‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ by Sigmund Freud


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Psychopathology of Everyday Life is a 1901 work by Sigmund Freud, based on his researches into slips and parapraxes from 1897 onwards—one which became perhaps the best-known of all his writings. Freud examines the psychological basis for the forgetting of names and words, the misuse of words in speech and in writing, and other similar errors. It is filled with anecdotes, many of them quite amusing, and virtually bereft of difficult technical terminology. Through its stress on what Freud called ‘switch words’ and ‘verbal bridges’, it is considered important not only for psychopathology but also for modern linguistics, semantics, and philosophy.

The Psychopathology was originally published in the Monograph for Psychiatry and Neurology in 1901, before appearing in book form in 1904. It would receive twelve foreign translations during Freud’s lifetime, as well as numerous new German editions, with fresh material being added in almost every one. James Strachey objected that “Almost the whole of the basic explanations and theories were already present in the earliest edition…the wealth of new examples interrupts and even confuses the mainstream of the underlying argument”. However, in such a popular and theory-light text, the sheer wealth of examples helped make Freud’s point for him in an accessible way. A new English-language translation by Anthea Bell was published in 2003.

Among the most overtly autobiographical of Freud’s works, the Psychopathology was strongly linked by Freud to his relationship with Wilhelm Fliess.

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