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Ihanus, J. (2002). Bernfeld, Psychoanalysis and the Cinema. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 11(3):215-216.

(2002). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 11(3):215-216

Bernfeld, Psychoanalysis and the Cinema

Review by:
Juhani Ihanus, Ph.D.

There have been surprisingly few studies on, and no critical biography of, Siegfried Bernfeld (1892-1953) considering the fact that he was one of the most active and versatile early psychoanalysts. His career included several moves. He was a pioneering contributor to child and youth research, psychoanalytic pedagogy, educational reform, clinical theory and Freudo-Marxism. He was also one of the few psychoanalysts to make use of mathematics, physics, physiology and biology, and to apply them (through the “Libidometry” co-project with Sergei Feitelberg) to probing episte-mological bases of psychoanalysis. Bernfeld was valued as perhaps the most gifted orator and lecturer in the psychoanalytic movement of the post-WWI years. He was unanimously elected Member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society as early as in 1919. From 1922, he became one of the first practicing lay analysts in Vienna, and for a short while (from 1924 until the end of 1925 when he moved to Berlin) he was also Secretary of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

Siegfried Bernfeld was concerned about making psychoanalytic ideas and theories accessible to a larger, non-medical audience, without giving up his scientific rigor. After emigrating to the United States (San Francisco) in 1937, he was increasingly interested in defining and developing freer guidelines for psychoanalytic training. With his third wife Suzanne Cassirer Bernfeld he laid the foundations for scientific research on Freud's biography.

Research on the man himself has mainly been published in German.

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