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  • Paul Roazen (1936-2005)
  • Daniel Burston

Paul Roazen died on November 3, 2005, from complications of Crohn's disease, at the age of sixty-nine, in Boston. He was born in Boston on August 14, 1936, the second of three children in a Jewish family. In 1954, he graduated from Brookline High School, and in 1958, from Harvard College, where he studied American Government with Robert McCloskey. He went on to do graduate work in political science and psychoanalytic thought at the University of Chicago, Oxford, and finally, at Harvard, where he was mentored by Louis Hartz and studied briefly with Erik Erikson.

With the help of Helene Deutsch, Roazen embarked between 1964 and 1967 on a massive research project, interviewing seventy people who had known Freud personally, and forty others who were involved in the early history of the psychoanalytic movement. This voluminous body of data furnished the basis for many of his books in years to come. He was the first non-psychoanalyst to be granted access to the library at the British Psychoanalytical Society. Anna Freud heartily regretted her part in that decision when Roazen published Brother Animal (1969), an instructive but extremely controversial gloss on the life and work of Victor Tausk, who had once shown considerable promise but committed suicide in 1919 while under Deutsch's care. As it happened, Freud was analyzing Deutsch while she was analyzing Tausk, and in retrospect, Freud's attitude toward Tausk was profoundly disconcerting. Roazen antagonized Anna Freud and her circle even further when he revealed—in Freud and His Followers (1975)—that she had been analyzed by her own father. Kurt Eissler, a Freudian stalwart, wrote not one but two scathing critiques of Roazen: Talent and Genius: The Fictitious Case [End Page 109] of Tausk Contra Freud (1971), and Victor Tausk's Suicide (1983). While seriously flawed, Eissler's books embodied the attitude of many analytic practitioners who felt that Roazen's work was little more than "gossip."

While Roazen did not flinch from igniting controversies during his colorful career, he also devoted considerable effort to spelling out the roots and ramifications of psychoanalytic theories at the social, cultural, and historical levels. Indeed, his first book, Freud: Political and Social Thought (1968), was an adaptation of his Ph.D. thesis, and it paved the way for his appointment in the Department of Political Science and the Social Science Division at York University in Toronto, where he taught from 1971 to 1995, when he retired as Professor Emeritus.

I first met Paul in 1976, when I was twenty-one and a sophomore at York University. At the time, I was immersed in the literature of what could be called "psychopolitics" or "psychohistory," or some combination of the two. During the previous two years, I had struggled with a series of books by and about Freud, Jung, the Glover brothers, Erich Fromm, and Erik Erikson; and from these disparate sources I had been unable to glean a clear or consistent impression of Freud's personality. Although he was doubtless one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century, Freud the man remained a mystery to me, rendered all the more elusive by the dense controversies that swirled around him.

By a fortunate coincidence, before reading Brother Animal, I had read Erich Fromm's Sigmund Freud's Mission: An Analysis of His Personality and Influence (1959). Fromm had argued that there was a strong authoritarian streak in Freud, a trait expressed in a certain coldness in his dealings with his followers. I was still mulling over this argument when Brother Animal came to my attention. Fromm had used fragments of Freud's dreams and a few tidbits of correspondence to make his case, and I found this approach quite original. But when I read Roazen's account of Tausk's abortive analysis with Helene Deutsch and his subsequent suicide, I was completely blown away. Even now, I remember being awestruck by the convergence between Fromm and Roazen's perspectives, though Roazen's reflections were ultimately more persuasive. Even Fromm thought so! Thirteen years later, while researching The Legacy of Erich Fromm (1991), I [End Page 110] discovered that, like me, Fromm...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-7931
Print ISSN
0065-860X
Pages
pp. 109-118
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-05
Open Access
No
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