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Michels, R. (1997). Textbook Of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Edward Nersessian and Richard G. Kopff, Jr. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1996, 726 pp., $110.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1363-1368.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1363-1368

Textbook Of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Edward Nersessian and Richard G. Kopff, Jr. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1996, 726 pp., $110.00.

Review by:
Robert Michels

A textbook of 686 pages divided into twenty-one chapters written by twenty-five authors from twelve different analytic institutes that strives “to present what psychoanalysis has discovered so far about the mind and the way in which it works” (p. xiii) has undertaken an ambitious task. The contributors include many of our most distinguished leaders and most articulate thinkers, and the product should be judged by the highest standards—that is, by their standards.

However, there are problems in doing so. First, there are ghosts of the past—above all of Fenichel, whose monumental text, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis, has just been reissued on its fiftieth anniversary. In many ways Fenichel's book codified the discipline, and it is explicitly Fenichel's psychoanalysis (along with Abraham's, Hartmann's, Brenner's, and, of course, Freud's) that this new book is about (p. xiv). Fenichel spoke with a clear, simple, and self-assured voice, focusing on central themes, avoiding jargon, and writing about people and their mental lives rather than about psychoanalytic theories and their vicissitudes. His is a tough act to follow.

There are also the usual problems of multiauthor texts—problems about which reviewers love to complain. Some topics are covered over and over again (especially the early history of psychoanalysis), while others are ignored (child analysis, “applied” psychoanalysis, hermeneutics, social constructivist models, Lacan).

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