Delusion and Dream in Gradiva, Dr. Sigmund Freud
Delusion and Dream in Gradiva
Dr. Sigmund Freud
6:31 h Ideas Lvl 9.78
Delusion and Dream in Jensen's Gradiva (German: Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens "Gradiva") is an essay written in 1907 by Sigmund Freud that subjects the novel Gradiva by Wilhelm Jensen, and especially its protagonist, to psychoanalysis. The novel is about a young archaeologist, Norbert Hanold, who comes to realize his love for his childhood friend through a long and complex process, mainly by associating her with an idealized woman in the form of the Gradiva bas-relief.

Delusion and Dream

An Interpretation in the Light
of Psychoanalysis of Gradiva

Dr. Sigmund Freud

Translated by Helen M. Downey, M.A.


To Dr. G. Stanley Hall, President of Clark University, who first called to my attention the charm of Gradiva, by Wilhelm Jensen, and suggested the possibility of the translation and publication combined with the translation of Freud’s commentary, I am deeply grateful for his kindly interest and effort in connection with the publication of the book, and his assistance with the technical terms of psychopathology.

In this connection I am also indebted to Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe, who gave many helpful suggestions as a result of his thorough reading of the manuscript of the commentary.

I wish also to express my profound appreciation to my friend, Miss M. Evelyn Fitzsimmons, for her generous help with the original manuscript and other valuable comments offered while she was reading the entire proof.

Worcester, Mass.

By Dr. G. Stanley Hall

Jensen’s brilliant and unique story of Gradiva has not only literary merit of very high order, but may be said to open up a new field for romance. It is the story of a young archæologist who suffered a very characteristic mental disturbance and was gradually but effectively cured by a kind of native psychotherapeutic instinct, which probably inheres in all of us, but which in this case was found in the girl he formerly loved but had forgotten, and who restored at the same time his health and his old affection for her.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the work is that the author knew nothing of psychotherapy as such, but wrought his way through the labyrinth of mechanisms that he in a sense rediscovered and set to work, so that it needed only the application of technical terms to make this romance at the same time a pretty good key to the whole domain of psychoanalysis. In a sense it is a dream-story, but no single dream ever began to be so true to the typical nature of dreams; it is a clinical picture, but I can think of no clinical picture that had its natural human interest so enhanced by a moving romance. Gradiva might be an introduction to psychoanalysis, and is better than anything else we can think of to popularize it.

It might be added that while this romance has been more thoroughly analysed than any other, and that by Freud himself, it is really only one of many which in the literature of the subject have been used to show forth the mysterious ways of the unconscious. It indicates that psychoanalysis has a future in literary criticism, if not that all art and artists have, from the beginning, more or less anticipated as they now illustrate it.

The translator is thoroughly competent and has done her work with painstaking conscientiousness, and she has had the great advantage of having it revised, especially with reference to the translation of technical terms from the German, by no less an eminent expert in psychotherapy than Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe.


Part I

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