of biological racism that, when addressed at all in the secondary literature, is dismissed as just another regrettable, even incidental, lapse. But Freud was no more or less racist than Jung. In short, found together, hanged together.

For many commentators Freud’s interpretation of the prehistorical origins of Judaism and Jewish character is, therefore, a great embarrassment. And that’s understandable. It is embarrassing. But it’s Freud’s embarrassment; one absolutely integrated into his overall way of thinking. And so, of course, the Moses cannot be set apart as an inexplicable outlier – the disposable after-thought of a doddering old neurotic fool who had lost the thread of his own creation. For traces of it first appear, not in Totem and Taboo of 1912-13 at the end of the early phase, but already in the pre-psychoanalytic phase with the Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895.

Lest we conclude, erroneously, that Freud and Jung were alone in these respects, recall that the tradition of paleopsychology extended to many other loyal Freudians, including Karl Abraham, who in 1912 wrote a long essay about Moses and phylogenesis, following up in 1913 with Dreams and Myths: A Study in Race Psychology; Sandor Ferenczi, who in 1913 wrote a key article on phylogenesis called “Stages in the Development of the Sense of Reality” and, in 1924, wrote a wild metabiological treatise called Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality; and Theodore Reik, who continued to write about archaic history well after Freud’s death in 1939. So although paleopsychology became the minority perspective within psychoanalysis, it was always Freud’s own perspective. In other words, these weren’t “phylogentic fantasies” – as the editor of the lost metapsychology essay would like readers to believe – but serious and intellectually coherent attempts to unlock “historical truth.” Something essential is lost when this fact is denied, ignored, downplayed, or whitewashed – when it is conveniently set apart – which, I’m afraid, describes most of the secondary literature after Freud’s death.

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On the whole it is easier for us Jews, as we lack the mystical element. Freud to Karl Abraham, 1908 (in Freud and Abraham 2002: 52)

By way of conclusion I want to circle back to my opening remarks and reaffirm my claim that Freud’s examination of Judaism and Jewish psychology shouldn’t be set apart from his examination of Christianity in The Future of an Illusion or, indeed, from the paleopsychology that characterizes Totem and Taboo and, indeed, critically informs his views of Christianity. As Freud says, the Moses is essentially a sequel to Totem and Taboo (see epigraph). And the Moses obviously shouldn’t be set apart from the foundational text of the late phase, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. These works are mutually defining, even as Freud, in his last few years, pursued his rather more narrow interest in Judaism and Jewish psychology.

Consider, in these respects, Freud’s remarks in 1937 to a French colleague and former patient. René Laforgue had traveled to Vienna to urge Freud to leave Austria, since the Nazi threat had worsened. Laforgue writes:

[Freud] responded almost with contempt… ‘The Nazis? I am not afraid of them. Help me rather to combat my true enemy’. Astonished, I asked him just what enemy was in question, and I heard him reply: ‘Religion, the Roman Catholic Church’ (Laforgue, 1956: 343–4; cf. Dufresne 2017: 164)

In 1928 Oskar Pfister complained that Freud in The Future of an Illusion had falsely mistook Catholicism for Christianity. It was an elision that inspired Pfister, adopting Freud’s own rhetoric, to set Protestantism apart as a frog in the face of the tadpole that is Catholicism. Ten years later Freud would more carefully and accurately speak of his hostility toward the “Roman Catholic Church.” So even as Freud spent his last years planning, writing, revising, and publishing the three essays that became Moses and Monotheism; spent his last years, in short, thinking about Judaism and Jewish psychology; there is no doubt that his thoughts never left this “true enemy”, Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. Christianity haunts Moses and Monotheism.

This might seem like a puzzle or aporia – depending on your theoretical persuasion. But I think it’s simply part of a lifetime project that catches these two religions together and hangs them together, too. That project is fundamentally informed by Freud’s developmental theory of culture, the claim that ontogeny repeats phylogeny – that individual psychology repeats the events of deep history. For even while Freud, in the Moses, strips Judaism of its sacred dignity, thereby repeating what he had already done (with comparably less fanfare) to Christianity, he reserves for Jews themselves the greatest gift: Geistligkeit. Such intellectuality and spirituality are, Freud concludes, the defining characteristic of the Jewish unconscious; an unconscious that makes Jews built for guilt, masochism, and the trials of racism; but also built, by the same token, to become the Chosen People, not of a monotheistic God but of Kultur and, indeed, of the psychoanalytic science.

Freud knew this paleopsychology of Judaism better than anyone else, since he discovered it through his applied metapsychology. Consequently he knew enough to protect himself from the patricide that made a martyr out of Moses. Knew enough to exile his Christian heir apparent, Carl Jung. Knew enough to hold onto the reigns of his creation, psychoanalysis, until his very last breath. And knew enough, finally, to lay down the law for those followers with ears big enough to hear it.

That message is actually very much in keeping with everything we know about Freud. Let’s repeat it, but in abbreviated form, one last time. With Moses and Monotheism Freud plays the role of modern Moses. But instead of leading the Jews to the promised land, he dares to bring Judeo-Christians to a future without illusion. That future has a name, and it’s a scandal that scholars have refused to acknowledge or even comprehend it. It’s called ‘psychoanalysis’, and it was left to the first and only metapsychologist to part the seas and take us to there.

Of course, in the end we are all ‘found together, hanged together’. Except for Freud who, by dint of a project he created, transcends the structures of deep time to finally comprehend his present. A frog among tadpoles, the old Freud stands alone on the shore, triumphant. For having conquered the past, only he can survey the perilous future of his new science and understand its significance for all of humanity.

Simply put, Freud wins. And that’s why Moses and Monotheism was for Freud a worthy exit from this world.

Todd Dufresne was Visiting Professor of English at Seikei University, Tokyo, in 2019, and is Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University in Canada. His latest book is The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (September 2019).

■ Dufresne, Todd (2017). The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, and All the Riddles of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
■ Freud, Sigmund (1913). Totem and Taboo. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 13. Ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953-74: 1-161.
■ --- (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Ed. Todd Dufresne, trans. Gregory C. Richter.  Peterborough: Broadview Books, 2011: 49-99. 
■ --- (1926). The Question of Lay Analysis. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 20. Ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953-74: 179-250.
■ --- (1927). The Future of an Illusion. Ed. Todd Dufresne, trans. Gregory C.  Richter.  Peterborough: Broadview Books, 2012: 71-113
■ --- (1930). Civilization and Its Discontents. Ed. Todd Dufresne, trans. Gregory C.  Richter. Peterborough: Broadview Books, 2016: 43-115
■ --- (1937). “Constructions in Analysis.”  In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 23. Ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953-74: 255-69.
■ --- (1939). Moses and Monotheism. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 23. Ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1953-74: 3-137.
■ Freud, Sigmund (1960). The Letters of Sigmund Freud. Ed. Ernst Freud, trans. Tania and James Stern. New York: Basic Books.
■ Freud, Sigmund and Karl Abraham (2002). The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907–1925. Ed. Ernst Falzeder, trans. Caroline Schwarzacher. New York: Routledge.
■ Jones, Ernest (1957). The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 3: The Last Phase, 1919-1939. New York: Basic Books.
■ Laforgue, René (1956). “Personal memories of Freud.” In Freud As We Knew Him. Ed. H. M. Ruitenbeek (pp. 341–52). Detroit: Wayne University, 1973: 341-42.
■ Pfister, Oskar (1928). “The Illusion of a Future.” In Sigmund Freud’s The Future of an Illusion. Ed.  Todd Dufresne, trans. Gregory C. Richter. Peterborough: Broadview Press: 115-152.
■ Sachs, Hans (1945). Freud: Master and Friend. London: Imago.
■ Sulloway, Frank (1979). Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend. New York: Basic Books.
■ Wortis, Joseph (1954). Fragments of an Analysis With Freud. New York: Simon & Schuster.

3: Patricide of Monotheism or Metapsychology: Freud’s Historiography of Transcendental Negativity*
Fuhito Endo

It has often been argued that there are a number of self-referential features in Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1939). The most obvious is its archaeological and psychoanalytic exploration of the origins of the ethnic identity of Jewishness.[1] Rather poignant is the text’s probable superimposing of the Exodus of Jewish people on the author’s own life in exile from Vienna. In this sense, it is interesting to remark that London, where Freud spent his last days, might have become a second Jerusalem. Also worth adding is that the majority of Freud’s disciples in London were female analysts, despite Freud’s equation of psychoanalytic or oedipal intelligence with patriarchy in Moses and Monotheism.

