Cover image for The interpretation of dreams
The interpretation of dreams
Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Traumdeutung. English
1994 Modern Library edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Modern Library, 1994.

Physical Description:
477 pages : illustrations ; 19 cm.
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Subject Term:

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BF1078 .F72 1950 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"The interpretation of dreams is the via regia to a knowledge of the unconscious element in our physical life."--Sigmund Freud

Freud's discovery that the dream is the means by which the unconscious can be explored is undoubtedly the most revolutionary step forward in the entire history of psychology. Dreams, according to his theory, represent the hidden fulfillment of our unconscious wishes. Through them the inhibitions are released and tensions relaxed. The ability to interpret these manifestations of conflict in the human psyche opened a vast new realm of investigation, particularly invaluable in the treatment of neuroses. By his pioneer investigations into the world of dreams, Sigmund Freud created a transformation in our generation's thinking.

The Interpretation of Dreams is offered here in the translation by Dr. A. A. Brill, who for almost forty years was the translator and standard-bearer of Freudian theories in America.

Author Notes

Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis, simultaneously a theory of personality, a therapy, and an intellectual movement. He was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Freiburg, Moravia, now part of Czechoslovakia, but then a city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the age of 4, he moved to Vienna, where he spent nearly his entire life. In 1873 he entered the medical school at the University of Vienna and spent the following eight years pursuing a wide range of studies, including philosophy, in addition to the medical curriculum. After graduating, he worked in several clinics and went to Paris to study under Jean-Martin Charcot, a neurologist who used hypnosis to treat the symptoms of hysteria. When Freud returned to Vienna and set up practice as a clinical neurologist, he found orthodox therapies for nervous disorders ineffective for most of his patients, so he began to use a modified version of the hypnosis he had learned under Charcot. Gradually, however, he discovered that it was not necessary to put patients into a deep trance; rather, he would merely encourage them to talk freely, saying whatever came to mind without self-censorship, in order to bring unconscious material to the surface, where it could be analyzed. He found that this method of free association very often evoked memories of traumatic events in childhood, usually having to do with sex. This discovery led him, at first, to assume that most of his patients had actually been seduced as children by adult relatives and that this was the cause of their neuroses; later, however, he changed his mind and concluded that his patients' memories of childhood seduction were fantasies born of their childhood sexual desires for adults. (This reversal is a matter of some controversy today.) Out of this clinical material he constructed a theory of psychosexual development through oral, anal, phallic and genital stages.

Freud considered his patients' dreams and his own to be "the royal road to the unconscious." In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), perhaps his most brilliant book, he theorized that dreams are heavily disguised expressions of deep-seated wishes and fears and can give great insight into personality. These investigations led him to his theory of a three-part structure of personality: the id (unconscious biological drives, especially for sex), the superego (the conscience, guided by moral principles), and the ego (the mediator between the id and superego, guided by reality). Freud's last years were plagued by severe illness and the rise of Nazism, which regarded psychoanalysis as a "Jewish pollution." Through the intervention of the British and U.S. governments, he was allowed to emigrate in 1938 to England, where he died 15 months later, widely honored for his original thinking. His theories have had a profound impact on psychology, anthropology, art, and literature, as well as on the thinking of millions of ordinary people about their own lives. Freud's daughter Anna Freud was the founder of the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic in London, where her specialty was applying psychoanalysis to children. Her major work was The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In her new translation, Crick (emeritus, German, Univ. Coll., London) gives us the first edition of Freud's magnum opus (1900) with historical context and notes on the theory and practice of translation. While this version lacks the fullness of Freud's intellectual development, it reveals the fundamental work clearly and in context. Serious students can have the best of both worlds by comparing Crick's work with James Strachey's 1953 work (a variorum of all eight editions, considered the "standard") in passages of particular interest. This more literal version, not beholden to the psychoanalytic movement and its defense of Freud as scientist, pays respect to Strachey while "attempting to render Freud's varying registers, listening for latent metaphors as well as his grand elucidatory analogies." Here we come closer to Freud's masterly German, yet, as with Strachey, it reads like good English. Recommended for academic and larger general libraries.ÄE. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ., Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Freud scholars and clinicians probably have never thought of the master's work packaged and produced in a coffee-table version. But this is exactly what Masson offers here. Masson intersperses the text with modernist and surrealist art, 16 essays of his own, definitions of terms, and accounts of Freud's life. He also provides excerpts from such well-known analysts as Jung, Horney, Lacan; these guide the reader in appreciating Freud's pioneering originality and also point out limitations in Freud's approach to how dreams are created (the latter will be familiar to those who study Freud). Masson's essays are knowledgeable, as one would expect from a former project director of the Freud Archive and close friend to Anna Freud--relationships that ended with a rupture over Masson's The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory (CH, Jul'84), in which he exposed what he claimed was Freud's false thinking and practice in discovering the role of fantasy in psychic life. The present treatment is admiring, well founded, and critically uncontroversial--an interesting turnaround for Masson. The likeliest customers will be well-educated lay readers, young persons fascinated by Freud, and analysts seeking gifts for colleagues. The price is surprisingly modest. Summing U. Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, professionals, general readers. R. H. Balsam Yale University



