Paperback review: A Case of Hysteria, By Sigmund Freud


One of only three case histories (the others are the "rat man" and the "wolf man"), Freud's account of "Dora", the young woman who identified her father's friend, Herr K, as the cause of her "hysterical" reactions when he sexually propositioned her, is probably his most famous.

Freud has been out of fashion for a long time, his theories – such as his interpretation of dreams and the Oedipus myth – scorned, but in his symbolic readings of Dora's childhood, and her responses to her father's friend, he not only recognised female sexuality at a time when most depicted it as evil, he also called for clarity on sex, properly naming intimate parts of the body and encouraging young women's broader sexual knowledge. Subject matter aside, his expertise in narrative structure also makes this case history surprisingly readable, and still fascinating.