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Ginsparg, S.L. (1997). Fantasies Of Love And Death In Life And Art: A Psychoanalytic Study Of The Normal And The Pathological: By Helen K. Gediman. New York: New York University Press, 1995, 224 pp., $37.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1337-1342.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1337-1342

Fantasies Of Love And Death In Life And Art: A Psychoanalytic Study Of The Normal And The Pathological: By Helen K. Gediman. New York: New York University Press, 1995, 224 pp., $37.50.

Review by:
Sylvia Levine Ginsparg

Nothing is more intriguing than love and death, and Helen Gediman provides us a rich understanding of the fantasies accompanying these subjects. Borrowing heavily from the concepts of self psychology, she focuses on preoedipal matters largely neglected in the vast body of psychoanalytic literature, which has tended instead to focus on oedipal issues. Gediman postulates a continuum from the normal to the pathological, stating that these fantasies, in all forms of art, cut across time, space, and geography in their universality. The book addresses two kinds of fantasies of love and death: (1) liebestod, the wish to die with a loved one, and (2) resurrection, sensual happiness after death.

The Celtic legend of Tristan and Iseult is employed as the paradigm of the liebestod fantasy, while Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and the Ring cycle are considered to be musical elaborations of the liebestod theme.

The term liebestod was first introduced to psychoanalysis by Flugel (1953), who described it as a condensation of fantasies of love and death into the fantasy of dying together. It is an expression of the wish for merger. In normal ego functioning, the capacity for individuation and object love protects the individual against a pathological loss of self-object boundaries in the state of being in love. The two individuals maintain their separate identities despite temporary regressive merger experiences.

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