From Dream Life to Dream Work
The first edition of Die Traumdeutung (translated as The Interpretation of Dreams, 1913) bears a publication date of 1900, although it actually appeared in Vienna in November 1899. This is consistent with the pivotal temporality of a work that looks retrospectively into the nineteenth century and prospectively into the twentieth. In 1931, Freud said of his first and arguably most important book, “It contains, even according to my present-day judgement, the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make.” In terms of the influence not only on his later publications, but also on humanistic inquiry in general, this judgment certainly rings true. In 1924, however, Freud noted that the study had received little attention in professional journals when it first appeard. This observation is borne out by surprisingly meager initial sales figures. In the first six years of publication it sold an average of only fifty-nine copies per year (Gay 1988, 3). These are remarkably low numbers, especially in view of the considerable presence of the work in the twentieth century and beyond. If few were purchasing it, one may indeed ask what the nature and significance of Die Traumdeutung really was at the onset of the twentieth century. The most fruitful model for approaching this question is one that views psychoanalysis in a symbiotic relationship with its environment, as both an emergence from and an influence upon its era.
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