Gradiva’s Gait: Tracing the Figure of a Walking Woman

Gradiva’s Gait: Tracing the Figure of a Walking Woman

Andreas Mayer

Critical Inquiry, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Spring 2012), pp. 554-578

Many patients were surprised or confused by their first visit to Dr. Freud’s office. Lying on the famous couch, they found themselves surrounded by a plethora of objects and images they would never have associated with the business of the psychoanalytic cure. Statuettes, masks, and portraits from ancient times were arranged in showcases, on the shelves and on desks within a room whose walls were covered with depictions of mythological scenes and portraits of Freud’s mentors. The patient’s first impressions of this peculiar display, which has been faithfully preserved by Anna Freud in their last London home at Maresfield Gardens, were frequently strong ones. One of the most articulate of Freud’s patients, Hilda Doolittle, herself a lover of antiquities, did not hesitate to tell him how “overwhelmed and upset” she was to find him “surrounded by these treasures, in a museum, a temple.” During her own analysis, a variety of these “toys,” as she called them, seemed to act as replicas or “ghosts” of the figures appearing in her dreams or memories: “We are all haunted houses.”

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