The most crucial self-referential elements of Moses and Monotheism is Freud’s possible association between the formation of Moses’s strict and rigorous monotheism and Freud’s own creation of psychoanalysis. It is worth trying here a comparison of Moses and Monotheism and On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement (1914). On the History of Psycho-Analytic Movement clearly declares in its first paragraph:

No one need be surprised at the subjective character of the contribution I propose to make here to the history of the psycho-analytic movement, nor need anyone wonder at the part I play in it. For psycho-analysis is my creation; for ten years I was the only person who concerned himself with it, and all the dissatisfaction which the new phenomenon aroused in my contemporaries has been poured out in the form of criticism on my head. Although it is a long time now since I was the only psycho-analyst, I consider myself justified in maintaining that even to-day no one can know better than I do what psycho-analysis is, how it differs from other ways of investigating the life of the mind, and precisely what should be called psycho-analysis and what would better be described by some other name. (7)

Freud thus ascribes the disciplinary authenticity of psychoanalysis exclusively to himself as the originator in such a manner as to remind us of the former text’s—Moses and Monotheism’s—way of privileging Moses as the founder of Jewish monotheism as well as Jewish ethnic and intellectual identity.

More important in this context is that, in Freud’s view, what fundamentally differentiates and distinguishes Moses’s monotheism from other contemporary religions—including Christianity after Paul’s introduction of the concept of ‘redemption’—is whether or not God is materialised or visualised. Freud is quite clear about this distinction in Moses and Monotheism:

Among the precepts of the Moses religion there is one that is of greater importance than appears to begin with. This is the prohibition against making an image of God—the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see. (112-13)

Significantly enough, this prioritisation of invisibility over visibility, like ‘a name’ or ‘a countenance,’ (113) as an object of religious worship—what Freud terms ‘[d]ematerialization of God’ (115)—brought about ‘a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.’ Hence, ‘[t]he new realm of intellectuality was opened up, in which ideas, memories and inferences became decisive in contrast to the lower psychical activity which had direct perceptions by the sense-organs as its content’ (113). This emphasis on ‘a thought-process in preference to a sense perception’ enabled ‘an advance in civilization’ or ‘a momentous step’ (114) in the history of human intellectuality as well as the ‘characteristic development of the Jewish nature’ (115).

Of great interest here is that such ‘a momentous step’ could also implicitly refer to Freudian psychoanalysis—or his metapsychology in particular—which can similarly be regarded as the ‘new realm’ of modern psychology, where ‘ideas, memories and inferences became decisive in contrast to the lower psychical activity which had direct perceptions by the sense-organs as its content.’ Worth remembering is that Freudian metapsychological concepts—most representatively ‘the unconscious’—are not viewed by Freud himself as empirical, material, or visible entities or objects; without doubt, these metapsychological ‘ideas’ and ‘inferences’ cannot be reduced to ‘the lower psychical activity which had direct perceptions by the sense-organs as its content.’ These sorts of empirical, material, and physical phenomena apprehended by sense perceptions should of course be considered privileged research fields for psychophysics or psychophysiology. They are typical examples of positivist and materialist modern psychology in the late 19th century, from which Freudian psychoanalysis distinguishes itself and deviates, while ‘dematerialising’ its own theories through metapsychological ‘inferences’ or speculations. Indeed, I would contend, Freud could be justified in saying that this was ‘a momentous step’ in the history of modern psychology.[2]

It was just before Freudian metapsychology began to take form in such works as ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (1914), ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’ (1915), or ‘The Unconscious’ (1915) that Freud attempted to summarise what he had so far achieved in On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement (1914), thereby delineating his own disciplinary originality and authenticity and differentiating his metapsychological ideas from the theories of Jean-Martin Charcot, Josef Breuer, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung. One of the key words Freud uses in characterising and privileging his metapsychological speculations is no doubt ‘inference.’ This is typically clear, for example, in his article ‘The Unconscious,’ in the first section of which—‘Justification for the Concept of the Unconscious’—his argument is dependent on this concept of ‘inference.’ He uses the words ‘inference’ or ‘infer’ six times in this 6-page metapsychological vindication of the theoretical validity of ‘the unconscious.’ In order to summarise his discussion, Freud argues that ‘the unconscious act we have inferred’ is ‘a perfectly justifiable ground for going beyond the limits of direct experience’ (167); therefore, ‘no physiological concept or chemical process can give us any notion of [the unconscious’s] nature’ (168).

The concluding part of this section refers to Kant, where Freud suggests that our unconscious psychic processes should be regarded as a transcendental realm, something that is beyond our actual perceptions yet fundamentally determines our experiences:

Just as Kant warned us not to overlook the fact that our perceptions are subjectively conditioned and must not be regarded as identical with what is perceived though unknowable, so psycho-analysis warns us not to equate perceptions by means of consciousness with the unconscious mental processes which are their object. (171)

It is thus possible to say that the Freudian unconscious is something radically unknowable and invisible that at the very same time compels us to infer its existence from its symptomatic and empirically observable effects. We may remember the original German word for ‘the unconscious’: das Unbewusste [the unknowable]. Freud’s concept of the unconscious can thus be defined as a ‘dematerialisation’ or ‘de-physiologisation’ of something psychic. Given Moses’s ‘prohibition against making an image of God—the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see,” we can perceive his monotheistic ‘realm of intellectuality’ as something comparable to or even superimposed on the Freudian metapsychology of the unconscious.

It was immediately after the publication of On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement—a summary of what Freud had so far explored and an endeavour to foreground his own theoretical originality compared with other ‘heretical’ counterparts—that Freud published a series of his metapsychological works in rapid succession. This chronology suggests the possibility of re-reading Freud’s metapsychological self-cannonisation in such a way as to detect what he terms ‘deferred (nachträglich) effects’ on his language and thought. My argument is that Freud’s recollection of a series of traumatic separations from—or, in his view, betrayals by—his former colleagues in On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement serves as a kind of retroactive trigger to reinterpret these experiences in a metapsychological way. In other words, in this retroactive manner, Freud redefines these traumatic memories within the newly obtained theoretical context of metapsychology.

Of great significance is the way in which Freud attacks Breuer, one of his main targets in this work, especially because ‘[h]e gave preference to a theory which was still to some extent physiological’ (11). As for Charcot, his former master, he is almost derided for the literality or materiality of his diagnosis: ‘[b]ut in this sort of case it’s always a question of the genitals—always, always, always’ (14). Freud adds: ‘I had never heard of such a prescription, and felt inclined to shake my head over my kind friend’s cynicism’ (15). His point is that ‘the theory of repression is a product of psycho-analytic work, a theoretical inference legitimately drawn from innumerable observations’ (17). What matters here is not so much empirical observations themselves but rather something ‘inferred’ from them and by definition something we cannot have direct access to. This is intriguingly similar to Moses’s ‘discovery’ of ‘the mind’ or ‘Seele’ in German—‘forces, that is, which cannot be grasped by the senses (particularly by the sight) but which none the less produce undoubted and indeed extremely powerful effects’ (114). Based on Ernest Jones’s idea of ‘rationalisation,’ Freud strongly and mercilessly condemns Adler for his evasion and concealment of ‘the unconscious motive’ or a total reduction of it to ‘the man’s intention of showing himself master of the woman’ (53). In other words, Freud problematises ‘the biological aspect of the Adlerian theory’ (56).

Understandably, this kind of criticism of any misunderstanding or distortion of ‘the unconscious’ or any theoretical dilution of its ‘original, undisguised meaning’ (59) is most severe and ruthless when directed at Carl Jung, whose ‘intention’ is—in Freud’s opinion—‘to eliminate what is objectionable in the family-complexes, so as not to find it again in religion and ethics,’ thereby ‘pick[ing] out a few cultural overtones from the symphony of life and hav[ing] once more failed to hear the mighty and primordial melody of the instincts’ (62). Interesting here is Freud’s ironical reference to Jung’s failure to understand the metapsychological ontology of the unconscious. Freud draws our attention to Jung’s totally mistaken observation: ‘the incest-complex is merely “symbolic” and therefore after all it has no “real” existence.’ Freud’s retort to Jung is brilliant from the viewpoint of transcendental metapsychological ontology: ‘“symbolic” and “without real existence” simply mean something which, in virtue of its manifestations and pathologic effects, is described by psycho-analysis as “existing unconsciously”’ (64). Freud’s implication is quite clear: the unconscious does exist even without any material existence.

