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Bulletin of the History of Medicine 78.1 (2004) 241-243



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Peter L. Rudnytsky. Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck. Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. xviii + 312 pp. $49.95, £31.50 (cloth, 0-8014-3777-6); $21.95, £13.95 (paperbound, 0-8014-8825-7).

An intrepid scholar and careful writer, Peter Rudnytsky, professor of English at the University of Florida, is known for several books, including Freud and Oedipus (1987), The Psychoanalytic Vocation (1991), and Psychoanalytic Conversations (2000). This collection combines seven updated essays with two new ones, all interesting, well-documented, essential reading for practitioners, historians, philosophers, and anyone curious about how self-knowledge is garnered through science and art. [End Page 241]

A deep reader open to an unusually broad range of texts, Rudnytsky moves beyond Freud's "one-person" drive theory and ego-psychology to "two-person" object relations and relational psychotherapy, elucidating the salutary influence of the liberal activists in Freud's inner circle—Otto Rank and Sandor Ferenczi, and the "wild analyst" Georg Groddeck—who disappeared from the limelight but now deservedly return. Rudnytsky ruthlessly exposes Freud's biases, slips, and outright venality while ardently defending the scientific and humanistic value of psychoanalysis. The foibles of Rank, Ferenczi, and Groddeck share this stage, too, along with proofs of their dedication, idealism, and genius as they balanced Freud's authoritarian, fear-based psychology with an egalitarian, love-leavened approach.

Freud's cases read like fiction, and Freud looked to fiction for confirmation of psychological truth—as in Oedipus, Hamlet, and, early on, Gradiva by W. Jensen, the subject of the first essay. Freud's early enthusiasm for this work underscores the dilemmas of treating imagined characters as real people, and vice versa. The next two chapters focus on the well-known "Little Hans," whose horse-phobia Freud treated by proxy through the boy's father, a colleague. Rudnytsky uncovers the multileveled relationship between Freud and the boy's parents, and dissects clumsy attempts at sexual explanation by intelligent but empathically challenged adults. Despite Freud's mistakes and evasions, Rudnytsky finds the case "not less but more enthralling . . . because Freud's genius enables him to rise above the carpings of his detractors and even his own oedipal blindness" (p. 57).

In two essays on Otto Rank, Freud's virtual foster son, Rudnytsky praises the young acolyte for his contributions to psychoanalysis in the early period of the movement (1906-24). He defends Rank against smears by Freudian loyalists, giving him credit as a pioneer in object relations and the pre-Oedipal mother-child relation, but his critique becomes carping. Refusing to address the work of Rank's last decade on the grounds that it was post-Freudian, he stifles his subject, calling him unscientific, anti-intellectual, authoritarian, arbitrary, inconsistent, inhumane, and a clone of Carl Jung. By selectively quoting from transitional texts and understating his part in the key collaboration with Ferenczi, The Development of Psychoanalysis (1924), Rudnytsky plays down Rank's egalitarian approach, his emphasis on experience in therapy versus formulaic interpretation and on the reality of the therapist as a person, his redefinition of resistance as will-expression, his constructive use of end-setting, and his relational view of the therapist alternating between assistant ego and assistant reality.

Two essays on Ferenczi and a single long one on Groddeck show Rudnytsky at his best, admiring but constructively critical, reviewing or introducing material too little known by people within the field, but of interest to anyone concerned with Freudian fallout. He cites Peter Gay's biography of Freud (1988) only once, Louis Breger's (2000) eighteen times—in keeping with the latter's more balanced view of the founder and his disciples.

The long final essay, "Psychoanalysis and the Dream of Consilience," surveys the architecture of Freud's edifice from the standpoint of science and art, [End Page 242] refurbishing and undergirding the structure with the latest in neuroscience theory and research. Rudnytsky is conversant with a long list of psychoanalysts, philosophers, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3176
Print ISSN
0007-5140
Pages
pp. 241-243
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-04
Open Access
No
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