Critical Approaches

As Freud writes in such a literary style, but his topic is scientific, critics have generally been concerned with his theories and content of the book rather than his style per se. The psychodynamic theory has not been free from criticism. However these essays do not have the problems that other works have faced - of a lack of rigorous empirical support, which modern day science values much more. Here he uses as a data source, mainly the findings of other social anthropologists (notably Frazer's The Golden Bough) - his first stimulus for writing the essays being the works of Wundt and Jung, and his interest tracing back as far as his early correspondence with Fliess.

Freud himself had a very high opinion of these essays as his best-written work, with regards to their content and form. This was shared by Thomas Mann, who in 1929 wrote 'If I should be asked which of Sigmund Freud's courageous and revolutionary contributions has made the strongest impression on me, and which of his literary works first occurs to me when his name in mentioned, I should answer without hesitation: Totem and Taboo... It is without doubt the one of Freud's productions which has the greatest artistic merit; both in conception and literary form, it is a literary masterpiece allied to, and comparable with, the greatest examples of literary essays.'

Further information about the actual composition of these essays can be found in the second volume of Jones's biography of Freud (1955).

  By PanEris using Melati.

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