Jung and Adler’s inability to appreciate or grasp this sort of negative ontology of the unconscious as well as their avoidance and resulting materialisation of it are cynically termed by Freud ‘a new message of salvation which is to begin a new epoch for psycho-analysis’ (60). Hence, Jung and Adler are ‘the Messiah’ (59); implied here is that Freud is to Moses what Jung and Adler are to Christ. The latter can be characterised as evading the really traumatic meaning of the unconscious as well as its negative mode of existence. Jungian and Adlerian psychology can thus be compared to Christian repression of Moses’s negative theological rigour and strictness. Worth mentioning in this vein is Freud’s description of Paul’s theological dilution of the patricidal trauma—‘the unnamable crime’—with ‘the hypothesis of what must be described as a shadowy “original sin.”’ This is similar to Freudian dreamwork, a ‘distortion’ (135) or ‘disguise’ of the latent, unconscious, and traumatic content:

In this formula the killing of God was of course not mentioned, but a crime that had to be atoned by the sacrifice of a victim could only have been a murder. And the immediate step between the delusion and the historical truth was provided by the assurance that the victim of the sacrifice had been God’s son.[...] The blissful sense of being chosen was replaced by the liberating sense of redemption. (135)

Paul’s introduction of the idea of ‘redemption’ acquires not just religious connotations but also strongly Oedipal ones: ‘Christianity, having arisen out of a father-religion, became a son-religion. It has not escaped the fate of having to get rid of the father’ (136). Freud’s implication is that the repression of patricidal trauma and its unconscious guilt itself operates as a patricide.

This Jungian and Christian patricidal oblivion of their own patricide is what Freud terms ‘distortion’ or ‘disguise,’ which can only manifest itself as traces or symptoms in the midst of the manifest content of history. Freud considers it ‘the formation of symptoms,’ which ‘may justly be described as the “return of the repressed”’ (127). If so, something Freudian and Mosaic—even after its totemistic and genocidal patricide—may enjoy the posthumous life of the Derridian ‘specter,’ recurring and haunting as something ungraspable but invisibly constitutive of history after the murder of one’s own as its ‘real’ base structure.[3] This is one possible mode of the melancholic and negative existence of the Freudian Primal Father, killed by his heretical and jealous sons.

*A significant part of this discussion was presented at a workshop, ‘Discussing Moses and Monotheism with Professor Jean-Michel Rabaté,’ which took place at Seikei University Tokyo on the 9 May 2017. In addition, this text appeared in Seikei Review of English Studies No. 23 (2019): 31-38.

[1] Arguably the most brilliant and important discussion on this theme is the dialogue between Edward Said and Jacqueline Rose in Freud and the Non-European (Verso, 2014).
[2] For a brilliant historiography of the ways in which Freud cites, edits, and deviates from the foregoing positivist medical discourses such as psychophysics or psychophysiology, see George Makari, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis (Harper, 2008).
[3] For this kind of haunted ontology of ‘specters,’ of course, see Jacques Derrida, The Specters of Marx, trans. Poggy Kamuf (Routledge, 1994).

Works Cited
■ Freud, Sigmund. On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement. The Standard Edition of Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. XIV. Trans. and Ed. James Strachey. Hogarth, 1957.
■ ---. Moses and Monotheism. SE. XXIII. 1964.
■ ---. ‘The Unconscious.’ Papers on Metapsychology. SE. Vol. XIV.

4: The Rhetoric of Exodus: Somewhere between Freudism and Americanism
Takayuki Tatsumi

When Frederick Jackson Turner noticed the ending of the western frontier in 1893, he must have had in his mind the U.S. Bureau of Census, which found no place in the United States with fewer than two people per square mile. Thus, the “frontier” was to be closed. There is no more “free” or “unoccupied” land. Indeed, the year of 1890 saw the incredibly brutal massacre of Wounded Knee, “the last armed encounter between Native Americans and the United States government” (Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee [New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2015], 147). However, it is also true that since the raison detre of modern Americans lies in the frontier spirit, they could not do without it. Therefore, even after they got deprived of the existing physical frontier in North America, they had to keep exploring or even inventing their new frontier somewhere. The editors of the shorter eighth edition of Norton Anthology  of American Literature (New York: Norton, 2013) locates the origins of American Imperialism in the disappearance of the western frontier in 1890. “Now the United States, eager to compete with European nations, attempted to expand its influence beyond its continental borders, looking to gain the former Spanish possessions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines following the Spanish-American War in 1898” (Norton 1267).

Now we should not forget that the disappearance of the western frontier initiated American people into the potentiality of a new frontier, that is, the Freudian unconscious. In 1909, Sigmund Freud gave a series of lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, which made him very popular in the United States. Sigmund Freud has been nicknamed as the Columbus in the field of psychoanalysis, for he discovered the frontier called the Unconscious (G.S. Viereck-S.Freud, “An Interview with Freud” [1927] http://www.psychanalyse.lu/articles/FreudInterview.pdf). To be more precise, however, given that he believed the terra incognita to be Asia, Columbus did not “discover” but only reached a terra incognita that was to be known as American continent. This perspective will also give us a chance to reconsider the achievements of the father of psychoanalysis. Just like Columbus, it is highly plausible that Freud did not discover but only reached the Unconscious. In this sense, reflecting Todd Dufresne’s discussion of Freud’s short article “The Acquisition and Control of Fire”(1932) in The Late Sigmund Freud (2018), we had better compare Freud not to Columbus but to a Greed trickster Prometheus, who stole fire from gods, gave it to humanity and helped originate human civilization only to be punished by the very gods. Likewise, according to Dufresne, Freud steals “the hellfire he associates with the unconscious, and the energy he associates with the drives . . . and thereafter plays the part of embattled culture-hero repeatedly punished for his transgression” (The Late Sigmund Freud, 255). Dufresne goes so far as to find Freud analogous with Dr Frankenstein, a modern Prometheus, who made use of electricity and created an artificial intelligence who winds up by getting out of control. What Columbus and Modern Prometheus embodied is the dream and nightmare of cultural pioneer. Sigmund Freud is no exception.

In order to investigate this problem, rereading his 1939 book Moses and Monotheism, which reflects what Edward Said called “late style,” will be inspiring. For this book does not discuss psychoanalytical theory but attempts to relocate the origin of Judeo-Christianity as inaugurated by Moses not in the Hebrew tradition but in the Egyptian heritage. Here Freud reconsiders Moses not as a Hebrew but as an Egyptian, who invented Judaism by reinventing one of the minor religions in Egypt called the Aton religion championed by a young Egyptian pharaoh in 1375 B.C. who changed his name from Amenhotep to Iknaton, for the former recalls ancient polytheism and idolatry. Freud states: “This king undertook to force upon his subjects a new religion, one contrary to their ancient traditions and to all their familiar habits. It was a strict monotheism, the first attempt of its kind in the history of the world—as far as we know—and religious intolerance, which was foreign to antiquity before this and for long after, was inevitably born with the belief in God” (Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism [1939; tr. Kathleen Jones, London: Hogarth], 35 / Vintage 21). Therefore, Freud not only redefines Moses as an Egyptian but also retrofitted the long forgotten religion of Iknaton as the archetype of Judeo-Christian monotheism.  Therefore, Moses and Monotheism is not so much a psychoanalytical book in the modernist sense as a radical intervention into the structure of the multi-ethnic unconscious that prefigured post-colonialist theory in the post-Cold War era.

The primary reason why Moses has been admired not only by Judeo-Christians but also by those who believe in the modern idea of democracy is that he deserves the name of true savior and liberator of a people long enslaved and repressed by a huge empire. We may recall that the 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln, who authored the “Emancipation Proclamation” in 1863, has been well-known as “American Moses” (http://forward.com/the-assimilator/218274/how-abraham-lincoln-became-americas-moses/). What made him most authentic is Moses’ experience of talking with God, who gave him ten commandments. Exodus narrates the process as follows: “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18); “And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. (Exodus 32:15-16); “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. (Exodus 34: 27-28, hereafter emphasis mine)  Hence the Jewish holiday called Shavout (Shabuoth) 50 days after the second night of Passover that marks God’s giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Following this example, Christians came to celebrate Pentecost, which is also 50 days after Easter, when Jesus rose from the dead.

