Influential Books by Sigmund Freud

Some of Sigmund Freud's best-known books

Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century. In addition to his grand theories of human psychology, he was also a prolific writer, publishing more than 320 different books, articles, and essays.

The following list represents a selection of some of his most famous and influential books. If you are interested in learning more about Freud and his theories, considering reading a few of his original writings to get a better grasp of Freudian theory directly from the original source.

Studies on Hysteria, or Studien über Hysterie, was co-authored by Freud and his colleague Josef Breuer. The book described their work and study of a number of individuals suffering from hysteria, including one of their most famous cases, a young woman known as Anna O. The book also introduced the use of psychoanalysis as a treatment for mental illness.

The Interpretation of Dreams was originally published in German under the title Die Traumdeutung. Freud often identified this book as his personal favorite, and it has gone on to become a perennial classic in the history of psychology. The book lays out Freud's theory that dreams represent unconscious wishes disguised by symbolism. If you're interested in learning more about Freud's approach to dreams and the unconscious mind, this book is a must read.

The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, or Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, is considered one of the major texts that outlines Freud's psychoanalytic theory. The book takes a closer look at a number of deviations that occur during everyday life, including forgetting names, slips of the tongue (aka Freudian slips) and errors in speech and concealed memories. He then analyzes the underlying psychopathology that he believed led to such errors.

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, or Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, is considered one of Freud's most important works. In these essays, he outlines his theory of psychosexual development and introduces other important concepts including the Oedipus complex, penis envy, and castration anxiety.

In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, or Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, Freud observed how jokes, much like dreams, could be related to unconscious wishes, desires, or memories. Freud's theory of humor is based on his theory of the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, the superego is what allows the ego to generate and express humor.

Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, or Totem und Tabu: Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker, is a collection of four essays that apply psychoanalysis to other fields including religion, anthropology, and archaeology.

In On Narcissism, or Zur Einführung des Narzißmus, Freud outlines his theory of narcissism. In the book, he suggests that narcissism is actually a normal part of the human psyche. He referred to this as primary narcissism or the energy that that lies behind each person's survival instincts.

As one of Freud's most famous books, Introduction to Psychoanalysis (or Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse), Freud outlines his theory of psychoanalysis including the unconscious mind, the theory of neuroses and dreams. The preface, written by G. Stanley Hall, explains, "These twenty-eight lectures to laymen are elementary and almost conversational. Freud sets forth with a frankness almost startling the difficulties and limitations of psychoanalysis, and also describes its main methods and results as only a master and originator of a new school of thought can do."

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, originally published in German as Jenseits des Lustprinzips, Freud explored his theory of instincts in greater depth. Previously, Freud's work identified the libido as the force behind human actions. In this book, he developed a theory of drives that are motivated by the life and death instincts.

In The Future of an Illusion, originally published as Die Zukunft einer Illusion, Freud explores religion through a psychoanalytic lens. He describes his own ideas about the origins and development of religion, and suggests that religion is an illusion made up of "...certain dogmas, assertions about facts and conditions of external and internal reality which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered, and which claim that one should give them credence."

Civilization and Its Discontents, or Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, is one of Freud's best known as most widely read books. The book centers on Freud's ideas about the tension between the individual and civilization as a whole. According to Freud, many of our most basic desires are at odds with what is best for society, which is why laws prohibiting certain actions are created. The result, he argues, is an ongoing feeling of discontentment among the citizens of that civilization.

In Moses and Monotheism, first published in 1937 as Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion, Freud utilizes his psychoanalytic theory to develop hypotheses about events of the past. In this book, he suggests that Moses was not Jewish but was instead an ancient Egyptian monotheist. This was Freud's final work, and perhaps one of his most controversial.

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