Freud: In His Time and Ours

Harvard Univ. Nov. 2016. 576p. tr. from French by Catherine Porter. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674659568. $35. PSYCH
OrangeReviewStarSigmund Freud (1856–1939), the inventor of psychoanalysis, is a major subject of biographers, beginning with three volumes by Ernest Jones in the 1950s. Here, French historian Roudinesco (head of research in history, Univ. of Paris VII—Denis Diderot) brings her fresh perspective, in these pages well translated by Porter. Among the 14 chapters are "Disciples and Dissidents," "Families, Dogs, Objects," and "Facing Hitler." With a wealth of research—including an impressive bibliography and detailed family tree—Roudinesco elucidates Freud's development, creativity, and influence. She clarifies the rational and irrational, the pleasure and reality principles, and drives toward Eros and Thanatos. Freud, who viewed religion as an obstacle to scientific knowledge, used art, myth, and history as evidence for his claims. Like her subject, Roudinesco is a scholar of psychology, biology, and history. She credits Freud's predecessors Franz Anton Mesmer and Jean-Martin Charcot, pointing out that suggestion in the waking state is an element of psychotherapy. In her view, male psychoanalysts promoted as science a culturally biased interpretation of women.
VERDICT Freud, a pioneer in creative biography, meets his analyst, a woman who illuminates modern psychology and social evolution for general audiences. This is perhaps the most important Freud biography since that of Jones, and a welcome corrective.
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