Freud and Jung in America, 1909: Coney Island

Not only that, but the first film they have ever seen. Dinner at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden. Central Park. Contortionists, show girls, the 1909 equivalent of the hot dog. Later, Niagara Falls, intestinal trouble for Freud, an uneasiness about American manners. Which, apparently, they haven’t got.

America is distrustful. Freudian theory is sensational, too sexual, and yet, when Freud doesn’t bring up sex, they are peeved. Jung decides around this time to sidestep the sexual problem. Perhaps the high point for Freud is finding that the cabin steward on the ship to America is reading one of his books. For Jung was it analyzing on board his mentor’s dreams, probing the relation to wife and wife’s sister? Jung says: Freud is touchy.

Freud’s authority is under siege. He allows himself to be vulnerable. A blunder. He is promised three thousand marks for the lectures at Clark, but they are not yet written. He walks outdoors with his friend Ferenczi, writing and planning aloud, composing on the move. Somewhere in Europe Zeppelin is trying to fly, and Orville and Wilbur do the same in America.

At home, later, he predicts, as a dour half-joke, that over there blacks will replace whites. It serves America right.

The Hotel Manhattan, where they stay for two-fifty a night, no longer exists. Torn down in the sixties for a mediocrity. You like to imagine the maids at the Hotel Manhattan wrinkling noses at the cigar smoke. The elevator boys waiting for his Danke.

When he breaks with Jung in 1913, he thinks that Jung has tried too hard to liberate mankind from the hardship of sex. It cannot be done. But anyone who tries? Hailed as a hero, he says.

published in Desperately Seeking Susans: A Poetry Anthology edited by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan, 2012)