Civilization and Its Discontents
Freud's "Anna O" and the Meaning of Private Theater
In the case history of Anna O., Freud's coworker Breuer makes no mention of when Anna coins the phrase "private theatre." The abstraction reveals in itself two distinct personalities, and thus a notable self-awareness. It cannot be that in the midst of a daydream, she described the experience, as then she would no longer be daydreaming. Nor does the thought seem haphazard. It is a most refined abstraction revealing at least a partial understanding of the nature of her fantasiesif not the nature of her disease. It is coherent and artful German, the product of intelligent reflection. It is a wonder both that she was capable of this level of understanding after three pages, and that Breuerand Freud's invisible handnever tell us exactly how far they had traveled in order to arrive there.
Since the case history hides the context, the only way to make sense of the phrase is by trusting Breuer's explanation. He writes:
"The girl, who was bubbling over with intellectual vitality, led an extremely monotonous existence in her puritanically-minded family. She embellished her life in a manner which probably influenced her decisively in the direction of her illness, by indulging in systematic day-dreaming, which she...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 747 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4481 literature essays, 1451 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in