Freud’s exploration of lesbian culture in a modern lens

Jacob WaringNews Editor

Corinne Blackmer, associate professor of English, did not make a Freudian slip as she led a talk on her analysis of Sigmund Freud’s theorization on lesbianism.

“Freud Among the Lesbians,” was part of First Thursday, a forum for Southern faculty to present and lead discussions on new scholarship in the areas of arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Blackmer wove Sholem Asch’s 1907 Yiddish play “God of Vengeance” into her discussion on Freud’s “considerable insights into female sexuality.”

The talk retold Freud’s encounter with an 18-year-old Jewish lesbian with a good family in Vienna a girl who incurred the concerned anger of her parents due to being in pursuit of an older woman who was ten years her senior. “

The beloved has a magnificently complex queer life. She lives with a married woman as a friend with whom she has intimate relations while carrying on promiscuous affairs with a number of men,” she said.

Freud was ready, said Blackmer, to undertake the course of therapeutic treatment known as conversion therapy, Blackmer said, the woman’s treatment would not come to pass due to her father’s interference that would lead to ethical issues,

She said Freud promised the girl’s parents he would study the young woman for a few weeks to a couple of months, believing she would not be successful in conversion therapy because she did not come forward on her own.

Blackmer said Freud observed no signs of male adjustment or neurosis within the woman.

“Accordingly, she does not falsely admit to any merchant need to be freed or some homosexuality, and says that she could not conceive of any other way of being in love,” she said.

She said Freud decided to discontinue therapy with the woman because he was frustrated.

She said Freud requires an observant and dedicated reader to understand his works in today’s lens.

“Hurt by patient spirit inspired us to reread and hopefully rescue Freud from the censure ridden repressed where he languishes,” she said. “Doing so could well move us beyond our current impasse, construing human sexualities as admixtures of discursive, fully based queerness.”

Students’ opinions split on Blackmer’s belief that in the coming years there will be a return to Freud. Blackmer said she believes Freud was ahead of his time and a closer reading of his work could produce new insights and bring good to modern discourse in sexuality. Some agree with her assessment of a resurgence in Freud. Secondary English education major, Abigail Hanlon, a junior said that despite his problematic tendencies, there may be something worthwhile to salvage. “Sometimes it’s a little, you know, hard to discuss without some things he does that may be problematic, but maybe it’s worth sometimes looking at it more now,” said Hanlon, “like with a new lens could be helpful in some regards.”

One student who disagreed of a resurgence of Freud was English literature major, Emily Bohannah, a junior who said she was skeptical.

“It’s very difficult to have like a clear perspective or like a clear mind to formulate opinions or respect perspectives about sexuality when we’re so weighed down by homophobia and sexism,” said Bohannah. “I’m just a little bit skeptical about using the framework of a homophobe and a misogynist to address that.”

Despite the difference of opinions of Freud’s possible resurgence, the students in attendance had said they enjoyed the talk.

“I simply liked it,” said Hanlon. “[It] reminded me I was writing an essay on Freud and feminism last semester. So, it sort of was bringing me back to thinking about that.”

Bohannah said she was happy that the speaker diversified from the typical speakers from past talks.

“It was really nice,” Bohannah said, “to have at least a little bit of diversifying of like representation in these talks like this.


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