* I *   THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE OF DREAM-PROBLEMS (UP TO 1900)   In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that on the application of this technique, every dream will reveal itself as a psychological structure, full of significance, and one which may be assigned to a specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state. Further, I shall endeavor to elucidate the processes which underlie the strangeness and obscurity of dreams, and to deduce from these processes the nature of the psychic forces whose conflict or co-operation is responsible for our dreams. This done, my investigation will terminate, as it will have reached the point where the problem of the dream merges into more comprehensive problems, and to solve these, we must have recourse to material of a different kind.   I shall begin by giving a short account of the views of earlier writers on this subject and of the status of the dream-problem in contemporary science; since in the course of this treatise, I shall not often have occasion to refer to either. In spite of thousands of years of endeavor, little progress has been made in the scientific understanding of dreams. This fact has been so universally acknowledged by previous writers on the subject that it Seems hardly necessary to quote individual opinions. The reader will find, in many stimulating observations, and plenty of interesting material relating to our subject, but little or nothing that concerns the true nature of the dream, or that solves definitely any of its enigmas. The educated layman, of course, knows even less of the matter.   The conception of the dream that was held in prehistoric ages by primitive peoples, and the influence which it may have exerted on the formation of their conceptions of the universe, and of the soul, is a theme of such great interest that it is only with reluctance that I refrain from dealing with it in these pages. I will refer the reader to the well-known works of Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor and other writers; I will only add that we shall not realize the importance of these problems and speculations until we have completed the task of dream interpretation that lies before us.   A reminiscence of the concept of the dream that was held in primitive times seems to underlie the evaluation of the dream which was current among the peoples of classical antiquity. They took it for granted that dreams were related to the world of the supernatural beings in whom they believed, and that they brought inspirations from the gods and demons. Moreover, it appeared to them that dreams must serve a special purpose in respect of the dreamer; that, as a rule, they predicted the future. The extraordinary variations in the content of dreams, and in the impressions which they produced on the dreamer, made it, of course, very difficult to formulate a coherent conception of them, and necessitated manifold differentiations and group-formations, according to their value and reliability. The valuation of dreams by the individual philosophers of antiquity naturally depended on the importance which they were prepared to attribute to manticism in general.   In the two works of Aristotle in which there is mention of dreams, they are already regarded as constituting a problem of psychology. We are told that the dream is not god-sent, that it is not of divine but of daimonic origin. For nature is really daimonic, not divine; that is to say, the dream is not a supernatural revelation, but is subject to the laws of the human spirit, which has, of course, a kinship with the divine. The dream is defined as the psychic activity of the sleeper, inasmuch as he is asleep. Aristotle was acquainted with some of the characteristics of the dream-life; for example, he knew that a dream converts the slight sensations perceived in sleep into intense sensations ("one imagines that one is walking through fire, and feels hot, if this or that part of the body becomes only quite slightly warm"), which led him to conclude that dreams might easily betray to the physician the first indications of an incipient physical change which escaped observation during the day.   As has been said, those writers of antiquity who preceded Aristotle did not regard the dream as a product of the dreaming psyche, but as an inspiration of divine origin, and in ancient times, the two opposing tendencies which we shall find throughout the ages in respect of the evaluation of the dream-life, were already perceptible. The ancients distinguished between the true and valuable dreams which were sent to the dreamer as warnings, or to foretell future events, and the vain, fraudulent and empty dreams, whose object was to misguide him or lead him to destruction.   