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Rose, G.J. (1996). Image And Insight. By Ellen Handler Spitz. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1991, xii + 273 pp., $35.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:302-305.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:302-305

Image And Insight. By Ellen Handler Spitz. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1991, xii + 273 pp., $35.00.

Review by:
Gilbert J. Rose

Trained as a research candidate at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, Columbia University, Ellen Handler Spitz is well known as a lecturer and author of Art and Psyche(Spitz, 1985), a critical study of methodology in applied analysis. The present collection of 12 essays was written for various audiences over a period of nine years and shaped into book form while the author was a Getty Scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Santa Monica, California.

Image and Insight aims “to reinstate … the subjectivity … of criticism … [while] display[ing] … incorrigible diversity” (p. xi). The following overview will indicate its wide range and high quality.

“Looking and Longing: Reflections on Psychoanalytic and Aesthetic Pleasure” offers the thesis that an aesthetic object engages the recipient by inducing a desire and keeping it in play with an imaginary completion. Thus, for example, Magritte's art provides material for fantasies of narcissistic completion, mirroring, enticement, and frustration—all serving to “expand … subjectivity in a continuous flow of interaction, mediation, loss and fleeting transcendence” (p. 1). Spitz correctly points to Freud's struggle with the problem of correlating intensity of stimulation with pleasure/unpleasure, but omits mentioning his later speculation that the problem may ultimately have more to do with qualitative factors such as rhythm.

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