New translation provides fresh insight into the reconceptualisation of sexual identities


New translation provides fresh insight into the reconceptualisation of sexual identities

27 March

The Department of Philosophy and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender hosted the book launch of Three essays on the theory of sexuality by Sigmund Freud on 8 March on the University Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus. This was the first English translation of the 1905 first edition and was led by Prof Ulrike Kistner, from the Department of Philosophy at UP.

The attendees were welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof Vasu Reddy, who highlighted that it was a significant day as it was International Women’s Day. He commended the vibrant and energetic work being done at the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender.

This translation of Three essays on the theory of sexuality presents Sigmund Freud in a form new to all but a few ardent students of his work. Since its initial publication in 1905, this classic work has evolved into various editions, only two of which were ever translated into English, in 1910 and 1949. Neither of these were based on the original German manuscript published in 1905, but from subsequent editions.

This translation presents a Freud without the Oedipal complex, which came to dominate his ideas and subsequent editions of these essays. In its stead is an autoerotic theory of sexual development, a sexuality transcending binary categorisation. This is psychoanalysis freed from ideas that have often brought it into conflict with the ethical and political convictions of modern readers, practitioners, and theorists. This edition possesses an emancipatory potential for the contemporary world that promises to revitalise Freudian thought.

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The new edition of Three essays presents us with the fascinating possibility that Freud suppressed his first and best thoughts on this topic, and that only today can they be recognised and understood, at a time when societies have begun the serious work of reconceptualising sexual identities.

This launch, the only one in Africa, provided opportunities for academics, practitioners and other interested parties to reflect and engage on the debates generated by this translation and interpretation of the work.

Freudian theory has featured in the curricula of many disciplines at universities for a long time and continues to do so. In the context of the decolonisation imperative, a revisited Freud is a fascinating catalyst for decolonisation debates.

– Author Myan Subrayan

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Last edited by Brumilda CarolsEdit

Prof Vasu Reddy and Prof Ulrike Kistner