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Spitz, E.H. (1995). Freud's Women.: By Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester. New York: Basic Books, 1992. 563 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 64:177-180.
(1995). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 64:177-180
Freud's Women.: By Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester. New York: Basic Books, 1992. 563 pp.
Review by: Ellen Handler Spitz
Few areas of twentieth century intellectual endeavor have welcomed a greater number of gifted women or afforded them more opportunities to make impressive contributions than the field of psychoanalysis. Yet it is often held, both by those who have a close familiarity with Freud's oeuvre and by those who do not, that Freud's view of women was at best partial, historically contingent, and unresolved, and at worst deprecatory; thus, it seems puzzling that psychoanalysis has nonetheless attracted from its earliest phases up to the present time a dazzling array of brilliant and creative women thinkers. This enigma, central to a consideration of Freud and women is addressed by implication in the book under review here; but, like much else that bears on the polemicized topic of female psychology, it remains to pique us after we have closed the covers of this aptly titled, eminently readable book. Freud's Women blends history and theory on low speed in a gentle mix and is destined to please, inform, and entertain a general audience.
Addressed to such an audience, it flings open a wide new gate upon the old city of Freud studies; thus, while we arrive by engaging and picturesque new paths, the sites we encounter are largely familiar. If it can be said that Freud studies seem even now, in this fin de siècle, to divide roughly into two camps, the works that remain respectfully within an essentially psychoanalytic framework and those that baldly attack, the book under review here falls squarely in the former camp. It is aptly titled because the women depicted within it remain by the end and throughout its text precisely that, namely, Freud's women; that is to say, they are ever women as conceived within the context provided by psychoanalysis. Perhaps by now it is not possible to do otherwise.
Freud's Women delivers a compendium rather than a critical text. Its major sections, devoted in sequence to Freud's family experiences with women (his mother, nurse, wife, sister-in-law, daughters), his array of female patients, his women friends and colleagues, his theoretical work on female psychology, and, ultimately, the trenchant critiques, feminist and otherwise, that have for some half century now been leveled against it with increasingly wide-
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