University of Illinois at Chicago
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Punished or Chosen? Freud's Castration Anxiety and Circumcision

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posted on 2017-10-22, 00:00 authored by Jenna E. Veren
This paper will look at Freud’s understanding of circumcision as a metonym for castration, resulting in castration anxiety. I will argue that Freud sees circumcision as the marked otherness of the Jews, gives anti-Semitism a visible cause. I will look at Freud’s understanding of castration anxiety as a progression from a psychoanalytical analysis to a historical narrative about the Jews. I argue that in his early psychoanalytical works Freud sees castration anxiety as a fear imposed by the mother or the father and as a symbol of the unconscious, which is then later repressed. I then move to a historical model with the approaching Nazism, understanding castration anxiety via circumcision. I will ask questions such as the following: How do these two theories both contradict one another, and to what extent do they overlap? How is this understanding of the Jew as the other marked by circumcision productive, and to what extent does it promote a ‘self-othering’ further alienating the Jews from the rest of society. I will look specifically at Freud’s correspondences with Max Graf in his case study Analyse der Phobie eines fünfjährigen Knaben (1909) and contrast this to Freud’s final work Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion. In doing so, I hope to show a movement from the psychoanalytical theory, to a later historical model, which reflects Freud’s growing concerns with Nazism and anti-Semitism.



Schlipphacke, Heidi


Germanic Studies

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Committee Member

Loentz, Elizabeth Lorenz, Dagmar

Submitted date



  • en

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