I consider this critical moment of conversation between God and Moses to be the genesis of phonogram-specific western language that defines letters as no more than the effects of logos. It is also the genesis of what Jacques Derrida later designated “logocentrism” or “phonologism” that has long dominated western metaphysics from Plato through Hegel, taking for granted the priority of oral voice over written letters. Therefore, when the champion of modernism Ezra Pound was astonished to discover the Asian system of ideogram in Chinese and Japanese poetry in the early 20th century, it was indispensable for him to create the imagist poetics as surpassing the limit of western literature.  The more deeply Derrida and Pound speculate upon the hierarchy between speech and writing, the more keenly we become aware of the authenticity of logos that had long repressed the latter.

This perspective will give us an opportunity of reconsidering the origin of the concept of chosen people, whose Judaic tradition American Puritans re-appropriated for building a city upon a hill as the Elect Nation. Let us listen to Freud once again.

We venture now to draw the following conclusion: if Moses was an Egyptian and if he transmitted to the Jews his own religion then it was that of Ikhnaton, the Aton religion. . . . Still more astonishing is the conception of a god suddenly “choosing” a people, making it “his people” and himself its own god. I believe it is the only case in the history of human religions. In other cases the people and their god belong inseparably together; they are one from the beginning. Sometimes, it is true, we hear of a people adopting another god, but never of a god choosing a new people. Perhaps we approach an understanding of this unique happening when we reflect on the connection between Moses and the Jewish people. Moses had stooped to the Jews, had made them his people; they were his “chosen people.” (Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism [1939; tr. Kathleen Jones, London: Hogarth], 41 and 73 / Vintage 27 &54-55)

At this moment we witness Moses act as the authentic agent who was allowed by his God to perform the speech act of ten commandments as the arch-text of western literature. Although he himself was no more than a servant of God, the very role of God’s agent provided him with the agency of absolute authenticity. In order to empower the one and only God Moses had to make the new religion more authentic by abandoning the empire of the senses. Freud explains:

Why the people of Israel, however, adhered to their God all the more devotedly the worse they were treated by Him—that is a question which we must leave open for the moment.

It may stimulate us to enquire whether the religion of Moses had given the people nothing else but an increase in self-confidence through the consciousness of being “chosen.” The next element is indeed easily found. Their religion also gave to the Jews a much more grandiose idea of their God or—to express it more soberly—the idea of a more august God. Whoever believed in this God took part in his greatness, so to speak, might feel uplifted himself. This may not be quite obvious to unbelievers, but it may be illustrated by the simile of the high confidence a Briton would fell in a foreign land, made unsafe by revolt, a confidence in which a subject of some small state would be entirely lacking. . . . 

Among the precepts of Mosaic religion is one that has more significance than is at first obvious. It is the prohibition against making an image of God, which means the compulsion to worship an invisible God. I surmise that in this point Moses had surpassed the Aton religion in strictness. Perhaps he meant to be consistent; his God was to have neither a name nor a countenance. The prohibition was perhaps a fresh precaution against magic malpractices. If this prohibition was accepted, however, it was bound to exercise a profound influence. For it signified subordinating sense perception to an abstract idea; it was a triumph of spirituality over the senses; more precisely an instinctual renunciation [“Triebversicht” as an abbreviation for renouncing the satisfaction of an urge derived from an instinct] accompanied by its psychologically necessary consequences. (Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 177-179 / Vintage 143-144)

It is the priority of spirituality over the senses that made God and Moses absolutely authentic, ending up with the legitimacy of Exodus. Hence the essential paradox that although Moses is a foreign orphan from Egyptian aristocracy, it is his foreignness that made monotheism more authentic and invited the Hebrews to believe in him as a savior, winding up with nation building. Here lies the origin of Exodus narrative, whose scenario was to be imitated and repeated by a number of the repressed people in history, as is the case with 17th century Puritans in search of a promised land. In Moses and Multiculturalism, one of her posthumous books published in 2010, distinguished deconstructionist Barbara Johnson states: “Those who came to the ‘wilderness’ of the New World to seek religious freedom often drew inspiration from the Exodus story. This was particularly true of Puritans, who established a ‘holy commonwealth’ in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and tried to combine God’s rule with human rule. John Winthrop (whom Cotton Mather called ‘The American Moses,’ soon to be Massachusetts’s governor) addressed his congregation aboard the Arbella just before landing in 1630 by alluding to Moses (‘Thus stands the case between God and us, we are entered into covenant with Him for this work’) and ends by quoting what Moses said to the people when he saw the promised land he was never to enter . . .” (Barbara Johnson, Moses and Multiculturalism [Berkeley: U of California P, 2010], 10-11)

It should also be noted that the significance of foreignness is already inscribed in the Bible: “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. / But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus. 19:33-34). From this viewpoint, Moses could well be redefined as an authentic stranger who chose and saved the repressed Hebrews, enlightening them on the importance of monotheism as an alternative to Egyptian polytheism. Nonetheless, it is ironic that it is this authentic foreignness of the savior that induced his chosen people to murder Moses himself. Without this patricide the chosen people could not have constructed the teleological scenario consisting with the Original Sin, the wish-phantasy of the Messaiah and final salvation. Freud also gives an insight into the typological relationship between Moses and Jesus: “If Moses was this first Messiah, Christ became his substitute and successor. Then Paul could with a certain right say to the peoples: ‘See, the Messiah has truly come. He was indeed murdered before your eyes.’ Then also there is some historical truth in the rebirth of Christ, for he was the resurrected Moses and the returned primaeval Father of the Primitive horde as well--only transfigured and as a Son in the place of his Father” (144-45). It is not that Freud applied his old Oedipal complex theory into a new reading of Moses. It is the Jewish unconscious that led Freud into rereading the history of Moses and Jesus as a multi-ethnic archetype of Oedipal complex. What is more, insofar as Freud’s deep interest in mythology was aroused by his “crown prince” Carl Jung, as Professor Jean-Michel Rabate pointed out in The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge UP, 2014), we should not forget that this very book Moses and Monotheism is the outcome of Freud’s own paradoxical commitment to the Oedipal Complex, in which someday a good disciple will become the master of his own master.

Thus, it is safe to conclude this paper with a reconsideration of the Return of the Repressed. As Barbara Johnson pointed out, monotheism is structured like imperialism. “Indeed, this was the model for dominance in the ancient world: Akhenaten inherited an Egyptian empire he allowed to fall apart.  If anything, then, he was anti-imperialistic. But for Freud, imperialism provided the structure of monotheism in any case.” (Barbara Johnson, Moses and Multiculturalism, 56). At this point, the essential irony is that while Moses as a stranger liberated his chosen people by making a foreign monotheist religion more authentic and constructed the democratic model of Exodus Narrative, it is the very legitimacy of monotheism that helped create an archetype of imperialism, seducing his chosen people to revolt against and murder the authentic other. Likewise, being the pioneer of the Unconscious and the father of psychoanalysis, Freud himself had to repeat not only the role of Columbus and modern Prometheus but also the fate of Moses himself. Of course, it is his consistent interest in metapsychology that invited him to radically reconsider the modern roles of Prometheus and Moses. By the same token, however, we should not neglect the intersection between “paleopsychology” Carl Jung and his fellows were engaged with and “metabiology” that Freud believes will enable psychoanalysis to “penetrate history to its collective, prehistorical roots” (The Late Sigmund Freud, 7) redefines Prometheus, Moses and even Freud in deep time.

