|Beres, D. (1965). Goethe. A Psychoanalytic Study 1775-1786. Two Volumes: By K. R. Eissler, M.D. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963. 1538 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 34:447-450.|
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(1965). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 34:447-450
Goethe. A Psychoanalytic Study 1775-1786. Two Volumes: By K. R. Eissler, M.D. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963. 1538 pp.
An adequate review of this monumental work, which brings us only to the fortieth year of Goethe's life, would require the knowledge of a combined Goethe scholar and psychoanalyst. There can be few besides the author who fulfil these qualifications. I must limit myself to comments about psychoanalytic aspects of the book.
First, some statistical data. The two large volumes include twenty-three appendices (in smaller type) in two hundred eighty-eight pages, a bibliography of five hundred sixty-two titles, and an excellent index. The detail and erudition give evidence of years of thoughtful study and must surely render this work an invaluable source for anyone interested in the life and works of Goethe, whether he agrees or disagrees with the author's conclusions.
Freud, in his address delivered at the Goethe House when he received the Goethe Prize, asked what Goethe's biographers might achieve. He said, 'Even the best and the fullest of them could not answer the two questions which alone seem worth knowing about. It would not throw any light on the riddle of the miraculous gift that makes an artist, and it could not help us to comprehend any better the value and the effect of his works.' He says further: 'Psychoanalysis can supply some information which cannot be arrived at by other means, and can thus demonstrate new connecting threads in the "weaver's masterpiece" spread between the instinctual endowments, the experiences, and the works of an artist. Since it is one of the principal functions of our thinking to master the material of the external world psychically, it seems to me that thanks are due to psychoanalysis if, when it is applied to a great man, it contributes to the understanding of his great achievement.' But Freud warns that 'in the case of Goethe we have not succeeded very far. This is because Goethe was not only, as a poet, a great self-revealer, but also, in spite of the abundance of autobiographical records, a careful concealer.' Does Dr. Eissler bring us further in our understanding of Goethe, the man, his works, and his gift?
In his introduction Dr. Eissler states that he does not aim to
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