Study Guide

The Interpretation of Dreams Sexuality and Sexual Identity

By Sigmund Freud

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

After more than a century, Freud's theories of human sexuality have left a pretty lasting mark. Seriously, Freud's theories are everywhere: they're in pop culture and pulp fiction, and they continue to be disputed, defended, and debated both inside and outside of universities. That's why it's pretty safe to say that when people think of Freud, his surprising and controversial theories of sexuality spring to mind.

When The Interpretation of Dreams was first published in 1899, Freud was still developing many of the ideas that are now associated with his psychoanalytic work. In this book, Freud takes an early stab at introducing his Oedipus complex to a wide reading public—no easy task for a man who was suggesting that our first sexual desires are directed toward our parents.

Questions About Sexuality and Sexual Identity

  1. To what extent are Freud's theories of sexuality and sexual identity shaped by a gender bias?
  2. How well does Freud defend his position that children view their parents as sexual rivals? What kinds of examples and supporting points does he offer?
  3. What literary examples does Freud use to illustrate his thoughts on the Oedipus complex, and why are they important?
  4. How does Freud define the sexual "excitations" that children experience? In his view, what is their relationship to adult experiences of sexual "instincts" and desires?

Chew on This

In order to convince his readers that his theory of dreaming was correct, Freud also had to convince them that his theories of human sexuality were sound. For this reason, Freud's theory of dreaming can't stand just on its own; it only makes sense if his views on sexuality are accepted as well.

Despite the fact that Freud changed his views on sexuality over the course of his career, The Interpretation of Dreams still holds up as a compelling argument. Whether or not we accept Freud's thoughts on the Oedipus complex, we can still consider the role of unconscious wishes and ideas in our dreams.

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