NABOKV-L post 0016305, Wed, 30 Apr 2008 22:06:23 -0400

Re: [NABOKOV - LIST] : signs and symbols, chapter three and four

re the startling knowledge on the wife's part about the caller's error: O instead of zero. Could there be a relationship to Freud and Anna O, Breuer's patient. The mistake of Freud and Anna was to believe they were curing Anna. Instead they were giving her zero, and one supposes Nabokov, had he been there, would have offered that opinion: "You are mistaking O for zero" i.e. you are treating a person, like a zero, a nonentity.
I found the following about the case of Anna O at
Interesting is the famous painting which shows exactly what Nabokov would have objected to: the objectification of a human being into a "patient" an it.
Fran Assa
Hysteria, Anna O., and the Invention of Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud was born in 1856, in the small Austro-Hungarian town of Freiberg. Unusually he was born in a caul – a kind of membrane – and his mother immediately took this as a portent of his future fame. She called him ‘mein goldener Sigi’, and throughout his childhood and early adolescence in Vienna he was surrounded by his parents’ adulation and by their urgent expectation of his future greatness. As Freud embarked on a career in medicine, which eventually led him to study in the newly emerging field of neurology, these expectations seem to have become increasingly burdensome. For, although outwardly successful, he appears to have begun to despair of ever being granted the kind of world-redeeming revelation which he felt inwardly compelled to seek.
Freud’s earliest unsuccessful skirmish with fame took place in 1885 when, after experimenting with taking cocaine, he sought medical glory by publishing a paper on the drug as a miracle-therapy. In writing this paper, however, he failed to observe the crucial properties of the drug as a local anaesthetic while simultaneously omitting to warn against cocaine addiction. Freud, however, was not deterred by this unfortunate episode from seeking medical distinction. He almost immediately left Vienna for Paris where, from October 1885 to February 1886, he studied under the famous neurologist Charcot.
Charcot specialised in treating patients who were suffering from a variety of unexplained physical symptoms including paralysis, contractures (muscles which contract and cannot be relaxed) and seizures. Some of these patients sporadically and compulsively adopted a bizarre posture (christened arc-de-cercle) in which they arched their body backwards until they were supported only by their head and their heels. Charcot eventually came to the conclusion that many of his patients were suffering from a form of hysteria which had been induced by their emotional response to a traumatic accident in their past – such as a fall from a scaffold or a railway crash. They suffered, in his view, not from the physical effects of the accident, but from the idea they had formed of it.
Freud was immensely impressed by Charcot’s work on traumatic hysteria and took from it the notion that one of the principal forms of neurosis came about when a traumatic experience led to process of unconscious symptom-formation. He now began to develop this idea, and did so partly by reference to the work of a medical colleague, Josef Breuer. Freud was especially interested in the most unusual of all his colleague’s patients, the celebrated ‘Anna O.’ whom Breuer had begun to treat in 1880.
Anna O. was a twenty-one-year-old woman who had fallen ill while nursing her father who eventually died of a tubercular abscess. Her illness began with a severe cough. She subsequently developed a number of other physical symptoms, including paralysis of the extremities of the right side of her body, contractures, disturbances of vision, hearing and language. She also began to experience lapses of consciousness and hallucinations.
Breuer diagnosed Anna O.’s illness as a case of hysteria and gradually developed a form of therapy which he believed was effective in relieving her symptoms. He came to the conclusion that when he could induce her to relate to him during the evening the content of her daytime hallucinations, she became calm and tranquil. Breuer himself saw this as a way of ‘disposing’ of the ‘products’ of Anna O.’s ‘bad self’ and understood it as a process of emotional catharsis. The patient herself described it as ‘chimney sweeping’, and as her ‘talking cure’.
Breuer went on to extend this therapy. At one point in her illness, for a period of weeks, Anna O. declined to drink and would quench her thirst with fruit and melons. One evening, in a state of self-induced hypnosis, she described an occasion when she said she had been disgusted by the sight of a dog drinking out of a glass. Soon after this she asked for a drink and then woke from her hypnosis with a glass at her lips.
In his published account of the case, written some twelve years later, Breuer treated the story which Anna O. had related in a trance as a true account of an incident which had given rise to her aversion to drinking. He said he had concluded that the way to cure a particular symptom of ‘hysteria’ was to recreate the memory of the incident which had originally led to it and bring about emotional catharsis by inducing the patient to express any feeling associated with it..
The sudden disappearance of one of Anna O.’s many symptoms thus became the basis for what Breuer later described as a ‘therapeutic technical procedure’. According to both Freud and Breuer, this method had been applied systematically to each of Anna’s symptoms and as a result she was cured completely of her hysteria.
The case of Anna O. played a fundamental role in the development of Freud’s thought. She has frequently been described as the first psychoanalytic patient, a view which Freud himself, lecturing at Clark University in the United States, once endorsed:

Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 12:37:21 -0400From: barriekarp@GMAIL.COMSubject: Re: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV - LIST] : signs and symbols, chapter three and fourTo: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDUWhy does the nurse tell them "brightly"? ("... a nurse they knew, and did not care for, appeared at last and brightly explained that he had again attempted to take his life.") Each sentence or vignette is back to back with cruelty, pessimism and only visions of hope in the form of gullibility, dejection, and analyses in the mother's thoughts of what hope and goodness are hopelessly up against.The nurse and social institutions don't get a break in this story.One of the mysteries of the story: Why was the mother so sure she knew why the caller was calling the wrong number ("I will tell you what you are doing") and what is the significance, to those who suffer from referential mania, of "you are turning the letter O instead of zero"?Barrie Karp
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