Introduction Carl E. Schorske as Historian, Writer, and Political and Psychoanalytic Thinker
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Introduction Carl E. Schorske as Historian, Writer, and Political and Psychoanalytic Thinker

As Sigmund Freud concisely articulated in The Interpretation of Dreams, psychoanalysis differentiates itself from other psychologies in the vast field of research into the human mind by its central focus on the over-determination of meaning. The person honored in this issue of American Imago has reconceived, expanded, and deepened that essential insight, making us more acutely aware of over-determination as both an active principle in the structuring of the past and an experiential framework for re-engaging critically with the present. Here we offer our tribute to the work of Carl E. Schorske and its continuing importance to the history and theory of psychoanalysis. The participants in this issue have been influenced and inspired directly by his teaching and writing: some of us as his former students at Berkeley or Princeton, all of us as his beneficiaries in the fields of European, Viennese, and Freudian studies.

From the end of the Second World War until the present, the work of Carl E. Schorske—a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a recipient of the American Historical Association’s lifetime Distinguished Service and Scholarly Distinction Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow—has remained integral to the study of psychoanalysis and its worlds. His essay on “Politics and Patricide in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams”—published originally in the American Historical Review (1973) and included in his Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1980)—remains the seminal historical analysis of Freud’s dream book as both a transformative theory of the mind and a radical turning point in culture. In that essay, by contextualizing Freud’s relations to his father, to Judaism, to Italy, to science, and to Austrian politics, Schorske suggests not only how to re-comprehend Freud’s decisive process of self-analysis and his landmark psychological [End Page 583] discoveries, but also how to reconceive the mutual influence—conscious and unconscious—between history, politics, and psychology. Throughout his career, Schorske’s analysis of how historical context and historical crisis shape, re-work, and realign mental products and processes has offered a conceptual tool for both social scientific and psychological researchers and provided a bridge between theorists and practitioners across the humanities, arts, and human sciences.

Any appreciation of Schorske’s contributions to psychoanalytic thought must begin with the richness and painstaking discernment of his writing, qualities that immediately impress both the historian and the psychologist and that cannot be separated from his interpretive approach. Charting the interaction between historical context and inner life—as he does in his studies of Freud and the Viennese modernists—Schorske marks distinctly and deeply the points at which historical context influences not only the location of ideas and images within the mind, but also their pathways of expression and patterns of organization within the self. In his writing, the contextual model of interpretation becomes crucial to a dynamic understanding of the psyche.

The émigré psychoanalyst Hans W. Loewald, born in the Alsatian city of Colmar, writes with a purpose similar to that of Schorske. In his well-known essay “On the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis,” published originally in 1960 and republished in the same year that Fin-de-siècle Vienna appeared, Loewald comments upon what he considers to be overly static and excessively narrow conceptualizations of the psyche:

To use Freud’s archeological simile, it is as though the functional relationship between the deeper strata of an excavation and their external environment were denied because these deeper strata are not in a functional relationship with the present-day environment; as though it were maintained that the architectural structures of deeper, earlier strata are due to purely “internal” processes, in contrast to the functional interrelatedness between present architectural structures (higher, later strata) and the external environment that we see and live in. The id—in the archeological analogy being [End Page 584] comparable to a deeper, earlier stratum—integrates with its correlative “early” external environment as much as the ego integrates with the ego’s more “recent” external reality

(1980, p. 232).

Loewald writes as an analytic theorist and practitioner, Schorske as an intellectual and cultural...