While making my way through Heidi Julavits’ The Uses of Enchantment I realized that perhaps it would have been useful to have done a little background reading. The title may have been based on a Bruno Bettelheim book, but the content has a different source. That source is Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.
Freud’s case study is based on his brief treatment of Ida Bauer, a teenage girl who sees him after suffering symptoms such as depression and fainting. In the book, Ida’s identity is protected by calling her Dora. Dora’s issues relate to her parents’ sexless marriage, her father’s subsequent affair with a family friend, and that family friend’s husband’s sexual advances towards Dora.
Okay, so to read the actual text is not necessary, but it is the basis of much of what happens in The Uses of Enchantment. It seems the main character, Mary Veal, has been influenced by Freud’s work. She calls herself Ida, repeats French phrases that Freud uses, and mimics other details from the Dora situation. Meanwhile, her therapist, Dr. Hammer, shares many of the same, and often unfortunate, qualities of Freud.
Maybe double majoring in psychology would have provided more insight. What has political science done for me lately, anyway?