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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Sigmund Freud's analysis of the childhood dream of the Wolf Man, in The History of an Infantile Neurosis, has come to be seen as one of the defining moments of psychoanalysis. Freud interpreted this dream in terms of the Oedipus complex, concluding that the wolves which threatened to devour his patient were, in effect, father-substitutes, the archaic trace in the unconscious of the individual of the threat posed by the tyrannical father of the 'original' human family. In this article I argue that this conclusion conceals a problematic reading, on Freud's part, of the human/animal border, which is evidenced, in The History of an Infantile Neurosis, as well as elsewhere in his writings, as an anxiety as to the ontological status of the human subject and the 'nature' of civilisation, and as a repressed acknowledgement of the animal as sublime presence. However, in trying to negotiate similar questions today, and despite this marked ambivalence toward the 'animal', I also argue that Freud's insight into the mechanisms of repression remains a valuable way of exploring the relationship of the human to the nonhuman.


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