In the wake of post-colonialism, Gayatri Spivak championed in Death of a Discipline (2003) the concept of planetarity by retrofitting Gary Snyder’s Beat Generation Eco-Critical poetics, while Wai Chee Dimock foregrounded in Through Other Continents (2006)  the idea of Deep Time by finding an analogy between the United States’ destruction of the Iraq National Library and the Islamic Library in the Regigious Ministry in 2003 and the Mongols’s storming of Baghdad and its libraries in 1258. Indeed, their projects bravely and ambitiously attempt to transgress the limit of western chronological timescale. Thus, Dimock calls “deep time” as a new term that highlights “a set of longitudinal frames, at once projective and recessional, with input going both ways, and binding continents and millennia into many loops of relations, a densely interactive fabric”(3). Despite her charming definition, the concept of “deep time” itself is not brand-new. As Todd Dufresne suggests in today’s paper, it is the controversy between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung that made possible this concept, which was to inspire my favorite British novelist James Graham Ballard to write his post-apocalyptic tetralogy. In conclusion, let me point out that influenced by post-Freudian theory, one of Ballard’s major works The Drowned World (1962) includes chapters entitled “Towards a New Psychology”(Chapter 3) and “Descent into Deep Time”(Chapter 5) :

However selective the conscious mind may be, most biological memories are unpleasant ones, echoes of danger and terror. . . . if you like, you could call this the Psychology of Total Equivalents—let’s say ‘Neuronics’ for short—and dismiss it as metabiological fantasy. However, I am convinced that as we move back through geophysical time so we re-enter the amnionic corridor and move back through spinal and archaeopsychic time, recollecting in our unconscious minds the landscapes of each epoch, each with a distinct geological terrain, its own unique flora and fauna, as recognizable to anyone else as they would be to a traveler in a Wellsian time machine. (“Towards a New Psychology,” 43-44)

In Chapter 5, entitled “Descent into Deep Time,” Ballard not only mocks Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom” but also expands post-Freudian paleopsychology. In this post-apocalyptic drowned world the protagonist witnesses “enormous Triassic lizards” (71), where dinosaurs stand in as a symptom of one’s being unable to distinguish between latent and manifest contents in the dream, the real and the superreal in the external world, the terrestrial and psychic landscapes — “as they had been at Hiroshima and Auschwitz, Golgotha and Gomorrah” (74). It is clear that Ballard is heavily indebted to Freud and Jung. And we should not forget that without the achievement of these postwar Beat poets and speculative fictionists post-colonialist critics could not have come up with the post-Americanist ideas of planetarity and deep time, which will explore into another frontier.

Special Interview
5: Freud Unbound: Literary Studies, Trumpism, Climate Change, & Covid-19: An Interview With Todd Dufresne 
Ayano Matsumaru and Todd Dufresne

Dr. Todd Dufresne is a Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He has published many books on Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, including Tales from the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context (2000), Killing Freud: Twentieth Century Culture and the Death of Psychoanalysis (2003), and The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, and All the Riddles of Life (2017). Tales from the Freudian Crypt was translated into Japanese by Fuhito Endo and published with Misuzu Shobo in 2010. He also published three critical editions of Sigmund Freud’s works: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, The Future of an Illusion, and Civilization and Its Discontents. Dufresne’s latest book, The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene, was published in September 2019.

Dufresne was a Visiting Professor of English at Seikei University in Tokyo from April to July 2019, where I attended his graduate seminar on “The ‘Late Freud’: Psychoanalysis From 1920-1939.” During the seminar Dufresne explored many of the key problems of the late Freud, casting doubt upon the accepted common sense about Freud in Japan – and playfully stirring the pot at the university.

In this interview, Dufresne bluntly discusses his frustration with Freud and psychoanalysis in the context of literary criticism, even as he pushes into unexpected territory: Freud’s legacy in the context of “Trumpism,” namely, in the era of “post truth” and fake news. This turn toward Trump is reflected in his new book on climate change and philosophy. The interview was conducted by email in August of 2019 and updated for Panic Literati in June of 2020.
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Matsumaru: You seem frustrated by the way Freud is discussed in English Departments. Why is that?

Dufresne: There are many scholars of literature that I respect. But you’re right: I am sometimes frustrated. I usually chalk it up to the fact that I’m a Freud expert, and the majority of people in academe, including literary critics, are not. With exceptions, most humanities scholars are dabblers who cherry pick whatever ideas of Freud they happen to like. This renders their theoretical ruminations not just uninformed and incoherent, but arbitrary – because there’s no real justification for ripping an idea out of its context except personal preference. As a result a very large percentage of arts scholarship, probably a solid majority, muddies the water for students and readers who confuse all the hybrid positions for Freud’s own views.

It’s easy to sound precious about this, but this sort of eclecticism has become the way of the modern university. Moreover, it’s fuelled by neoliberal scholars, people who happily spend their lives writing grant applications, managing multi-national teams of researchers, travelling, and producing reports of targeted relevance to business and government. And while it’s supposedly all about “communication of results,” it only rarely means the publication of books in quality presses. It means posting information on user-friendly websites, podcasts, and blogs.

Matsumaru: The death of “curiosity based research”?

Dufresne: I think so. And while there’s obviously a role for alternative media like websites and blogs, which have become more and more important to all of us, they’re no substitute for some of the basic activities that still define professional scholarship. I’m afraid that the glory of thinking, usually done in isolation or in a classroom, has been replaced by the banality of networking. Today there are very few of what Isaiah Berlin calls “hedgehogs,” people who explore a field in depth over decades of time.

Matsumaru: There are only “foxes”?

Dufresne: English professors are often ‘foxes’. But I’m not even sure there are many foxes any more, scholars who go wide instead of deep. There’s just information exchanged between middle managers and bureaucrats – with hardly any deepening of our collective understanding. With notable exceptions, we’ve become dabblers who mash up ideas that don’t belong together and, in turn, have become part of the cultural devaluation of expertise and knowledge. In my opinion this is a major problem for the social sciences and humanities, and for society more generally. And while it has been fueled by neoliberalism, I actually think we’ve done this to ourselves in a thoughtless, desperate quest to be ‘relevant’. I’d only add that a generation of diploma mills and three year PhDs has only made the situation worse.

Matsumaru: So literature scholars are just one part of this wider shift?

Dufresne: Yes, but an important part. Aside from the eclecticism I’ve described, literature scholars also do something that is, in my view, completely absurd: they still offer up applied psychoanalyses of literature. I say ‘absurd’ because this practice presumes the validity of the theory they’re applying. And since Freud’s theorizing is problematic to the extreme, it acts to distort or disguise these problems and, in turn, legitimize psychoanalysis as a theory and method.

Consequently, English Departments have become the primary force of misinformation about Freud in academe, and perhaps the culture at large. Setting aside scholars from Education and Social Work, I think that literature scholars are the most credulous, least discerning, and least responsible scholars at work today in the field of Freud Studies.

Matsumaru: Worse than the analysts?

Dufresne: Yes and no. In most cases analysts aren’t really scholars at all – so yes, worse than the analysts! But analysts who masquerade as scholars are also a big problem for Freud Studies. With some exceptions, medically-trained analysts don’t understand the rules of scholarship – such as citing works they don’t like and making valid arguments – and tend to publish in their own trade journals and publishing houses. These vanity publications, which began with Freud, are basically forms of poubellication, published garbage. But in my view all applied works of psychoanalysis are poubellication, no better that astrologists charting their horoscopes.  

Matsumaru: How are literature scholars the “least responsible” in Freud Studies?

Dufresne: Well, psychoanalysis isn’t just one thing or one activity. It’s a theory, a history, a clinical practice, a movement, a business, and a field of cultural production. In a way, each part of this picture attracts different vested interests, the totality of which comprise the ‘politics of psychoanalysis’. Abstract theory generally attracts scholars and is the most disinterested part of the field, followed by history – which is used, often in bad faith, to justify all claims. Practice is of the greatest interests to clinicians, since they want to help their patients. Next are the movement and the business sides; sides that reflect base, but totally understandable, reasons for advocating a certain kind of psychoanalysis. And then, finally, there’s the cultural field, comprised of artists, writers, and all sorts of cultural producers. Of these six categories, the analysts are the least dependable source of scholarship. But I’d say that the last category, cultural production, fuels the most sensational, fictional, and mythical part of Freud’s legacy.  

Back to your question. I’ve come to realize that the frustration I sometimes experience reading and discussing literary and cultural criticism is not just the mess they make of Freud’s theory and the absurdity of their applied works of psychoanalysis. It’s really about the field of academe more generally. These eclectic and applied works have the appearance of scholarship. But I think that most of this work belongs to the ‘field of cultural production’. In other words, many of the scholars who apply psychoanalysis to literature don’t stand with scholarship at all, but with scriptwriters, novelists, and artists. They’re creators. So for me part of the frustration of dealing with them is just this category confusion: they look and sound like one thing, like intellectuals, but are really partisan advocates for another thing.

