German professor Liliane Weissberg's class on Sigmund Freud is listed under the German department. It's also listed under the History and Sociology of Science department. It's in the English, Women's Studies and Comparative Literature departments, too.
Turn to the Psychology department, however, and the founding father of psychoanalysis doesn't get a single mention.
Weissberg's class isn't alone. Last week, the American Psychoanalytic Association released a study of undergraduate curricula that concluded that while the principles of psychoanalysis are taught in universities, the material is usually found outside psychology courses.
This is true at Penn, where Freudian material is taught in departments like Comparative Literature and History, but not Psychology. Professors said psychoanalysis is not usually regarded as a science, leading to its absence in the Psychology department.
But professors across the University say that Freud's theories remain vital for students of psychology and related disciplines.
Freudian theory "is one of the ancestors of modern psychology" and "has left its imprint" on the field, said David Williams, Psychology professor emeritus.
And English and Comparative Literature professor Jean Michel Rabate said Freud's impact extends beyond psychology.
"People who work with literature cannot ignore Freud, first because of his impact on culture in general, then because of his mechanisms, devices, ideas and concepts that he has launched," he said
Weissberg's class "Freud: The Invention of Psychoanalysis" is indicative of Penn's and academia's views on Freudian theory.
Her class would only be listed under Psychology if the definition of the field changes, Weissberg said. Psychoanalysis does not involve verifiable, statistical results, and psychology studies that rely on statistics and tests on animals are easier to verify than improvements due to psychoanalysis.
But Psychiatry professor Newell Fischer, who is also a psychoanalyist, would like to see Freudian courses listed under Psychology.
He said psychoanalysis has been "underplayed for many years at Penn" and that the school emphasizes behavioral and mechanistic approaches at the expense of analytic methods like psychoanalysis.
Students are also surprised by Freud's absence in Psychology courses.
College junior Aaron Blacksberg said he is currently taking Weissberg's class because his introductory Psychology class did not cover Freud.
"I was interested in why that is and why [psychoanalytic theories] are not considered psychology," he said.
But, according to Rabate, there is no need to be concerned about which department lists the course.
"In a Freudian point of view there is no distinction, you don't need to have a medicalized discourse," he said. "To be a good psychoanalyst you need to know about literature and mythology more than all the names of the bones and muscles."Comments powered by Disqus
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