Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 February 2016
Animals played an important role in the formation of psychoanalysis as a theoretical and therapeutic enterprise. They are at the core of texts such as Freud's famous case histories of Little Hans, the Rat Man, or the Wolf Man. The infantile anxiety triggered by animals provided the essential link between the psychology of individual neuroses and the ambivalent status of the “totem” animal in so-called primitive societies in Freud's attempt to construct an anthropological basis for the Oedipus complex in Totem and Taboo. In the following, we attempt to track the status of animals as objects of indirect observation as they appear in Freud's classical texts, and in later revisionist accounts such as Otto Rank's Trauma of Birth and Imre Hermann's work on the clinging instinct. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Freudian conception of patients' animal phobias is substantially revised within Hermann's original psychoanalytic theory of instincts which draws heavily upon ethological observations of primates. Although such a reformulation remains grounded in the idea of “archaic” animal models for human development, it allows to a certain extent to empiricize the speculative elements of Freud's later instinct theory (notably the death instinct) and to come to a more embodied account of psychoanalytic practice.