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Robinson, K. (2020). Psychoanalytic Perspectives on the Shadow of the Parent. Mythology, History, Politics and Art edited by Jonathan Burke. Routledge, London and New York; 2018, 248 pp, £34.99 paperback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(3):518-520.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(3):518-520

Psychoanalytic Perspectives on the Shadow of the Parent. Mythology, History, Politics and Art edited by Jonathan Burke. Routledge, London and New York; 2018, 248 pp, £34.99 paperback.

Review by:
Ken Robinson

In Family Romances (1909) (Freud wrote: ‘The liberation of an individual, as he grows up, from the authority of his parents is one of the most necessary though one of the most painful results brought about by the course of his development’ (p. 237). This is a book that explores the vicissitudes of that development. It is a difficult book to review because of its variety. A collection of 14 essays that run variations on the theme of what it is to be children of parents who in turn were children of their parents, it brings together minds schooled in various disciplines: psychology, psychosocial studies, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, musicology, art, drama, poetry, film, mythological studies, medicine, attachment theory, and more. The editor, Jonathan Burke, has given his authors the freedom to come at their topic not only from their own perspectives but in their own style. The academic essay, the autobiographical, the creative dialogue, the biographical, the conversation, the interview, all figure as modes of expression. The result is a rich assemblage that requires the reader to find his or her own way through the theme: to read the essays is not simply to take in a series of perspectives but to engage in one's own intergenerational dialogue, to be alive to the echoes evoked within oneself, as Margot Waddell's foreword brings out. The authors explore Isaac and Abraham, Elektra, Cordelia and King Lear, Hamlet, Freud at the Acropolis, Melitta Schmideberg as her mother's daughter, Trotsky and his household in exile, especially his daughter Zina, Kafka and his father, and the philosopher Sidney Cavell and his father. They also comment on the struggles of the children of perpetrators of atrocities, and they include in Martin Miller' scontribution an autobiographical extract from one who was born and grew up under ‘the gruesome shadow of the Second World War’ (p. 129), as well as a personal reflection by Rabbi and psychotherapist Howard Cooper on his relation to his father. Finally, there are two pieces by artists on finding a way through (and out from under) the shadow of their artist fathers, one in the form of an interview. I list the contributions to emphasize the range and variety of what is on offer.

The essays are enjoyable and challenging, even if some are more substantial than others.

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