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Brown, D. (1995). Meg Harris Williams and Margot Waddell The Chamber of Maiden Thought: Literary Origins of the Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991, 217 pages, pb £12.99. Free Associations, 5(3):385-389.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(3):385-389

Meg Harris Williams and Margot Waddell The Chamber of Maiden Thought: Literary Origins of the Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991, 217 pages, pb £12.99

Review by:
Dennis Brown

There are likely to be many mainstream teachers of English literature who will welcome this ‘particular view of the relationship’ (1) between canonical texts and contemporary psychoanalysis and feel a frisson of appreciation that ‘post-Kleinian’ therapeutic practice can be seen as a ‘true child of literature’; and (2) Psychotherapists will have their own ways of understanding the subsidiary feeling that might cause such teachers to say with Dr. Johnson: ‘Had it been early, it had been kind’. In his Foreword, the distinguished psychoanalyst Donald Meltzer explains how Freud's initial ‘bent’ would have confined his investigations within ‘a medical sub-speciality of neurology and psychiatry’ (p. ix) and how the ‘coming of age of psychoanalysis’ led to an appreciation that ‘mental life is essentially religious’ (p. iii). Any advance from the mortmain of nineteenth-century scientism (and its reductive rhetoric) is good to hear about; for this relief much thanks.

The book is written by two women who, the back cover tells us, are knowledgeable about both psychoanalysis and literature. In The Good Society and the Inner World, Michael Rustin writes:

The fact that the Kleinian development in psychoanalysis was at first the work of women psychoanalysts and writers—Melanie Klein's early collaborators were women—and that the contribution of women analysts to this school has remained important to this day, is itself of significance. (p. 26)

I agree. And much of the impetus of monological scientism now appears Masculinist.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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