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Krohn, A. (2004). Family romance, family secrets: Case notes from an American psychoanalysis, 1912 By Elizabeth Lunbeck and Bennett Simon New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2003. 352 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1551-1554.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1551-1554

Family romance, family secrets: Case notes from an American psychoanalysis, 1912 By Elizabeth Lunbeck and Bennett Simon New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2003. 352 pp.

Review by:
Alan Krohn

This book presents the psychoanalytic treatment, both out-patient and in-patient, of a young nurse, Rachel C., conducted by Dr L. E. Emerson in Boston from 1912 to 1917. While the core of the account of the analysis comes from Dr Emerson's own notes, our picture of the treatment is enhanced by references to Emerson's published papers about the case, other of his papers reflecting his own particular understanding of psychoanalytic theory and practice, and even a report of an in-patient staff meeting at which Emerson presented the patient's treatment, including the reactions of his skeptical colleagues. This all makes for a remarkable historical document which gives us a window on a treatment of a purportedly hysterical woman with a plethora of symptoms, including vomiting, dissociations, convulsions, self-biting, compulsive masturbation and psychogenic blindness, among others.

The book organizes the treatment notes into sections, each introduced by observations by the authors. Bennett Simon, a psychoanalyst, and Elizabeth Lunbeck, an historian, do a good job of walking the reader through the case without anticipating what will happen next. This gives the book an almost novelistic flavor.

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