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The Core Curriculum

Moses by Michelangelo, 1513-15.

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Freud wrote, anonymously, a famous essay in 1914 entitled “The Moses of Michelangelo,” in which he attempted to reconstruct the precise action that Michelangelo’s sculpture—now in the church of San Pietro in Rome—depicted the Jewish law-giver performing. This essay shows, to an unparalleled degree, Freud’s powers of observation and analysis. Additionally, Freud deeply identified with Moses, and his interpretation of Michelangelo’s statue—that Moses is depicted as restraining his own fury, after discovering the disobedience of the Jews who worshipped the golden calf—may have reflected Freud’s interpretation of himself. Freud had a number of students to whom he believed he entrusted the future—and the immortality—of psychoanalysis. But many of them, though dependent on Freud’s ideas, nevertheless broke away from them. One of Freud’s last works is about Moses, as well: Moses and Monotheism.


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