09/26/2017, 00:13, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Leading articles

THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to

(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)




In our interview series "in conversation with“, we will briefly present the authors of the leading articles. We want to give our users the opportunity to read the leading article from a different point of view.

This week we are very glad to welcome Todd Raymond Dufresne from Thunder Bay, Ontario:

Academic Qualifications:
1991-1997 Doctor of Philosophy, Social and Political Thought, York University, Toronto.  
1990-1992 Master of Arts, Social and Political Thought, York University, Toronto.
1985-1989 Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, The University of Western Ontario, London.

Professional Affiliation:
Professor of Philosophy, Lakehead University

DWP: What led you to deal with psychoanalysis, especially as it concerns Freud and his achievements?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: From the perspective of practitioners, I came to Freud and psychoanalysis backwards – as an academic. I was introduced to Freud’s work as an undergraduate student in Philosophy, but had no intention of working on psychoanalysis as a graduate student. I thought I’d research the work of American novelist Thomas Pynchon! But my plans shifted in the face of the social and cultural conditions I encountered as a graduate student in Social & Political Thought at York University in Toronto. What I found was that a fair number of my peers were not just working on psychoanalysis but were in analytic therapy. And since some of them were sophisticated and interesting people, I too became intrigued. It was a hothouse environment, in some ways, and I was a classic fish out of water. Although I feel most at home in Toronto today, I was born to a small town working class family in Northern Ontario, attended high school in a small city a few hours away, and then earned my BA at the University of Western Ontario – a big traditional university in London, Ontario. When I went to graduate school in 1990 a lot of ideas in the margins of tradition were at the centre of everyone’s concerns at York. So in addition to not exactly fitting into this culture, I also no longer felt very radical!

In the first year of my MA I took a graduate seminar, run by the sociologist John O’Neil, on Freud’s “Little Hans” – and began drifted toward Freud’s work. Ultimately, I defended a research paper on Freud and stayed on for the PhD, where I took another seminar on Freud and the post-Freudians run by Don Carveth, a Toronto sociologist and lay analyst. I also did a reading course with Paul Roazen, the Freud historian and critic, and was his Teaching Assistant in the early to mid 1990s. It was through Roazen that I met the French philosopher Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, with whom I have had a long professional and friendly relationship. 

DWP: Have you ever undergone psychoanalysis?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: No. I have consistently approached Freud the same way as I approach Plato or Nietzsche, namely as a thinker. I was a “theorist” during the heady 1990s, and was more interested in French post-structuralism than in therapy.  Of course, Freud himself was also less interested in therapy than in theory. My Freud is therefore the Freud of ideas, the rebel who advanced dark Romantic claims in the language of science, biology, and positivism. At the same time, I try not to ignore the real world implications of Freud’s theories. I won’t belabor it here, but it’s also worth noting that Freud himself did not really practice ‘Freudian’ analysis. As Roazen taught us, Freud felt perfectly free to break his own rules and techniques about practicing psychoanalysis. Rules were for others.

DWP: If you had the opportunity to talk with Sigmund Freud, what would be the topic?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: Hmm. There would be so much to discuss! I should probably say that I’d discuss the death drive theory, since that has long been my specialty. But I must admit that I’d rather just have a discussion without any agenda at all. I’d like to see him in his office or, better, around the dinner table with his family. I’d like to hear him gossip about his colleagues and patients.  And I suppose if I had to pick one area to discuss, I’d like to know more about his own relationships with Martha and Minna – and what, if any, impact these two relationships had on his theories.

DWP: Fabric or leather couch?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: I’m the wrong person to ask. But I’d say ‘fabric’, because it breathes better. 

DWP: According to Bruno Bettelheim and the importance of fairy tales in childhood. Will you tell us your favorite fairy tale? And do you see parallels to your own adult life?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: Favorite fairy tale? I didn’t grow up with fairy tales. My parents didn’t read to me, and while we owned the obligatory books of the aspiring working class – dictionaries, accessible Funk & Wagnall encyclopedias, and annual updates of current events by Reader’s Digest – I didn’t read classic literature of any kind. I read comic books, silly ones and superhero stories. In fact, I am pretty sure my writing style is inflected with this experience. Even my ‘academic’ writing aims to be a high-level conversation where I utilize contractions and incomplete sentences, and then sprinkle it all with life, gossip, anecdote, and vulgarity. I aim for immediacy and never forget the needs of my reader. My motto as a writer is, I guess, ‘POW’. 

As for parallels with my adult life – that’s hard to say. Maybe the idea of a secret identity? After all, the university is not really a place, even in North America, for plebians like myself. Of course, I also realize that this idea is itself pure vanity, pure comic book fantasy, since I may be an alien but I’m no superhero. But, you know, I throw it out there for analysts to chew on as they see fit…

DWP: I dream, …

Todd Raymond Dufresne: Same as anyone, I assume. 

DWP: What do you find good or particularly good in psychoanalysis and is there anything you do not like about it?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: Freud was incredibly curious, ambitious, and cross-disciplinary. I admire these traits a lot. He didn’t suffer fools, and lived life the way he wanted. Of course his openness to other disciplines was not always echoed by followers – and for all the obvious reasons you can think of. In fact, the best followers almost always went their own way, and to this extent followed Freud perhaps too closely! Freud was free in a way that was always denied his loyal followers. This summarizes everything that is good and bad about psychoanalysis. At its best, psychoanalysis is ecumenical, curious, and tolerant; it’s also intellectual, imaginative, and creative. At its worst it is dogmatic, ideological, and censorious. Of course, as the saying has it, ‘no one thinks of himself as an asshole’. Similarly no dogmatist revels in his or her own dogmatism. So sometimes the difference between the best and worst aspects of psychoanalysis is just a shift between self-criticism and self-satisfaction. But that’s not nothing! Being self-critical is really what it means, at bottom, to be a decent intellectual. Freud was wrong about lots of things, but his basic attitude toward speculation means that he always tweaked and revised and adjusted his ideas as he saw fit. Others were often not allowed or were not inclined to do the same. 

