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Rostek, H. (2003). Norman Elrod (November 22, 1928-July 01, 2002) Unity and Conflict of Opposites. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 12(4):289-295.
(2003). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 12(4):289-295
Norman Elrod (November 22, 1928-July 01, 2002) Unity and Conflict of Opposites
Hartmut Rostek, Dr. rer. soc.
Some Biographical Remarks
Norman Elrod, who died on July 1, 2002, was the founder and director of the Institut für Psychoanalyse (IfP), which has been a member of the International Federation of Psychoanalytic Societies (IFPS) since 1998. The IfP was accepted for membership in the IFPS after the presentation of a workshop on Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List in Athens, Greece in 1996. Elrod was an outstanding psychoanalyst, who was especially known for his publications on the psychoanalytic treatment of psychotic patients and on the history of psychoanalysis.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA in 1928 and studied Psychology and Philosophy in California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950. Afterwards, he traveled to Switzerland to study Psychology, Philosophy, General History of Religion, and Therapeutic Pedagogy at the University of Zurich. Starting in 1954, he worked as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist under Manfred Bleuler at the Burghölzli, Zurich Psychiatric University Hospital, where he introduced psychoanalytic group therapy with schizophrenic patients. His dissertation, which reported on his experience with group and individual psychotherapy with chronically schizophrenic patients, appeared in 1957 under the title “Zur Phänomenologie der Besserung in der Psychotherapie” (On the phenomenology of improvement in psychotherapy) and received much attention.
He obtained his psychoanalytic training at the C.G. Jung Institute Zurich from 1957 to 1962. In the years 1957 to 1959 he continued to provide individual psychoanalytic therapy as a research assistant of Gaetano Benedetti at the Institute for Psychotherapy and Mental Hygiene of the University of Basel. From 1960 to 1968, Elrod worked as a psychotherapist and supervisor at the Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, where he began a friendship with Ludwig Binswanger that lasted until the latter's death in 1965.
In 1968, Elrod opened a private practice in Kreuzlingen and in Zurich. In the early 1970's, differences in opinion arose at the C.G. Jung Institute regarding academic courses offered by Elrod, e.g. “Radical social critics from 1960 to 1970” and a planned seminar on Herbert Marcuse. The directors of the institute rejected the latter seminar because they felt that topics and authors that were relatively alien to Jung's theory and therapy of human beings should be taught elsewhere. Elrod, who felt an obligation to critical psychoanalysis as he saw it realized in the tradition of Sigmund Freud, founded a working group in 1971. This became an educational institute in 1979 called Institut für Psychoanalyse in 1990. The Institute was one of the founders of the Swiss Charta of Psychotherapy in 1993, an association of institutions and different schools of psychotherapy obligated to a high standard of training.
In 1989, Elrod published the book Sigmund Freud und die Französische Revolution (Sigmund Freud and the French Revolution), 200 years after the beginning of the French Revolution and 50 years after the death of Sigmund Freud. This work discusses Freud's interest in literature and world history, for example in respect to John Milton, Mark Twain or to the Paris Commune, an interest and a sociocritical commitment that Elrod shared. In 1996, Wer war Robert Burns? — 1796/1996: Zum 200. Todesjahr des Dichters (Who was Robert Burns? — 1796/1996: On the 200th anniversary of the poet's death) appeared in the same spirit. It is no surprise that Elrod felt a strong connection to Martin Luther King as well as to the American poet Langston Hughes, whose poetry he made voluminously available in German for the first time in Langston Hughes 1902 — 1967: Ein amerikanischer Dichter, der den Dornenweg der Politik ging; Lyrik in englischer Sprache und in deutscher Nachdichtung (Langston Hughes 1902 — 1967: An American poet who went down the thorny path of politics; poetry in English and in German translation), the second-to-last work that he published during his lifetime.
Starting in 1970, Elrod endeavored to cooperate closely with the “Democratic Psychiatry” movement in Italy. This cooperation produced 21 articles in the Fogli di Informazione, the official journal of Democratic Psychiatry, and four published volumes of Psychoanalyse im Rahmen der Demokratischen Psychiatrie. In retrospect, the cooperation did not go as Elrod would have wished. In the end, it seemed to Elrod that Democratic Psychiatry treated him with a great deal of skepticism, no less because of his understanding of the New Left in which he completely advocated the position of Sigmund Freud.
In the summer of 2001, Elrod suffered severe heart problems. Thanks to his strong will and the support of his wife, his physician and his friends, he was able to work for another year. He was able to complete his last two works, Langston Hughes and Psychotherapie der Schizophrenie. He worked on the story of Sigmund Freud and the American psychoanalyst Horace Frink up until his last hours of life. Hedi Haffner-Marti, Hans Red and Hartmut Rostek hope to publish this work posthumously in the coming year.
It should be added that the book Psychotherapie der Schizophrenie is a look back at Elrod's 50-year-long work as a psychoanalyst and supervisor in psychiatric institutions, and it therefore gives interested readers deep insights into Elrod's research activities and career that this short summary can by no means provide.
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