Matsumaru: For psychoanalysis?

Dufresne: Indirectly. But in a way I don’t think that literary critics always care about psychoanalysis.  They care about literature, culture, creating interpretations, churning out journal articles, securing tenure, getting grants – and psychoanalysis is just a useful, suitably mystifying way of getting that done.

Matsumaru: They’ve left scholarship behind?

Dufresne: Too often, yes. The situation is a repetition of what we see with Freud. For here is someone who mined Late Romanticism for its brooding view of human nature, especially as it appeared in literature and philosophy, and rationalized or translated that worldview into the language of science. Literary critics are doing the same thing today, only instead of reflecting Late Romanticism they reflect and rationalize some vague, incoherent version of postmodernism. To this end they exploit and distort Freud’s views on fantasy and end up with something akin to surrealism. Or better yet, they end up with “pataphysics” – a kind of rhetorical raising of the stakes of fantasy well beyond anything Freud claimed, and with all the seriousness of King Ubu. So it’s absurdist or, at best, impressionistic. And so it is that Freud, or some version of Freud, has been repackaged and sold to another generation of reader who couldn’t possibly know that it’s all really a kind of esoteric art project.

Matsumaru: But do the authors themselves know this?

Dufresne: Good question! No, they definitely don’t. Instead of weighing evidence and basic facts against context – arguably the backbone of scholarship – they double down on their own ahistorical rhetoric about narrative, fiction, and introspection and see only naïve positivists everywhere else. But as Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen says, it’s precisely these people who are the dogmatists (Borch-Jacobsen 2007: 141). That’s why their works will at best survive as part of a cautionary tale of what happened to a discourse that helped advance the troubling existence of latent truth, my truth, alt truth, post truth, and fake news.

Matsumaru: You think that decades of applied psychoanalysis have helped to create the era of “post truth”? But many literature scholars are openly critical of Trump’s rhetoric and his disregard for truth and facts.

Dufresne: Maybe even the majority – since humanities scholars, myself included, tend to sit to the left of centre politically.  But that’s part of the frustration.  The dabblers of Freud like to remind us that psychoanalysis proper is the analysis of fantasy, not reality.  It’s about narrative coherence, not objectivity.  Remember that Freud dropped the “seduction theory,” the idea that hysteria is caused by childhood sexual abuse, and replaced it with an analysis of sexual fantasy.  So now instead of recovering actual memories of sexual abuse, Freud shifted everything to recovering the patient’s own fantasies of being sexually abused.  But as Frederick Crews has said, what he kept is more important than what he changed.

Matsumaru: Namely?

Dufresne: He kept the exact same method and the same theoretical commitments: therapeutic talk about early childhood married to the theories of “the unconscious” and “repression.” Freud just swapped out the content of the repressed and made sexual fantasy the centerpiece of his new thinking. Few people understand that Freud’s shift to the fantasy aetiology was a diabolical way of avoiding responsibility for his three public declarations in 1896 that his new practice, “psychoanalysis,” had discovered the true cause of hysteria: childhood sexual abuse. Instead of admitting that he made a mistake, which would have been professionally disastrous, he kept it to himself – finally treating the new fantasy aetiology like it was what he meant all along. But it wasn’t.  Until 1905 no reader (outside of Wilhelm Fliess) could have possibly known that psychoanalysis meant anything other than the ‘recovery of repressed memories of sexual abuse’. This is amazing, even more so because so few social science and humanities scholars know anything about it.

I don’t want to go deeper into this here, but Freud’s own retreat to repressed sexual fantasy was not only a clever, strategic way of avoiding responsibility for his mistaken views about the determining role of childhood sexual abuse. It was also a way of insulating psychoanalysis from any possible future criticism; criticism that he met with after publishing the three papers on the psychoanalysis of hysteria in 1896. From this point onward psychoanalysis was beyond objective confirmation – a perfect machine for saying whatever it wants about anything. This is why Havelock Ellis, among many early critics, complained that Freud always made every patient’s ‘No’ into a ‘Yes’. For there was no way of arguing with a method that finds whatever it wants in anything a patient says – whether ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

Matsumaru: And this is what psychoanalytic literary critics have perpetuated in their works?

Dufresne: Yes. Like Freud they utilize psychoanalysis to say pretty much anything they like. And while this freedom may be artistically satisfying, it’s problematic. To put it technically, Freud’s method for interpreting individual and group psychology is utterly shot through with confirmation bias and experimenter effects: it finds whatever it’s looking for. It’s very clear, moreover, that one could easily swap out the content of the unconscious for any number of repressed traumatic causes – such as satanic ritual abuse, UFO abduction, and sexual abuse – and declare one’s therapeutic findings as objective confirmations of a secret reality. This is exactly what happened in the 1980s.

Matsumaru: But child sexual abuse is real – it happens.

Dufresne: It does. But what academic psychology understands today is, first, there is no proof whatsoever that any traumatic experience has ever been repressed and forgotten. None. Conjuring up false memories of trauma serves no one, least of all those people who suffered at the hands of an abuser and, if anything, remain miserable precisely because they can’t forget any of it. Second, there’s no proof that the unconscious is anything like Freud thought. There is no realm set apart from consciousness and yet determinative of consciousness. There is the “cognitive unconscious,” sure, something that reflects our everyday experiences that we are not aware of everything at all times. For example, I set my keys down but have no idea where. But this commonplace occurrence doesn’t entail a full-blown theory of dual, double, split, or finally multiple consciousness. It doesn’t entail the theory of Jekyll and Hyde, of a conscious mind set apart from the unconscious. Those are 19th century myths that Freud accepted and institutionalized in psychoanalysis, passed on to the rest of psychotherapy, and are still assumed by many people to this day – thanks mostly to the field of cultural production around psychoanalysis.

Matsumaru: Movies and novels?

Dufresne: Yes, and by Western popular culture more generally – including daytime talk shows like Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Oprah, news programs like 20/20, and celebrity magazines like People. This is the 1970s and 1980s, long before social media made everything worse. Long before Trump. Looking back now I’m struck by how Freud’s theories not only ruined lives during the Recovered Memory Movement craze of the 1980s, but laid the ground for our world of post truth. For even sophisticated people today still believe in repression and the unconscious, and on that basis are able to believe all sorts of things about hidden depths. As a result, subjective ‘truth’ has morphed into a whole worldview; expert knowledge has given way to the wisdom of the masses; and so on. It all begins with a belief in a secret, occult realm knowable only to a special sect, a priest or psychoanalyst or literary or cultural critic. Insofar as literary critics advance the core beliefs of psychoanalysis, wittingly or not, then they are definitely part of the problem.

Matsumaru: How about you? Has “Trumpism” changed your thinking at all?

Dufresne: Actually, it has. I’m far less sympathetic toward postmodernism than I was even ten years ago. While I think it’s a bit simplistic to blame it all on postmodernism, which has valid insights about knowledge and society, I accept that the major tenets of postmodern thought – like an aversion to grand narratives and the ideals of collective freedom – have promoted a world-weary cynicism, not unlike Late Romanticism, that helped make Trump possible. And by Trump I mean more generally a culture of nihilism. Nowadays I think being analytically clear about our situation is a far more ‘radical’ and responsible way forward, although I agree that we must also make room for human imagination and creativity.

Matsumaru: What literary scholars do you admire, if any?

Dufresne: I admire many of them. Any short list would have to include Barbara Johnson, Samuel Weber, Leo Bersani, Elaine Showalter, Frederick Crews, Shoshana Felman, and two more who are really philosophers employed in literature, Rodolphe Gasché and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. In fact, Gasché and Borch-Jacobsen were on my dissertation committee! My own Japanese translator, Fuhito Endo, is also an exceptional thinker; so, too, is Joel Faflak, another good interpreter of Freud. To be honest my biggest frustration is with the regular professors, the majority, who think of ‘theory’ as a supplement added on to a traditional BA in English. None of these people I just mentioned are regular professors. They are in some way a part of the intellectual elite. I definitely admire their work, including works on Freud, because it often reflects deeply and historically upon its subject matter. It’s not all cherry picking and incoherent mash ups. For that reason one can read this work, learn from it, and criticize it, too – because we share a common ground in scholarship. Of course there are also well-known literature scholars who have made a career out of cherry picking and mashing theories together, but I’d rather not provide you with this short list!

