Staging the ‘Private Theatre’: Gender and the Auto-Erotics of Reverie

  • Laura Marcus


The phrase ‘private theatre’ comes from Freud and Breuer’s Studies in Hysteria (1895), in which it is used by one of Breuer’s women patients, Bertha Pappenheim, known as ‘Anna O’:

This girl, who was bubbling over with intellectual vitality, led an extremely monotonous existence in her puritanically-minded family. She embellished her life in a manner which probably influenced her decisively in the direction of her illness, by indulging in systematic day-dreaming, which she described as her ‘private theatre’. While everyone thought she was attending, she was living through fairy-tales in her imagination, but she was always on the spot when she was spoken to, so that no one was aware of it. She pursued this activity almost continuously while she was engaged on her household duties, which she discharged unexceptionally … this habitual day-dreaming while she was well passed over into illness without a break.2


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002

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  • Laura Marcus

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