Ośrodek Myśli Psychoanalitycznej
Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN

An Orgy of Herrings. Sándor Ferenczi and the Phylogenetic Parallel in Psychoanalysis

In her talk at the Center for Psychoanalytic Thought, Jenny Willner
enters the Hungarian garrison town of Pápa in 1914, where Freud’s theory
of sexuality met popular Darwinism in a soldiers’ library. These were
the circumstances under which the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor
Ferenczi drafted the first version of his theory of genitality:
Thalassa. Willner offers a new frame for reading this book, challenging
the perception that the phylogenetic parallel in the work of Ferenczi
and Freud sought to provide psychoanalysis with a natural scientific
foundation. Instead, their ‘bioanalytic’ speculations deconstruct
precisely what claims such a founding status. While the preoccupation
with the aquatic origins of man may seem like a retreat from political
matters, Thalassa, at a closer look, holds a unique position within the
conflict of scientific and political perspectives over evolutionary
descent at the end of the ‘long 19th century’. At a time when
‘Darwinism’ becomes a source for eugenicist projects, Ferenczi rewrites
the terms of an entire discourse – by using concepts drawn from the
psychoanalytic study of hysteria. There is a libidinal investment that
can be sensed already in Ernst Haeckel. It is spelled out overtly in
Wilhelm Bölsche’s ‘erotic monism’ – and re-interpreted in connection to
trauma in Ferenczi’s Thalassa.

For more on this subject, look out for Raluca Soreanu, Jakob Staberg,
Jenny Willner: Ferenczi Dialogues. On Trauma and Catastrophe,
forthcoming at Leuven University Press in January 2023, ISBN:

Licenses for the following photographs were obtained:

Shoal of fish – iStock.com/Alexpunker
Herring – iStock.com/akinshin
Ascidiacea – iStock.com/LaSalle-Photo
Mating frogs – iStock.com/Anne Coatesy
Mating nile crocodiles – iStock.com/USO


Redakcja: Barbara Barysz, Agata Bielińska, Julia Jastrzębska, Ewa Kobylińska-Dehe, Zbigniew Kossowski, Andrzej Leder, Adam Lipszyc.

Kontakt: wunderblock@ifispan.edu.pl

ISSN: 2720-4391

Ośrodek Myśli Psychoanalitycznej