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Richards, B. (1995). The Cambridge Companion to Freud Edited by Jerome Neu. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 356 pages,. Free Associations, 5(4):567-571.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(4):567-571

The Cambridge Companion to Freud Edited by Jerome Neu. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 356 pages,

Review by:
Barry Richards

The importance of jacket blurbs, and their power to mislead as well as inform, is brought out by the one on the back cover of this volume, which describes it as the “most convenient, accessible guide to Freud currently available.” Perhaps one should have been alerted by the blurb's opening sentence, which announces this second in a series on “major philosophers.” For only those with some knowledge of and interest in the philosophical debates about Freud would feel invited by the promises of the Introduction that the book will explore “the particular tension raised by the relation of conditions of discovery to conditions of confirmation,” and the metaphysical and epistemological issues brought by the shaking of the Cartesian picture of a unitary consciousness. For the average undergraduate or lay browser, ensnared by the cover's claim, parts of the book are likely to be a major disappointment. Or, worse, they might lead to the conclusion that psychoanalysis is a major disappointment, a scholarly discourse of interest and use only to an intellectual elite.

The second outcome would not do justice to psychoanalysis, nor the first to the book, which contains some valuable papers. Foremost among these is the chapter by the historian Carl Schorske, who suggests that in Freud's mind, images of Roman, English and French cultures served crucial psychic and theory-building functions. Rome was the richest image of the three, in that it enabled Freud eventually to bring together affect and intellect, to integrate in his theory the truths of both rationality and desire, which England and Paris respectively represented for him in idealised, split images. In part intellectual psychobiography, this essay also exemplifies how a psychoanalytic sociology of knowledge can illuminate the ways in which received notions (in this case, that certain cultural differences exist) are appropriated in particular ways by individual thinkers.


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