The pre-scientific conception of the dream which obtained among the ancients was, of course, in perfect keeping with their general conception of the universe, which was accustomed to project as an external reality that which possessed reality only in the life of the psyche. Further, it accounted for the main impression made upon the waking life by the morning memory of the dream; for in this memory the dream, as compared with the rest of the psychic content, seems to be something alien, coming, as it were, from another world. It would be an error to suppose that the theory of the supernatural origin of dreams lacks followers even in our own times; for quite apart from pietistic and mystical writers--who cling, as they are perfectly justified in doing, to the remnants of the once predominant realm of the supernatural until these remnants have been swept away by scientific explanation--we not infrequently find that quite intelligent persons, who in other respects are averse to anything of a romantic nature, go so far as to base their religious belief in the existence and co-operation of superhuman spiritual powers on the inexplicable nature of the phenomena of dreams (Haffner). The validity ascribed to the dream life by certain schools of philosophy--for example, by the school of Schelling--is a distinct reminiscence of the undisputed belief in the divinity of dreams which prevailed in antiquity; and for some thinkers, the mantic or prophetic power of dreams is still a subject of debate. This is due to the fact that the explanations attempted by psychology are too inadequate to cope with the accumulated material, however strongly the scientific thinker may feel that such superstitious doctrines should be repudiated.   To write a history of our scientific knowledge of the dream problem is extremely difficult, because, valuable though this knowledge may be in certain respects, no real progress in a definite direction is as yet discernible. No real foundation of verified results has hitherto been established on which future investigators might continue to build. Every new author approaches the same problems afresh, and from the very beginning. If I were to enumerate such authors in chronological order, giving a survey of the opinions which each has held concerning the problems of the dream, I should be quite unable to draw a clear and complete picture of the present state of our knowledge on the subject. I have therefore preferred to base my method of treatment on themes rather than on authors, and in attempting the solution of each problem of the dream, I shall cite the material found in the literature of the subject.   But as I have not succeeded in mastering the whole of this literature--for it is widely dispersed and interwoven with the literature of other subjects--I must ask my readers to rest content with my survey as it stands, provided that no fundamental fact or important point of view has been overlooked.   In a supplement to a later German edition, the author adds:   I shall have to justify myself for not extending my summary of the literature of dream problems to cover the period between first appearance of this book and the publication of the second edition. This justification may not seem very satisfactory to the reader; none the less, to me it was decisive. The motives which induced me to summarize the treatment of dreams in the literature of the subject have been exhausted by the foregoing introduction; to have continued this would have cost me a great deal of effort and would not have been particularly useful or instructive. For the interval in question--a period of nine years--has yielded nothing new or valuable as regards the conception of dreams, either in actual material or in novel points of view. In most of the literature which has appeared since the publication of my own work, the latter has not been mentioned or discussed; it has, of course, received the least attention from the so-called "research workers on dreams," who have thus afforded a brilliant example of the aversion to learning anything new so characteristic of the scientist. "Les savants ne sont pas curieux," said the scoffer, Anatole France. If there were such a thing in science as the right of revenge, I, in my turn, should be justified in ignoring the literature which has appeared since the publication of this book. The few reviews which have appeared in the scientific journals are so full of misconceptions and lack of comprehension that my only possible answer to my critics would be a request that they should read this book over again--or perhaps merely that they should read it!   Excerpted from The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. vii
Note on the Textp. xxxviii
Note on the Translationp. xl
Select Bibliographyp. xlviii
A Chronology of Sigmund Freudp. lii
The Interpretation of Dreamsp. 1
Explanatory Notesp. 417
Index of Dreamsp. 441
General Indexp. 444