Jeffrey Masson and Freud's seduction theory: a new fable based on old myths
See History of the Human Sciences, volume 11, no. 1, February 1998, pp. 1-21.
One of the most enduring myths of psychoanalytic history is that Freud proposed his seduction theory as a result of hearing frequent reports from his female patients that they had been sexually abused in childhood. A second myth is that in the early days of psychoanalysis, Freud's medical colleagues took such exception to his theories of infantile sexuality that they subjected him to professional ostracism. Jeffrey Masson combined these two myths to produce a compelling and influential account of the seduction theory episode. However, an examination of the contemporary documents indicates that Freud's clinical findings reported in the seduction theory papers were spurious, that he was right to abandon the seduction theory, and that Masson's version of events is erroneous. Please note that the Synopsis cannot cover every detail and for the full argument readers should consult the original article in History of the Human Sciences. [VIEW SYNOPSIS]
Jeffrey Masson supports his version of the seduction theory episode recounted in The Assault on Truth with an account of the prehistory of the theory, followed by a discussion of some related historical events which lend credence to his central thesis. These sections of his book are critically reviewed in this detailed addendum. [VIEW ADDENDUM]
Norman Rosenblood, Ph. D. - "A lot of time and ink
would have been saved if Masson..."
Chess Denman - "I think the real charge in relation to Freud is..."
Mark Pendergrast - "I read Allen Esterson's material about Masson and Freud's seduction theory..."
Eric Gillett, M.D. - "Masson's writings on Freud's seduction theory are important..."
Malcolm Macmillan - "One aspect of the discussion on Freud's seduction theory..."
Allen Esterson - The myth of fathers as the 'seducers' (real or phantasised) in 1895-7
Herb Peyser, M.D. - "It is interesting to note that Jean Schimek..."
Allen Esterson - Reply to Herb Peyser
Allen Esterson - "There is an erroneous interpretation of a sentence of Freud's in my..."
Allen Esterson - "Freud claimed that his clinical experiences in the seduction theory period enabled him to 'stumble'..."
Adriaan J. W. Mak - "Thanks for spelling it out clearly. This needed to be done..."
Frank R. Kegan - "I would suggest that importance of the debate about Freud's Seduction Theory is not..."
Allen Esterson - Rebuttal of Masson's arguments in his 1998 'Postscript' to The Assault on Truth
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Allen Esterson is author of Seductive Mirage : An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud (Published by Open Court Publishing Company, June 1993). If you would like to order a copy of his book then please click on the amazon.com logo below.
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"By concisely surveying the whole Freudian enterprise with a skeptical eye, Esterson dispels any impression that some parts of that enterprise have passed beyond controversy. [The book's] eventual verdict - that every notion and practice peculiar to psychoanalysis is open to fundamental objection - rests on evidence that any reader can check by following up Esterson's cited sources." -- Professor Frederick Crews
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