Writer to Writer: Sheila Kohler and Phillip Lopate

Tuesday June 3, 2014
07:00 pm

Tags: Event









Phillip Lopate interviewed Sheila Kohler on her latest novel Dreaming For Freud, a story based on of one of Freud's most famous case studies. 


About Dreaming For Freud: A Novel (Penguin Books)

Dreaming for Freud reimagines one of Sigmund Freud’s most famous and controversial case studies: Dora, the pseudonym for the young woman that inspired his book Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. With her signature prose and singular insight, Kohler takes the reader into the minds of the man who changed the face of psychotherapy and of his most confounding patient, a young woman who is manipulated by her father to allow him to continue an affair with a close family friend.


In the fall of 1900, Dora’s father takes her to begin treatment with Doctor Freud. For years, Dora has been living with debilitating pain in her legs and is losing the ability to speak, and her father, a former patient, thinks Freud is the only one who can cure her. She visits him daily, frankly telling him about her life and the dreams she’s been having. But just when Dora discloses a revelation that brings the doctor to the cusp of a major breakthrough, she abruptly ends her treatment.


Much has been written about this case, which Freud felt was a failure. Now, in her brilliant new work, Kohler not only puts the reader in Dora’s mind as she struggles with her parents’ betrayals and her inability to trust anyone, but she tells us what happened in the rest of Dora’s life.


“Sheila Kohler is a gifted story teller, as this her latest attests. Dreaming for Freud is well-crafted, depicting two great, strong-willed characters: the forty-five-year-old Sigmund Freud and the feisty seventeen-year-old patient he made famous as Dora. Kohler reveals her secrets slowly, layer by layer, teaching us much about the early days of Freud’s ‘talking cure.’ Like any good mystery writer, she keeps us suspended until the very end. This is a compelling and very satisfying read.”

 — Selden Edwards, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Book



Sheila Kohler is the author of three volumes of short stories and ten novels, including Cracks, Becoming Jane Eyre, and most recently The Bay of Foxes (Penguin 2012). Dreaming for Freud, based on the Dora Case will be published in 2014 by Penguin. Her short stories have appeared in the O.Henry Awards (1988, 2008) and Best American (1999, 2013) and won the Willa Cather Award. Her work has been published in twelve countries. Cracks has been filmed with Jordan Scott as director and Ridley Scott as executive producer and Eva Green playing Miss G. She has taught widely and will be teaching at Princeton as well as Columbia this year.


Phillip Lopate was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943, and received a BA from Columbia in 1964, and a doctorate from the Union Graduate School in 1979. His most recent books are Two Marriages (novellas, Other Press, 2008), Notes on Sontag (Princeton University Press, 2009), At the End of the Day: Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010), and To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction (Simon & Schuster, 2013).


He has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants. He received a Christopher medal for Being With Children, a Texas Institute of Letters award in the best non-fiction book of the year category for Bachelorhood, and was a finalist for the PEN best essay book of the year award for Portrait of My Body. His anthology, Writing New York, received a citation from the New York Society Library and honorable mention from the Municipal Art Society’s Brendan Gill Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the NYU Institute for the Humanities.


After working with children for twelve years as a writer in the schools, he taught creative writing and literature at Fordham, Cooper Union, University of Houston, New York University, Hofstra University, the New School and Bennington College. He is currently a Professor of Writing at Columbia University, where he directs the graduate nonfiction program.