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The Domestic Economy of the Soul

The Domestic Economy of the Soul
Freud's Five Case Studies

December 2010 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This is the first major analysis of Freud's five celebrated five case studies of Little Hans, Dora, the Rat Man, the Wolf Man and Schreber. O'Neill sets out the details of each case and critically engages with the narratives using a mixture of psychoanalytical insight and social theory. The book:
  • Provides a clear and powerful account of the five major case studies that helped to establish the Freud legend.
  • Situates the cases and the analysis into the appropriate social and historical contexts.
  • Offers distinctive interpretations of the symptomatic body, of illness as a language, dream work and the Madonna complex.
  • Challenges us to revisit the canonical texts of psychoanalysis.
Introduction: The Domestic Economy of the Soul
Love Stories
The Body-Soul of Psychoanalysis
Freud's Baby: Little Hans (1909)
Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Opening the Dora Case (1905 [1901])
Dora's Dreams

Portraits of Dora

Dora's Sistine Madonna

Rat Man's Lady (1909)
A Case of Blindness and (In) Sight

Chorisis versus Cartography

Catching the Rat Man's Train of Thought

Rat Man's (Mis) Marriage

Wolf Man's Wake (1918 [1914])
Supplement and Rectification

Wolf Man's Cryptology

Schreber's Blessed Assumption (1911 [1910])
Schreber's Unmanning/Gynesis

Schreber's Swan Song

Concluding Postscript: The Debts of Psychoanalysis


Without being a classical drive-theory Freudian, an ego or self psychologist, or a Lacanian, John O’Neill writes a book on Freud called The Domestic Economy of the Soul. One could perhaps place O’Neill’s theoretical framework among those of the object-relations analysts of the 1920’s and 1930’s. These analysts believed, as does O’Neill, that psychic life takes its shape from the mother’s body and being. The beauty of O’Neill’s book does not lie in its theoretical framework, however, but within his attention to detail. He shows, for example, that in the Dora case, the well-known phrase attributed to Herr K. in trying to kiss Dora by the lake, “I get nothing from my wife,” actually is a sentence uttered by Herr Bauer when he first took Dora to Freud to try to convince her to give in to Herr K. Without accepting that Schreber was psychotic, as Freud and Lacan have argued, O’Neill illuminates us as to the sources of his various utterings in his Memoirs, much like concordances of 'Finnegan’s Wake' render Joyce’s work accessible. O’Neill convinces, beyond a doubt, that Freud’s cases were his own fictionalized accounts of various patients which represent Freud’s own universalizing theories. Anyone who is interested in the closest reading you could find of Freud’s cases will want to add O’Neill’s most recent book to their bookshelf.


Ellie Ragland
Professor of English, Middlebush Chair and Editor of '(Re-)turn: A Journal of Lacanian Studies'

The pleasure of reading O’Neill lies in his encounter with Freud as an unruly writer, rather than solely as a theorist of the sexual body or therapist of mental suffering. He shows us how the resistance of the patient’s desire to the power of the analyst is reflected and refracted in the struggle of readers with the texts of the five case histories. O’Neill’s symptomatic readings of an impressive range of clinical and critical literature expose how the scientific ambitions of psychoanalysis cannot be separated from its family romances and its civilizing mythologies. At the same time, his illuminating visual displays of Little Hans’s drawings, Dora’s dreams, the Rat Man’s thought-trains, the Wolf Man’s cryptology, and Schreber’s swan pair introduce us into the blindness and insights of Freud’s own psychic economy. This wonderful collection of studies and stories - which have been refined through generations of graduate seminars and tested before multiple audiences - will challenge readers with the gift of O'Neill's formidable interpretive acumen and uniquely lyrical voice.

Thomas M Kemple
Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia and author of 'Reading Marx Writing: Melodrama, the Market, and the 'Grundrisse''

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Freud's Baby - Little Hans (1909)

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