Matsumaru: What about scholars outside of literary criticism?

Dufresne: Well, I’d single out Slavoj Zizek, possibly the most famous public intellectual at work today. In my opinion his work is precisely the sort of art project that makes a mess out of theory and confuses everyone in its wake. And before him, I’d say Jacques Lacan. Not incidentally, both men are admired by a certain kind of thinker who revels in the confusion, the obscurity, the clowning around, since it provides a fascinating puzzle. But they are also, even primarily, just an excuse to say oracular and seemingly-brilliant things about anything at all. In short, Zizek and Lacan provide a license to thrill. They’re titillating, amusing, clever, puzzling, enigmatic. Sometimes they’re funny. But they are very rarely coherent, at least beyond a punch line or a few pages of argumentation. As someone who came of age in the 1980s, I’ve seen a lot of this stuff and am amazed that anyone, in 2020, takes any of it seriously. But I’m afraid many still do – and, again, they tend to congregate in English departments. Like Freud they arrange their own conferences and journals, and populate their own subculture. So it’s also incestuous.  

Matsumaru: Was it all like this in the 1980s?

Dufresne: Not at all! That’s the problem. The best and brightest of the 1980s, the era of so-called ‘high theory’, were amazingly smart and provocative scholars. I named some of them above. But today we’re left with all the provocation and none of the coherence. It’s all style and performance, I’m afraid, an empty reminder of what we have lost.

Matsumaru: In The Late Sigmund Freud, you write that Freud was “just a ‘bad scientist’ destined for the dustbin of history” (Late, 257). Is that one of the reasons literature scholars should stop worshipping his mythological ideas?

Dufresne: I don’t quite say that! I consider this harsh verdict to be one possible legacy among others. But sure, if we accept Freud’s own self-conception as a scientist, then we have to conclude that he was a very bad one. It’s not just that he based his ideas on untenable theories of 19th century biology, although that’s important. It’s also that he manipulated the historical record of events, made himself into the hero of a quasi-religious movement, and presented the cure of Anna O. as the clinical foundation of psychoanalysis. But Anna O. wasn’t cured of hysteria, and Freud knew this perfectly well. So Freud was capable of scientific fraud, which is a fatal sin for anyone who considers himself a scientist. So yes, I would have to agree, finally, that the scientific Freud deserves his place in the dustbin of history.

But I follow my literature colleagues a fair way by agreeing that there is more to Freud than his botched science. I accept that he poses universal questions about human nature and society more generally, and tries to provide big answers, too. So even though he is a failed scientist, we can think of him as a thinker or philosopher, a Plato for our time. Fine. But we also have to be careful not to whitewash his legacy in the process. We have to pay close attention to Freud’s own words, claims, and intentions. And so, for example, I think Derrida’s lifelong project of interpreting Freud as a kind of proto-deconstructionist is both absurd and irresponsible. For it amounts to a process of cherry picking Freud’s statements and, on that basis, making grand pronouncements about the undecidability of meaning that have nothing to do with anything Freud thought or said.

Matsumaru: So what would be an appropriate way of thinking Freud through philosophy?

Dufresne: Historically. It’s not about transforming Freud into something au courant, thereby saving him from his own bad ideas. It’s not about adding surrealism, Marxism, linguistics, cybernetics, structuralism, mathematics, poststructuralism, or posthumanism to Freud. It’s about recognizing that Freud lived and worked in a particular time and context and was influenced by thinkers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. It’s about recognizing the attraction-repulsion Freud felt toward philosophy – the fact that he considered doing a PhD in Zoology and Philosophy and then spent a lifetime disguising and disowning his debt to philosophy.

Above all, though, if we treat Freud as a thinker instead of a scientist it can’t be because we want to save him from his botched science. It must be because we want to reveal those influences that helped make him possible. In this respect I’m afraid that thinkers like Derrida and Lacan have made it more difficult to understand what Freud is actually saying in his work. It’s all ‘Derrida’s Freud’ and ‘Lacan’s Freud’, and far too little of ‘Freud’s Freud’. After over fifty years of this mystification and impressionism, the goal must be demystification and explanation. The goal must be clarity. So no more public fantasies about what Freud might have said, could have said, or should have said, but in any case never did say. I mean, what’s the point?

Matsumaru: What was the point?

Dufresne: I guess we do this sort of mystification because we can. Full stop. Once again I’d say that the drive to create, the drive to artistry, often trumps scholarship. Everyone wants to be a Freud figure, someone who creates something new, whether an idea or a movement or both; everyone wants to be recognized as a genius or, barring that, as famous or infamous or just outrageous. And so we travel everywhere, talk to the biggest crowds possible, shake a lot of hands, sign some books, enjoy drinks afterward with strangers, scheme about new projects, then carefully cite the people you just met, and make sure, above all else, to churn out your own graduate student replicas who are obliged to do the same. If you’re lucky you can achieve a high “h index” and high citationality and so on. But this race for recognition, for celebrity, on the back of networking and gaming the metrics is the dark heart of neoliberal scholarship. It is destroying everything beautiful and sacred about academe. Against it all I simply insist that thinking about thinking has its own charms, and it’s long past time that we rediscovered them.

Matsumaru: Are literary critics over-reliant on theories? Should they approach literature more simply?

Dufresne: It’s not my place to prescribe anything to literary critics. I’m really only qualified to talk about their use or misuse of Freud. However, since you asked – I’d say no, just the opposite. I’m not anti-theory. I don’t think one can interpret any cultural artifact free of theoretical presuppositions. To think otherwise is positivism, plain and simple. My objection is about the quality of the theorizing, which is very different. It’s just not the case that all theories are equal, or that they can be applied willy nilly, as though there are no standards for what passes as good and bad scholarship. The same applies to interpretations: they are not all equal. Incidentally this is something that Derrida understood very well, saying in The Ear of the Other that not every interpretation or translation is a good translation. There are better and worse interpretations and translations (Derrida 1985) – and not just of deconstruction, but of anything at all.  Unfortunately, this very important point is very often missed by both the proponents and opponents of deconstruction.

Here’s the basic point: ‘doing’ theory doesn’t mean advancing a perspective, like a religious belief, and dogmatically applying it to something; nor does it mean ignoring scholarship that contradicts your own position. That might work for partisan advocates of psychoanalysis, as it does for many Marxists, but it isn’t good enough for scholars. That’s all I’m saying.

Matsumaru: Ok, so what are your own theoretical commitments?

Dufresne: At bottom I’m still a deconstructionist. However, interrogating texts doesn’t preclude being attentive to historical context – something not always well done among deconstructionists. As I’ve argued in Tales, I think Derrida is far too ahistorical in his readings of Freud (see Dufresne 2000: 140-44). Consequently I’m broadly sympathetic toward the ‘coherence’ theory of truth; agree that Foucaultian discourse analysis is very useful; and furthermore believe that American nominalism is a decent way of translating these Continental positions for a different audience. Take Nelson Goodman (1978). He’s very good at explaining how it is that our language creates a world, and is even better at explaining why that fact doesn’t render ‘world-making’ easy or arbitrary work. The way we organize and understand a world isn’t just a matter of asserting our own truths, some form of radical subjectivism. It just isn’t. The parts fit, more or less, into a system, and the job of scholarship is to assess just how they fit and sometimes fail to fit. That’s all I ever want to do with Freud, namely, understand his thought and see how it functions – first of all for him. Only then can we assess it.

In other words, it’s not a question of withdrawing from theory. It’s rather a question of going inside a given theoretical worldview, a discourse, and being as faithful as possible to its internal logic. This is simplified with Freud because of his lifelong rhetoric of science and objectivity. These are his horizons, not mine – but I am committed to honoring them and seeing where they go and what they mean for us today.

Matsumaru: Many critics utilize the unconscious in their interpretations. If Freud’s theories have collapsed, then how should they interpret important fields like trauma and gender?

Dufresne: There are critics of literature and critics of theory. I’m a theorist, so I belong to the second group. How critics of literature should conduct their analyses of anything, such as trauma or gender, is not for me to say – because these aren’t my fields of expertise. I would only insist that they approach their fields informed about the strengths and weaknesses of the theories they deploy. Why? Because no field is advanced by applying ideas, concepts, and theories that are intellectually incoherent. It doesn’t help anyone, at least beyond advancing someone’s own career as a scholar. I’d also say that the more important the field site, like trauma studies, the more responsibility a scholar has to get the basics right. Otherwise we’re just telling stories, spinning narratives, and not advancing knowledge at all. I understand that it’s troubling to have to re-conceptualize a field that is overrun with incoherent Freudian concepts. But I don’t see any way around that work.

