Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. 1916.

Translator’s Preface

IN 1908 when it was agreed between Professor Freud and myself that I should be his translator, it was decided to render into English first the following five works: Selected Papers on Hysteria and Psychoneuroses, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, The Interpretation of Dreams, Psychopathology of Everyday Life, and the present volume. These works were selected because they represent the various stages of development of Professor Freud’s Psychoanalysis, and also because it was thought that they contain the material which one must master before one is able to judge correctly the author’s theories or apply them in practice. This undertaking, which was fraught with many linguistic and other difficulties, has finally been accomplished with the edition of the present volume, and it is therefore with a sense of great satisfaction that the translator’s preface to this work is written. But although the original task is finished the translator’s work is only beginning. Psychoanalysis has made enormous strides. On the foundation laid by Professor Freud there developed a literature rich in ideas and content which has revolutionized the science of nervous and mental diseases, and has thrown much light on the subject of dreams, sex, mythology, the history of civilization and racial psychology, philology, æsthetics, child psychology and pedagogics, philology, and mysticism and occultism. With the Interpretation of Dreams and Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Professor Freud has definitely bridged the gulf between normal and abnormal mental states by demonstrating that dreams and faulty acts like some forms of forgetting, slips of the tongue, slips of reading, writing, etc., are closely allied to psychopathological states and represent the prototypes of such abnormal mental conditions as neurotic symptoms, hallucinations, and deliria. He also shows that all these productions are senseful and purposive, and that their strange and peculiar appearance is due to distortions produced by various psychic processes. These views are confirmed in the present volume, where it is demonstrated that wit, which belongs to æsthetics, is subject to the same laws, shows the same mechanism, and serves the same tendencies as the other psychic productions. With his wonted profundity and ingenuity the author adds the solution of wit to those of the neuroses, dreams, and psychopathological acts.

I take great pleasure in tendering my thanks to Mr. Horatio Winslow, who has read the manuscript and has given me valuable suggestions in the choice of expressions and in the selection of substitutes for those witticisms that could not be translated.

May, 1916.