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Kuhns, R. (1993). Pimping and Midwifery—Reflections on History and Psychoanalysis. Contemp. Psychoanal., 29:28-46.

(1993). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 29:28-46

Pimping and Midwifery—Reflections on History and Psychoanalysis

Richard Kuhns, Ph.D.

A NATURAL CONNECTION BETWEEN HISTORY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS would seem to stem from several sources: the emphasis on the early childhood of the individual, the assumption that every symptom has a history, and the high value placed on art and culture. Moreover, psychoanalytic thought has, from its beginning, looked to the past for examples and inspiration—to ancient Greek, to Elizabethan, and to Romantic works of art. And yet with all its dedication to the past, psychoanalytic theory has seemed surprisingly and paradoxically ahistorical. By that I mean, the inquiries of art historical scholarship and literary history, are more often than not ignored or neglected in psychoanalytic interpretations of art and of artists. Rather, the early psychoanalytic interpretations concentrated on persons, the psychobiography of the artist, the approach of pathography, neglecting the larger historical context within which the artist lived and worked; an approach we might characterize as names without history—as contrasted with the opposite pole—history without names. And yet, the founders of psychoanalysis, and the psychoanalytic theory of art—Freud himself, Ernest Jones, Otto Rank—were hardly ignorant of history, and were steeped in the cultural tradition in which they were writing. So one might have supposed that they could readily have added the dimension of historical context to their interpretations.


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