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Formaini, H. (2004). Peering into One of Winnicott's “Blank Spots”. Am. Imago, 61(4):527-538.

(2004). American Imago, 61(4):527-538

Peering into One of Winnicott's “Blank Spots”

Heather Formaini

In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel wrote that “Whatever happens, every individual is a child of his time; so philosophy too is its own time apprehended in thoughts” (1821, 11). Could the same be true for psychoanalysis? If it could, how can one generation of psychoanalysts apprehend the thoughts of an earlier generation? This is a question a reader may hold in mind when approaching this long-awaited new biography of Donald Woods Winnicott, a man often regarded as one of the most “human” and well-loved of psychoanalytic theorists.

The skill displayed by F. Robert Rodman as he draws the reader into the life of his subject bears all the hallmarks of a fine biographer. At the same time, the author gently guides the reader, whether novice or professed, into the consideration of Winnicott's life, including his silences and resistances: those theories-in-potential, floating on a remote horizon, or at the periphery of vision. While seeking to maintain a tension between close examination and simultaneously casting into the distance, the reader becomes conscious that Rodman is writing about one of the most innovative of psychological thinkers, whose life bridged a number of historical moments and whose “blank spots” seem increasingly obvious, until they reach the point where they dominate, becoming a major preoccupation. The author pays careful attention to the ebb and flow between Winnicott's life and work, bringing forth questions about the way his internal life relates to the external realm of family, church, school, and then, of course, the vast new world of psychoanalysis. As he surveys the sometimes severe terrain of Winnicott's life, Rodman's scholarly and affectionate approach to his subject offers probing insights, though never reckless enthusiasm.


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