The Wolf Man’s Glückshaube: Rereading Sergei Pankejeff’s Memoir

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Abstract

A comparative reading of Freud’s canonical case study “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis” (1918) and the memoir written by the protagonist of that study, Sergei Pankejeff, known as the Wolf Man (1971a), centers on the complex matrix of meanings embodied in the act of lifting the veil. The neurotic symptom of a veil seemingly in front of the analysand’s eyes is interpreted by Freud as a repetition of his birth in a Glückshaube (German for “caul,” literally a “lucky hood”). The veil is represented as an ambivalent object both for Freud and for Pankejeff, who are enticed by the sense of a final truth behind the veil yet constantly doubt the possibility of grasping it. For Freud, psychoanalysis is the very process of lifting the veil, yet his analysand remained for him an unsolved riddle. Pankejeff, in a volume dedicated to his identity as the Wolf Man (Gardiner 1971a), created an autobiographical text that deliberately avoids telling the story of the analysand, thus drawing a veil over his story. The paradox embodied in lifting the veil is discussed in relation to Walter Benjamin’s distinction between materiality and truth and his notion of the inherent unity of the veil and the veiled (1925).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-814
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the American Psychoanalytic Association
Volume67
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the American Psychoanalytic Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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