A Tale of Two Letters: Psychohistorical Illumination of Creativity and Inter-Generational Conflict

Harold Blum, M.D., New York University Medical, Former Director of the Freud Archives
Thursday, May 31st, 2018, @ 12:45 pm – 1:35 pm


Psychoanalysis gradually evolved on an innovative journey characterized by enduring concepts as well as false starts. In October, 1897, at age forty-one, Sigmund Freud wrote two letters to his colleague and friend, Wilhelm Fliess; they are a landmark in the history of ideas.  In a fresh burst of creativity Freud formulated an entirely new understanding of early development including intra-familial and inter-generational conflict. His formulations were derived from his interpretation of his own dreams and reconstructions and from issues in his own life at that time. These new insights, subject to later revisions, were immediately applied to the interpretation of the arts and humanities.

Learning Points:

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

  • analyze Freud’s new understanding of early development that includes intra-familial and inter-generational conflict;
  • discuss and apply interpretation and reconstruction of dreams to examination of inter-generational conflicts and to understanding of one’s development.


  • Bergmann, M. (1966). The intrapsychic and communicative function of the dream. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 47, 356–63.
  • Blum, H. (1976). The changing use of dreams in psychoanalytic practice. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 57, 315–24.
  • Bonaparte, M., Freud, A., & Kris, E. (Eds.) (1954). The origins of psychoanalysis. Letters to Wilhelm Fliess, drafts and notes: 1887-1902 (E. Mosbacher & J. Strachey, Trans.). New York, NY: Basic Books. (Original work published 1950)
  • Coen, S. J. (1985). Freud and Fliess: A supportive literary relationship. American Imago, 42(4), 385-412.
  • Ferenczi, S. (1913). To whom does one relate one’s dreams? Further contributions to the theory and technique of psycho-analysis. New York: Brunner / Mazel.
  • Fiss, H. (2000). A 21st century look at Freud’s dream theory. Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28, 321–40.
  • Freud, S. (1909). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4–5.
  • Freud., S. (1933). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. SE, 22.
  • Freud, S., & Moussaieff Masson, J. (Translator) (1986). The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Kanzer, M. (1955). The communicative function of the dream. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 36, 260–66.

Bio of the Presenter:

Harold P. Blum, M.D. is the Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education, affiliated with New York University, School of Medicine.  He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and the Executive Director Emeritus of the Sigmund Freud Archives.  He is also the President of the Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund.  He is Past Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.  In addition, Dr. Blum is Past Vice President of the International Psychoanalytical Association. Further, Dr. Blum is now retired from his position as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry of the New York University School of Medicine.

Dr. Blum is the Author of more than one hundred and seventy psychoanalytic papers and several books.  He is the recipient of numerous awards and lectureships, including the inaugural 1990 Sigourney Award, Mahler, Hartmann, and Loránd Prizes; S. Freud lectures in New York London, Vienna, and Frankfurt; A. Freud, Hartmann, Brill, Friend, and Sperling Lectures, two plenary addresses to the American Psychoanalytic Association; Robert Walder Memorial Lecture, Philadelphia.  Last but not least, Dr. Harold Blum has been the Chairperson of Five symposia on Psychoanalysis and Art in Florence, Italy (Firenze).