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Kelly, K.V. (2011). Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis by Salman Akhtar Karnac, London, 2009; 403 pp; £29.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 92(1):247-250.

(2011). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 92(1):247-250

Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis by Salman Akhtar Karnac, London, 2009; 403 pp; £29.99

Review by:
Kevin V. Kelly

The title of this magnum opus is misleading; the work is indisputably ‘comprehensive,’ but the detailed historical and theoretical explications provided for each term go well beyond the simple definitions one would expect in a ‘dictionary’. It might better be described as an annotated bibliography to the entire psychoanalytic literature, arranged alphabetically by key terms.

The ‘Introduction’ describes both the author's motivation for undertaking a project of this scope and the ambitious process he devised to stake out the terminologic territory. A reader might well wonder what could inspire an effort of this magnitude; Akhtar hints at both the contemporary professional conflicts and the childhood joys and sorrows at work, but ultimately cites “… some inner discipline, some ancestral calling, some sense of scholarly purpose” (p. xii). In keeping with the author's multi-cultural approach, one might speculate that the “ancestral calling” in question had to do with this originally non-Western scholar's demonstration that he has not only fully mastered the originally Western discipline of psychoanalysis, but also brought it home to the non-Western world.

Whatever his motivation, it must have been powerful, and its results are impressive. The sources Akhtar consulted in drawing up his list of terms to be discussed include: the Index to the Standard Edition, the major psychoanalytic glossaries already in use, the indices to several compendia of early psychoanalytic writings and to more contemporary textbooks and encyclopedias of psychoanalysis, and the contents of the major psychoanalytic journals. An appreciative reader might be inclined at this point to cry ‘Dayenu’, but Akhtar's ambition goes further. In order to expand the field beyond the clinical sphere and beyond the Western frame of reference, he includes additional terms gleaned from “… Holocaust studies, immigration literature, psychoanalytically-informed political work and culture-specific psychoanalytic concepts from non-Western societies (eg. India, Korea and Japan)” (p. xii). There is no mention of exclusion criteria but it would be interesting to know whether any terms were considered and rejected.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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