n Akroterion - A matrix of interests : Freud, the sexologists, and the legacy of Greece

Volume 58, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0303-1896
  • E-ISSN: 2079-2883
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The use of classical scholarship in nineteenth century debates on sexuality forms the focus of this paper. It is argued that German Hellenism played a crucial role in providing Freud and German sexology with a counter discourse to the theory of degeneration, a doctrine that had steadily gained currency in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Sexology and psychoanalysis were contemporaneous areas of investigation that focussed primarily on sexuality and were considered marginalised domains that operated outside the scientific establishment of the day. This exclusion was due in part to their subject matter, but it was further compounded by their widespread rejection of degeneracy, a theory that labelled both Jews and homosexuals as deviant members of society. The complex network of association that existed between psychoanalysis and sexology in Austria and Germany is often neglected and the common ground that they shared is overlooked. This is unfortunate as they explored related fields of interest and their members were largely drawn from similar backgrounds. A significant number of these men were Jewish, a large number were homosexual or homosocial, and most of them were excellent classical scholars. Classical studies provided the foundation upon which the elite German educational system, the , was built, and while the curriculum was designed to inculcate the values of reason, self-discipline and idealism, it also allowed an access to the world of Greek sexuality. It is argued that the divergent attitudes towards sexuality revealed in Greek art and literature provided many of these sexual pioneers with a legitimate challenge to the medical and psychiatric definitions of normal and abnormal sexuality.

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