Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis

Eli Zaretsky, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-679-44654-5
""One century after its founding, psychoanalysis presents us with a paradox"" notes Zaretsky in his introduction to this spellbinding and groundbreaking cultural history, for not only was it one of the liberating forces of the 20th century, it also became simultaneously ""a font of antipolitical, antifeminist, and homophobic prejudice"" and a ""pseudoscience whose survival is now very much in doubt."" Writing in a clear, easily accessible style, Zaretsky (Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life), a historian at the New School University, charts the basic history and tenets of psychoanalysis and systemically discusses how this new science of psychoanalysis intersected with contemporary ideas about homosexuality, women and race. His discussion of Jung's racism and anti-Semitism is particularly strong. At the center of Zaretsky's story is the emergence of a new strain of psychoanalysis in the U.S. from the 1920s onward. American psychoanalysis became more professionalized, and the standards of training stricter, in an attempt to make it a ""real"" profession. It also became more concerned with people fitting into social norms. This was due partly to the experiences of so many pre- and postwar emigres wanting to fit into American culture at a time when that culture was already in many ways becoming more conservative. Zaretsky also charts the significant schisms that plagued the psychoanalytic community during and after WWII-particularly between Freud's daughter Anna and Melanie Klein-and how these complicated fissures led to the emergence of a more deeply conservative theory and practice of psychoanalysis during the Cold War. Zaretsky's knowledge is far-ranging and his grasp of psychoanalysis's complexities is solid and dextrous. He adroitly brings in a wealth of cultural information-the feminism of Emma Goldman; Henry James's The Bostonians; the paintings of Max Ernst and the relationship of psychoanalysis to surrealism; Virginia Woolf's reading of Freud (whom she had published but never read until years later); and Moss Hart's 1941 psychoanalytic musical Lady in the Dark- which augments his arguments with wit and precision. While much of this information has been available piecemeal, Zaretsky's virtuoso achievement is to bring all these contradictions together in a powerfully argued and overwhelming persuasive work. Illus. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (May 28)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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