DWP: Do you have a favorite Freud - quote?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: I like his line, from Studies on Hysteria, about ‘transforming hysterical misery into common unhappiness’. But I prefer his more diabolical remarks. Easily my favourite among these belongs to Heinrich Heine, the German poet who died the year Freud was born, and whom Freud cites approvingly in a footnote in Civilization and Its Discontents. It is perfectly ‘Freudian’ in nearly every way:

“Mine is a most peaceable disposition. My wishes are: a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before death I shall, moved in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me in their lifetime. One must, it is true, forgive one´s enemies - but not before they have been hanged.”  (chapter 5)

Thanks to Heine, Freud doesn’t get any better than this. 

DWP:  Are there other psychoanalysts, in addition to Sigmund Freud, who you like to study?

Todd Raymond Dufresne: I have read pretty widely in the field. But you explicitly asked me if there are any analysts who I “like” to study. Let me take your question literally. My answer is ‘not really’! But I can be more helpful, more generous than that. I think Theodore Reik is a fine writer worth reading. Some of Erich Fromm’s early works are notable. I always liked his little book, Sigmund Freud’s Mission. Otto Rank is under-appreciated and yet very interesting. His book on the double, for example, is quite good and influential for Freud. The same holds for Jung, whose early works influenced Freud but are still verboten among Freud scholars. Lacan is useful in a philosophy class, but he is also highly frustrating; the “return to Freud” is really just a return to Lacan’s own ever-changing hobbies. But finally – I’d say that there is one thinker, the sometime-analyst François Roustang, who in my opinion is very nearly unequalled in the field. His collected essays, such as Dire Mastery, are often outstanding, beautifully written, smart, and rigorous. So yes, I do enjoy reading him – perhaps even more than reading Freud. That is high praise, indeed. For Freud was all those things and was funny, too.  

But you know, there is a big difference between what I ‘like’ to study and what I ‘need’ to study. I follow the trail wherever it leads, and so I end up reading lots of things that I don’t enjoy reading at all. Freud is my model, in this regard, both as someone I necessarily follow as he leaps from field to field, and as someone who shows me how freedom looks like for an intellectual. Freud thought big, and aimed even bigger, and although I have spent my intellectual life reading and writing about him, I think he also teaches us to try to think and aim big, too. But for ourselves. Freud’s final lesson to us is more than what he said and believed. It’s also the life of the mind that he led – to wit, his example, warts and all. If that’s true, then one wins Freud only by losing the Freudianism. And if that’s true, then the critic is the most faithful parricide of all. The irony, of course, is also perfectly ‘Freudian’.

Thank you very much for this conversation, we are already looking forward to your leading article!

Publications: (i) Books
2017 The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, & All the Riddles of Life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2007 Against Freud: Critics Talk Back, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
2003/06 Killing Freud: 20th Century Culture & the Death of Psychoanalysis, London & New York: Continuum Books; reissued in September 2006. Translated into Chinese and Indonesian.
2000 Tales From the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context, with a Foreword by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Translated into Japanese.
(ii) Edited Collections
2016 Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, ed. and intro. T Dufresne, trans. G Richter, Peterborough: Broadview Books.
2012 Sigmund Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, ed. and intro. T Dufresne, trans. G Richter, Peterborough: Broadview Books.
2011 Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, ed. and intro T Dufresne, trans. G Richter, Peterborough: Broadview Books.
1997 Returns of the "French Freud": Freud, Lacan, & Beyond, edited and intro. T Dufresne, New York and London: Routledge.
(iii) Chapters in Books
2016 “Frank Cioffi (1928-2012),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
2013 “Sigmund Freud.” In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Childhood Studies. Ed. Heather K. Montgomery. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
2006 “Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939,” in New Makers of Modern Culture, revised edition, ed. J. Wintle, London: Routledge, Vol. 1
(iv) Articles & Review Articles in Refereed Journals
2013 “The Making of a “Freud Basher”: Or, Reflections of a “Supercilious Neurotic,” in The European Legacy, vol. 19, no. 1 (February)
2007 “Psychoanalysis Eats Its Own: Or, The Heretical Saint Roazen,” in Psychoanalysis and History, ed. J. Forrester, 9(1): 93-109.
2003 “What’s Next for Psychoanalysis?,” The Semiotic Review of Books, Special Issue, vol 13.1 (Jan).
2001 “Retour à Delboeuf - Un entretien de Todd Dufresne avec Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen,” (in French translation), Ethnopsi, no. 3, October: 69-87.
1996 “L´histoire de la psychanalyse - ragot, fiction ou histoire de l´histoire de la psychanalyse?” SCANSIONS: Actualités de l´interrogation freudienne, French trans. S. Schauder, Numéro spécial, Décembre 1996, no. 6/7: 5.
1995 “Joseph Wortis - notorischer Anti-Psychoanalytiker,” Werkblatt, German trans. Marina Leitner, nr.34: 90-118.
1995 “Jones on Ice: Psychoanalysis and Figure Skating,” with G. Genosko, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 76: 123-133.

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