Spring 2024

Freud as a Jewish Thinker: Jewish Jokes, Psychoanalysis, and the Modern World

Listed in: History, as HIST-256


Benjamin A. Wurgaft (Section 01)


[EU/TC] Sigmund Freud, as we know, was a Jew. But why was psychoanalysis called “The Jewish Science”? And why did Freud include so many Jewish jokes in his short 1906 volume, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious? This course is an introduction to the intellectual history of psychoanalysis and its intersections with modern Jewish history, using Freud’s book on jokes as an entry-point to his scientific, humanistic, and religious milieu. Topics will include Freud’s thought and criticisms thereof from later feminist psychoanalysts, the place of Jews in the Austro-Hungarian empire, Viennese culture at the turn of the twentieth century, the reception of Freud in popular culture, the genre called “modern Jewish thought,” and of course, jokes. Psychoanalysis, we will see, is not solely a "Jewish science," but it does have Jewish origins, and so does the therapeutic culture that thrived over the past century, and that continues to influence us today. Course meets twice weekly.

Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Wurgaft.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2024