E.M. Jellinek’s Essay on Drinking’s Symbolism: Another Look

Whatever’s written in your heart,

that’s all that matters.

You’ll find a way to say it all someday.

 — Gerry Rafferty (1947-2011)

This is a heart-warming story.  You’ll see!

As a young man, in Budapest, E.M. Jellinek (1890-1963) became involved in the then-blossoming psychoanalytic movement.  He seems to have had a particular fascination with the interpretation of symbols, in relation to both culture and the human psyche.  Jellinek knew Sandor Ferenczi, leader of the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis, and was analyzed by him.  Jellinek was also friends with Geza Roheim – an ethnographer and analyst, Jellinek’s contemporary, and, in due course, a leader in the application of psychoanalytic concepts to cultural interpretation.(1)  Jellinek even reportedly preceded Sigmund Freud to the lectern at the 5th International Psychoanalytical Congress in Budapest in September, 1918.(2)

Psychoanalytic A-Team, 1922. Seated, left to right, Freud, Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs; standing, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones

Ferenczi’s correspondence with Sigmund Freud included a couple of mentions of Jellinek’s early stabs at symbolic interpretation.  In a letter dated June 13, 1917 – in which, incidentally, Ferenczi referred to Jellinek as an ethnologist – Ferenczi wrote: 

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