If you were to take a cultural tour of New York today, youd think Sigmund Freud were as relevant to society now as Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Everywhere youd turn, from Broadway to the movies, youd find the father of psychoanalysis holding a prominent place. Hes the main focus of David Cronenbergs film A Dangerous Method; the Off-Broadway play Freuds Last Session is having a successful run, and his name pops up throughout the one-acts plays by Woody Allen and Ethan Coen in the Broadway show Relatively Speaking.
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But just beneath the cultural flotsam, youd find Freuds reputation seriously embattled. In psychiatry, where he once mattered most, his theories have never been more in question. Among historians of medicine, his significance has taken a serious beating. And even among Jewish scholars, questions about his views on Judaism remain as fresh as ever.
Freud has virtually vanished from science and from psychology, said Edward Shorter, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Its not that Freuds ideas have been improved upon either, he added. Theyve been entirely thrown out.