Matsumaru: In a new book, The Democracy of Suffering, you’ve shifted to a field outside your own expertise in Freud Studies. Why did you make this shift?

Dufresne: I’ve always thought that a philosophy disconnected from everyday life is a suspect philosophy. So as a teacher I always make an effort to connect our studies of Plato and Marx and Derrida to our world today (see Dufresne 2019a). And since the biggest, most intractable problem of our time is climate change, that’s what I did in this book. So I wrote it, in part, for my students – but also for me, since I’m really just a lifelong student of philosophy. I also wrote it as a challenge to Philosophy, and to the humanities in general, because I think we all have a responsibility to think about climate change. We are at a very critical time in the history of life on this planet, and it’s incredible to me that so many of us still ignore it.

Matsumaru: In your Conclusion you say that we all must align ourselves with the revolutions of the earth itself (Democracy, 198). Do you think there’s still time left for us to change our ways of thinking?

Dufresne: It depends on what day you ask me. But as a matter of principle I refuse to give in to my own despair about catastrophic climate change, since there’s little to be gained from giving up – especially when the future isn’t written. True, the changes to our environment are already baked into the future. Consequently, catastrophe is inevitable. Millions of people, probably hundreds of millions, possibly billions, are going to die from the effects of climate change. But the question still remains: how will we adapt to this new reality, and in what ways will civilization survive? In other words, I assume that some people will survive and wonder what kind of world they will inherit. What of our present day society will survive or, better yet, should survive? These are the biggest possible questions, I know, so in The Democracy of Suffering I simply try to diagnose how we got here, what is happening to us and the planet, and what should happen next. That’s as far as I get. I hope that it inspires readers to think about their own lives and their own futures. I hope that it opens someone’s eyes. That’s it. My ambitions are modest.

Matsumaru: Lately you have shifted even further to discuss Covid-19 in a new essay for Topia.

Dufresne: It’s a deepening of interviews I published in Epilogue in May 2020, where I discuss the relationship between climate catastrophe and the pandemic. I wrote this essay very quickly because we are all trying to address the world historical changes at work today. It’s not easy to do! But it’s important to try because we can’t wait until we have the comfort of history to think about these current events. They are just too important, too cataclysmic, to leave to some disinterested future that will never arrive. Basically I show in this essay that while Covid-19 is not connected to climate change, the dislocations it has caused are most definitely related. For both climate change and Covid-19 are driven by capitalism and a culture of inequality that has exploded, first of all, with a global shutdown of economic activity, and second, with Black Lives Matter. The people have started to awaken to the problems of our present.

Matsumaru: The changes you expected from the future of climate change seem to be happening now, in real time.

Dufresne: Yes, it’s “the democracy of suffering”! I didn’t want to predict the exact moment when a new community might be forged out of global suffering – because that’s impossible. But I did and still do foresee that the suffering masses can and will change the world to the better. Whether Covid-19 is enough of a shock remains to be seen. But it proves in dramatic fashion that societal norms can change, and change quickly. And it proves that the status quo, that idea of ‘business as normal’, is no longer acceptable to billions of people. This is new, amazing, and inspiring. The good and bad news is that life is about to get harder yet as we start to confront serial impacts from climate catastrophe. To me the choice is very clear. Either the elites bend to our demands for freedom and social justice or we descend further into a dystopic world of fascism and authoritarianism.

Matsumaru: Perhaps psychoanalysis can help us understand the forces of freedom and unfreedom?

Dufresne: We definitely have a language, borrowed and adapted from Freud, that will inspire some people. That’s true. There are still those who think of psychoanalysis as politically radical. But I think it has been and will continue to be an intellectual and political dead-end. Once more I see this discourse as part of a neoliberal project that erodes facts, truth, and evidence only to validate the one authority who always knows best – the psychoanalyst or psychoanalytically-inspired literary and cultural theorist. It’s less obvious and less troubling when the discourse of suspicion and hidden depths is adopted by progressive allies on the Left. But that’s only because we agree with their aims. By contrast it’s perfectly obvious and very troubling when the discourse of suspicion and hidden depths is adopted by the Right. And unfortunately that’s what has happened. The Right has finally caught up to these discourses and are vomiting up reflections of the same condescension: not truth but “alt truth”; not facts but “fake news”; not evidence but conspiracies. For me, therefore, it’s not just a question of understanding that the radicalism of one era is no longer radicalism in another. It is more disturbingly the case that these interpretations and conclusions, even when directed at worthwhile enemies, nonetheless flirted with authoritarian, uncontestable, inviolable claims; that the supposed radicalism of psychoanalysis was always suspect, always reactionary, always cultist.

Matsumaru: So no more Freud from you?

Dufresne: Ha! No, nothing major – maybe a collection of essays, maybe something didactic on ‘critical Freud studies’. But I’ve had my say about Freud and then some! In a way I wrote The Late Sigmund Freud for future readers, since there are so few people around today who approach psychoanalysis as an academic field of research. Critical Freud Studies are still the exception. Many people still have a personal relationship to the therapy and don’t want to be disabused of their beliefs. And the rest tend to use psychoanalysis to advance some agenda, which is also highly personal, and they too don’t want to be disabused. So to be honest I’ve had enough of it. I leave it to your generation to figure out what comes next, and who was right or wrong. But for me it’s time to move on.

Matsumaru: To save the planet?

Dufresne: To do my small part. Finally the lit crits can have their art projects and their impressionistic fantasies. As for me, I’ll throw down with the truth, facts, and evidence of anthropogenic climate change. I’ll throw down, in short, with whatever remains of life and the living at the end of the Holocene.

Works Cited
■ Borch-Jabobsen, Mikkel. “Suggestion, Hypnosis, and the Critique of Psychoanalysis: Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen’s ‘Return to Delboeuf’.” In Against Freud: Critics Talk Back, ed. Todd Dufresne. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.  
■ Derrida, Jacques. Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation. New York: Schocken Books, 1985.
■ Dufresne, Todd. Tales From the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.
■ ---. The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, & All the Riddles of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.  
■ ---. The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.
■ ---. “For the Love of Wisdom: Climate Change and the Revenge of History,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 2019a (September 10). https://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/interviews/love-wisdom-climate-change-revenge-history/
■ ---. “Shifting Consciousness.” Epilogue Magazine, 2020 (May 19). http://epiloguemag.com/2020/05/shifting-consciousness/
■ ---. “Pandemic as Prophecy?” in Epilogue Magazine, 2020 (May 18). http://epiloguemag.com/2020/05/pandemic-as-prophecy/?fbclid=IwAR3zu10TOfTlLyzUWily8SOEeMUnxKBXjbUjjOUbvu3rA_5i5Zxe29rbJxA
■ ---. “Climate Change and Covid-19: Structure and System in a Future Tense.” Topia. Special Issue. July, 2020 (forthcoming).
■ Goodman, Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett Books, 1978.

6: Related Articles

■ 11/11:PAMLA第 114回年次大会にて巽先生ご発表:“The Rhetoric of Exodus: Reading Barbara Johnson’s Reading of Freud”(CPA: 2016/11/05)
■ 07/04: Todd Dufresne's Workshop on Moses and Monotheism: A Transdisciplinary Approach:巽先生と宇沢先生がディスカッサントとしてご登壇なさいます!(CPA: 2019/06/29)

7: Related Books

Todd Dufresne, Tales from the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context (Stanford UP, 2000)


Todd Dufresne, Killing Freud: Twentieth Century Culture and the Death of Psychoanalysis (Bloomsbury Academic, 2003)

Todd Dufresne, The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, and All the Riddles of Life (Cambridge UP, 2017)

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Edited by Todd Dufresne; Translated by Gregory C. Richter; Broadview, 2011)

Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (Edited by Todd Dufresne; Translated by Gregory C. Richter; Broadview, 2012)

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (Edited by Todd Dufresne; Translated by Gregory C. Richter; Broadview, 2015)

Todd Dufresne, The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2019)