Erikson on Freud on Irma: The rhetoric of the patriarchy

Darryl Hattenhauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In their writings about one of the most important cornerstones in the edifice of psychoanalysis, Freud's interpretation of his Irma Dream, Freud and Erikson act as apologists for the modern patriarchy. Using the rhetorical persona of the progressive, scientific hero, Freud and Erikson cast themselves as protagonists in the drama of modernization. Their rhetorical structures, syntax, and diction reveal their sexism. The strategy of their discourses invites their audience to believe that the audience is witnessing scientific discoveries in the making; the rhetoric of Freud and Erikson suggests that their discourse is not patriarchal rationalization, but rational analysis, the drama of the scientific method applied for progress. Their interpretation of Freud's Irma Dream disassociates Freud from women, assigning separate behaviors for rational, progressive males and irrational, traditional females. But the truth of the Irma Dream is that it associates Freud with females and reveals the irresponsibility of both his pharmacological and psychological prescriptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalRhetoric Society Quarterly
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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