Tuesday, February 2, 1999, 8 PM.

Teaching Freud to Undergraduates: A Case Report

An Evening in Honor of Arnold M. Cooper, M.D.

Chairperson: Robert Michels, M.D.
Authors: Elizabeth Auchincloss, M.D. and Nathan Kravis, M.D.
Discussant: Steven Marcus, Ph.D.
Bulletin Reviewer: Brenda Berger, M.D.

The authors describe their experiences teaching "The Writings of Sigmund Freud" to undergraduates at Columbia College over a three year period. The course focused on Freud's developing theory of mind, his application of psychoanalytic theory to the study of culture, and the autobiographical context in which the texts were written.

The students entered the course intrigued by the controversy surrounding Freud and eager to develop an independent point of view. They immersed themselves in the intellectual task of understanding Freud's work while at the same time discovering its power to speak directly to their personal concerns. The students found in Freud a companion in the search for personal meaning in the "great books" of the Western canon. At a deeper level, they found in Freud an ally in the drama of coming-of-age, experienced in terms of separation and loss, concerns about normality and sexuality, the quest for autonomy and the search for identity. While interested in Freud's ideas about infantile sexuality, for the most part they rejected the concept of the Oedipus complex. The authors present excerpts from the students' written work and classroom discussion. Their responses are explored in relation to the developmental tasks of adolescence.