Freud's Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire

Freud’s study at 20 Maresfield Gardens contains many figurines, books and artworks related to the ancient world. He was a compulsive collector of antiquities, which according to the poet H.D. were intimately bound up with his development of the concepts and methods of psychoanalysis; they helped to ‘stabilise the evanescent thought’ that was continually at risk of dissipation. However, in the institutionalisation of Freudian theory this rich and vital source of inspiration was often neglected; we tend to be presented with a version of Freud the theorist as distinct from Freud the collector.

Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire examines this crucial link by bringing Freud’s collection into dialogue with his theories. Co-curated with Professor Miriam Leonard (UCL), Professor Daniel Orrells (King's College, London) and Professor Richard Armstrong (University of Houston), this digital archive discusses six separate aspects of Freudian theory alongside representative objects from the collection, spanning his entire psychoanalytic career. It also examines how the link between object and theory is conditioned by desire; it was Freud’s libidinal investment in his objects that allowed them to animate his thinking.

Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire is a comprehensive digital archive containing videos, podcasts, photographs and interpretative texts. By tracing the pathways of Freud’s desire as a collector, and the various ways in which he deployed the language of archaeology to support his theoretical advances, the archive also questions our own elusive desire for ultimate meaning, which can never be wholly satisfied. Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire reminds us that the psychoanalyst, just like the archaeologist, both ‘discovers’ and ‘constructs’ meaning at the same time.