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Groarke, S. (2003). A Life's Work: On Rodman's Winnicott. Free Associations, 10(4):472-497.

(2003). Free Associations, 10(4):472-497

A Life's Work: On Rodman's Winnicott

Steven Groarke

“For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

This Essay Explores the meaning of ‘a life's work’ with reference to Rodman's biography of Winnicott.1 It is not a review of Rodman so much as an exploration along three lines including: a consideration of the work of biography after Freud; a discussion of Rodman's text; and some thoughts on Winnicott and the paradox of being. I shall begin with Derrida's critique of the sign as an approach to the meaning of ‘life and work’ after Freud, but also as an exemplary account of the logic of paradox. Secondly, I shall discuss the use of biographical ‘material’ by comparing Rodman and Kahr on Masud Khan's analysis with Winnicott. Finally, I shall turn to the presentation of life as a problem of survival and redemption in Winnicott's late works, particularly in the material relating to ‘the use of an object’.

The Paradox of Inheritance

Freud would have his biographers go astray; in April 1885, he told his fiancée that he had destroyed all his notes of the past 14 years, ‘as well as letters, scientific extracts, and manuscripts of my works’ (Gay, 1988, p. xv). It seems that this was one of many such piles set against the work of future biographers, and yet psychoanalysis has demonstrated that the real difficulty of biography lies elsewhere. No doubt the loss or destruction of documents is a matter of considerable inconvenience to the archivist.

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