Freud and the Seduction Theory Sustained

Ė by Marcie Newton, PhD, SUNY Albany

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 @ 10:50 am - 11:40 am      Room 912





1907 was a pivotal year in psychoanalytic history. In this year, Karl Abraham, a practicing psychiatrist, becomes instrumental in marking a clear and yet reluctant shift from describing clinical narratives of childhood sexual abuse and psychosis to developing Freudís theory on infantile sexuality and neurosis. New data will be introduced.


Learning Points:

At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:

1) discuss hysteria, its symptoms, and its historical place in psychiatric etiology;

2) contrast the views of Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Marcie Newton about the sustaining of Freudís seduction theory after his public renouncement of it;

3) explain what Freud meant when he wrote, ďThe last word in the question of traumatic etiology was later on said by Abraham, when he drew attention to the fact that just the peculiar nature of the childís sexual constitution enables it to provoke sexual experiences of a peculiar kind, that is to say, traumasĒ;

4) discuss Karl Abrahamís role in sustaining Freudís seduction theory.



Abraham, K. (1948). The experiencing of sexual traumas as a form of sexual activity (1907). Selected papers on psychoanalysis (pp. 47-63). (Douglas Bryan & Alix Strachey, Trans.). London, England: The Hogarth Press & The Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Abraham, K. (1955). On the significance of sexual trauma in childhood for the symptomatology of dementia praecox (1907). Clinical papers and essays on psychoanalysis (pp. 13-20). Ernest Jones (Ed.). (Hilda C. Abraham & D. R. Ellison, Trans.). London, England: The Hogarth Press & The Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Bentinck van Schoonheten, A. (2016). Karl Abraham: Life and work, a biography. (Liz Waters, Trans.). London, England: Karnac.

Birken, L. (1988). From seduction theory to Oedipus complex: A historical analysis. New German Critique, 43, 83-96.

Freud, S. (2001). My views on the part played by sexuality in the aetiology of the neuroses. The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud: A case of hysteria, three essays on sexuality and other works, vol. vii (1901-1905) (pp. 271-282). (James Strachey, Trans.). London, England: Vintage.

Freud, S. (2001). On the history of the psychoanalytic movement (1914). The standard edition of
the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud: On the history of the psychoanalytic movement, papers on metapsychology and other works, vol. xiv (1914-1916
) (pp. 7-66). (James Strachey, Trans.). London, England: Vintage.

Freud, S. & Breuer, J. (1966). Studies on hysteria. James Strachey (Ed.). New York, NY: Avon
Library. (Original work published in The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, vol ii, 1955, London, England: The Hogarth Press.)

IsraŽls, H., & Schatzman, M. (1993). Seduction theory. History of Psychiatry, iv, 23-59.

Janet, P. (1907). The major symptoms of hysteria: Fifteen lectures given in the medical school of
Harvard University
. London: Macmillan.

Masson, J. M. (2003). The assault on truth: Freudís suppression of the seduction theory. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.


Bio of the Presenter:

Marcie Newton, PhD is Lecturer in Writing and Critical Enquiry at the University at Albany, SUNY.  And has also been faculty at the College of St. Rose and the Albany College of Pharmacy.  She writes on a variety of psychoanalytically and psychohistorical topics including trauma and authenticity in autobiographical fiction, unconscious motivations of suicide bombers, and the Brexit movement in England.


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