The Enigma of Anna O

Melinda Given Guttmann, Author
Melinda Given Guttmann, Author Moyer Bell $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-55921-285-4
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
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A sheltered Victorian ""hysteric"" turned Jewish feminist pioneer, Pappenheim was ""Anna O.,"" the subject of one of Sigmund Freud's and Joseph Breuer's Studies on Hysteria, published in 1895, the same year she became the director of a Frankfurt orphanage for Jewish children. Although Pappenheim later refused to speak about her psychoanalytic experience, Guttmann suggests that Pappenheim ""invented"" the psychoanalytic ""talking cure"" alongside Breuer, whose sessions with Pappenheim led him to identify catharsis as crucial to psychoanalysis. That her contribution has gone uncredited until now is, in Guttmann's view, an ironic emblem of the patriarchal culture that Pappenheim ultimately sought to reform through social work and philanthropy. Guttmann is most secure in Pappenheim's well-documented years of energetic work on behalf of Jewish women and girls in Frankfurt between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s. Her reconstructions of Pappenheim's early life among the affluent Viennese Jewish bourgeoisie, especially as Breuer's patient, are less convincing because, lacking primary materials, Guttmann relies heavily on speculation (the wildest concerns Pappenheim's relationship with Breuer). Guttmann, a professor of speech, theater and media studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a performance artist, is sensitive to the salutary powers of creativity and spirituality. In excerpts from Pappenheim's writings and in Guttmann's treatment, Pappenheim becomes less of an enigma but remains intriguing. Illus. not seen by PW. (on sale Apr. 30)
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