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definition - Three_Essays_on_the_Theory_of_Sexuality

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Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

                   
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality  
Author(s) Sigmund Freud
Genre(s) psychoanalysis
Publication date 1905

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, sometimes titled Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, is a 1905 work by Sigmund Freud which advanced his theory of sexuality, in particular its relation to childhood.

Contents

  Synopsis

Freud's first essay, on "The Sexual Aberrations", designated 'the person from whom sexual attraction proceeds the sexual object and the act towards which the instinct tends the sexual aim ', and stressed that 'numerous deviations appear in respect of both of these - the sexual object and the sexual aim'.[1] Turning to neurotics, Freud emphasised that 'in them tendencies to every kind of perversion can be shown to exist as unconscious forces...neurosis is, as it were, the negative of perversion'.[2] In one section "The Sexually immature and animals as sexual objects" he discusses pedophilia and bestiality, although he does not use the terms. He says in the section that only rarely are prepubescent children a preferred object, generally it occurs more in cases where an impotent or cowardly person cannot gain satisfaction from adults or adolescents. However he also mentions that there are cases where teachers have molested their students, and he also says sexual relations with animals are "not at all rare among farmers". He says in this section that most people would prefer to limit these perversions to the insane "on aesthetic grounds" but that they exist in the normal people also. He says that people who are behaviorally abnormal are always sexually abnormal in his experience but that many people who are normal behaviorally otherwise are sexually abnormal also.[3] Freud concluded that 'a disposition to perversions is an original and universal disposition of the human sexual instinct and that...this postulated constitution, containing the germs of all the perversions, will only be demonstrable in children '.[4]

His second essay, on "Infantile Sexuality", demonstrated that 'children are born with sexual urges, which undergo a complicated development before they attain the familiar adult form'.[5] Freud argued thereby that "perversion" was present even among the healthy, and that the path towards a mature and normal sexual attitude began not at puberty but at early childhood (see psychosexual development). Looking at children, Freud claimed that 'infantile sexual emotions and desires take many and varied forms, not all of them palpably erotic: thumb sucking and other displays of autoeroticism, retention of feces, sibling rivalry, masturbation'.[6]

'The years of puberty and adolescence, to which Freud devoted the last of his three essays...consolidate sexual identity, revive long-buried oedipal attachments, establish the dominance of the genitals for the attainment of sexual gratification'.[7] In "The Transformations of Puberty" Freud also formalised the distinction between the pleasures of infantile sexuality which 'may be suitably described as "fore-pleasure" in contrast to the "end-pleasure" or pleasure of satisfaction derived from the sexual act'.[8]

Freud sought to link to his theory of the unconscious put forward in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and his work on hysteria by means of positing sexuality as the driving force of both neuroses (through repression) and perversion. In its final version, the "Three Essays" also included the concepts of penis envy, castration anxiety, and the Oedipus complex.

  Textual history

The Three Essays were 'submitted by their author, in the course of a succession of editions over a period of twenty years, to more modifications and additions than any other of his writings, with the exception of, perhaps, The Interpretation of Dreams '.[9] Whereas 'in its first edition, the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality was a small book of 80-odd pages, little more tham a pamphlet...by 1925, when it had reached its sixth edition, the last to appear in Freud's lifetime, it had grown to 120 pages'.[10]

Thus for readers of the final text it 'will probably come as a surprise to learn, for instance, that the entire sections on the sexual theories of children and on the pregenital organizations of the libido (both in the second essay) were only added in 1915, ten years after the book was first published'.[11] Similarly, Freud's 'first explicit mention of the "castration complex"...of "envy for the penis"...[&] of the actual term Oedipus complex'[12] all postdate the first Three Essays of 1905.

As Freud himself conceded in 1923, the result was that 'it may often have happened that what was old and what was more recent did not admit of being merged into an entirely uncontradictory whole'.[13] Thus whereas at first 'the accent was on a portrayal of the fundamental difference between the sexual life of children and of adults; later, the pregenital organizations of the libido made their way into the foreground, and also...the sexual researches of children; and from this we were able to recognize the far-reaching approximation of the final outcome of sexuality in children (in about the fifth year) to the definitive form taken by it in adults'.[14]

He was still making to make additional refinements to his theory even at that late date, however; and we may perhaps (if we wish) regard all such changes as further evidence of the way that 'Freud's thought is the most perennially open to revision...a thought in motion'.[15] There are two English translations, one by A.A. Brill in 1910, another by James Strachey in 1949 published by Imago Publishing [16] Strachey's translation is generally considered superior, including by Freud himself.[17]

  See also

  Notes

  1. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 45-6
  2. ^ Freud, On Sexuality p. 155
  3. ^ The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud pages 562-563 Random House 1938
  4. ^ Freud, On Sexuality p. 155 and p. 87
  5. ^ Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (Penguin 1961) p. 315
  6. ^ Gay, p. 147
  7. ^ Gay, p. 148
  8. ^ Freud, On Sexuality p. 131
  9. ^ Angela Richards, "Editor's Introduction", Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 34
  10. ^ Peter Gay, Freud: A life for our time (London 1989) p. 148
  11. ^ Richards, p. 35
  12. ^ Richards, p. 186 and p. 238n
  13. ^ Freud, On Sexuality p. 307
  14. ^ Freud, On Sexuality p. 307
  15. ^ Jacques-Alain Miller ed., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book I (Cambridge 1988) p. 1
  16. ^ Freud, Sigmund Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality Basic Books 1962 ix-xi
  17. ^ Gay, Peter Freud: A Life For Our Time London WW Norton 1989 572-575

  References

  • Freud, Sigmund (1962). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, trans. James Strachey. New York: Basic Books.
    • (1996). Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Fischer: Frankfurt am Main. [Reprint of the 1905 edition.]

  External links

   
               

 

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