In 1993, The Legacy of Sandor Ferenczi (Aron & Harris) was published. This groundbreaking volume contained the chapter, The Case of “RN”: Sandor Ferenczi’s Radical Experiment in Psychoanalysis (Fortune, 1993), which told the story of “RN”—Ferenczi’s code-name in his Clinical Diary for his critically important patient, Elizabeth Severn. The chapter presented biographical details and original research supporting the rich clinical material revealed in Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary. Now, two decades later, RN has continued to affirm her place as one of the most important patients in the history of psychoanalysis. On this twentieth anniversary, just past, of the recognition of her story, I would like to reflect back and recount the beginnings of my “detective” work on the Case of RN, particularly my encounter with Severn’s daughter, Margaret.

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    “RN”’s identity as Elizabeth Severn was also revealed in French in the 1985 book, Ferenczi: Paladin et Grand Vizir Secret (Sabourin, 1985). This was the same year that Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary was published in French. Sabourin was a part of the Clinical Diary translation team headed by Judith Dupont—Le Groupe de Traduction du Coq-Heron.


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Correspondence to Christopher Fortune.

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A version of this paper was presented at “Sincerity and Freedom in Psychoanalysis” conference at the Freud Museum, October 2013.

1Christopher Fortune, Ed.D., Associate at the Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. University of Toronto (O.I.S.E.), Ed.D.

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  • “R.N.”
  • Ferenczi
  • Severn
  • Freud
  • psychoanalytic detectives