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Figlio, K. (1984). Freud's Exegesis of the Soul. Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):113-121.

(1984). Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):113-121

Freud's Exegesis of the Soul

Karl Figlio

An essay review of Freud and Man's Soul, by Bruno Bettelheim, London, Chatto and Windus/the Hogarth Press, 1983, Pp. xii + 112, £6.95.

Bettelheim leaves much unsaid, or only hinted at, as he brings forth case after case to show the distortion of Freud's thought in the English-speaking — and especially the American — adaptation of psychoanalysis. I sympathize with his annoyance, though from a different point of view and without his deep experience of psychoanalysis, first in Freud's Vienna and then in the American academic setting of the University of Chicago. His anger is directed at the psychoanalytic establishment; mine lies more with the historical and ideological pigeon-holing, in which Freud becomes a typical inhibited Victorian bourgeois, or a biological reductionist, or, in reaction to these limitations, a psychologist. How much more Bettelheim could say about the history of the scientizing and the narrowing of vision suffered by professionalized psychoanalysis, is not clear from his book, but he has added a novel and interesting dimension to the evidence that such a clamping-down has occurred.

Bettelheim doesn't so much ask us to put aside the scientific Freud, as he invites us to see Freud as passionately devoted to psychoanalysis and to making it accessible to everyone. It is a theme at one with the broad vision of the early generations of psychoanalysts surveyed in Robert Young's essay review, and also visible in The People's Book of Psychoanalysis (1926), in the series Bücher des Werdenden (an untranslatable title, meaning ‘Books for the People who are Carrying the Future’), edited by Paul Federn and Heinrich Meng. The articles range from psychoanalytic concepts, to psychopathology, to psychoanalytic contributions to medicine, law, sociology, poetry, painting, morals and fairytales/myths/pre-history.

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