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Naiman, J. (2014). The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel New York: Random House, 2012, 636 pp.. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 22(1):202-204.

(2014). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 22(1):202-204

The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel New York: Random House, 2012, 636 pp.

Review by:
James Naiman

Eric Kandel left Vienna when he was nine years of age, went into analysis when he was in college, and then went to medical school, because at that time medical school was a prerequisite to becoming a psychoanalyst. He then changed course and became a neuroscientist and received the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2000 for his work on memory. In this book, Kandel argues for more interaction between the arts and humanities on the one hand, and the sciences, particularly brain science, on the other.

The book is encyclopedic in scope and is densely written. The author describes the interaction between artists and scientists that took place in the salons of Vienna, circa 1900. Then, with the advent of photography, the mission of art changed and portrait painters could focus, as did Freud and the writer Arthur Schnitzler, on the unconscious emotional life of their sitters. Schnitzler and the painter Gustav Klimt had a more accurate idea of female sexuality than did Freud. Klimt, whose portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is reproduced on this book's jacket—portraying a stylized representation of ova and spermatozoa decorating her dress—painted heterosexual, homosexual, and masturbatory aspects of female sexuality as well as female aggression, in his depiction of Judith after she had killed Holofernes.

In the paintings of Oskar Kokoschka, the importance of the hands in conveying emotion was stressed, and in the works of Egon Schiele, the anxiety. The art historian Riegl argued that, in considering a painting, the contribution of the beholder, which includes past experience of looking at paintings, must be included.

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