On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019) is a recent book by a BPSI Affiliate Scholar Member, Diane O’Donoghue, PhD.

In the final years of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud began to construct evidence for the workings of an “unconscious.” On Dangerous Ground offers an innovative assessment of the complex role that his encounters with visual cultures-architecture, objects from earlier cultural epochs (“antiquities”), paintings, and illustrated books-played in that process. Diane O’Donoghue introduces, often using unpublished archival sources, the ways in which material phenomena profoundly informed Freud’s decisions about what would, and would not, constitute the workings of an inner life. By returning to view content that Freud treated as forgettable, as distinct from repressed, O’Donoghue shows us a realm of experiences that Freud wished to remove from psychical meaning. These erasures form an amnesic core within Freud’s psychoanalytic project, an absence that includes difficult aspects of his life narrative, beginning with the dislocations of his early childhood that he declared “not worth remembering.” What is made visible here is far from the inconsequential surface of experience; rather, we are shown a dangerous ground that exceeds the limits of what Freud wished to include within his early model of mind. In Freud’s relation to visual cultures we find clues to what he attempted, in crafting his unconscious, to remove from sight.

About the Author:

Diane O’Donoghue, an art historian at Tufts University and Brown University’s Visiting Professor of Public Humanities, is also Director of the Program for Public Humanities at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. She is a faculty member at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and has been the recipient of the Felix and Helene Deutsch and Silberger Prizes here. Professor O’Donoghue was a Fulbright Freud Scholar in Vienna and the Erikson Scholar at Austen Riggs, and recently received the 2019 Robert S. Liebert Award at the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center, given annually to recognize interdisciplinary work in psychoanalysis and the humanities. Diane O’Donoghue is scheduled to discuss her new book on Tue, Feb 4, 2020 in the BPSI Library.