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(1982). George Sand: A Woman's Destiny. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:447-460.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:447-460

George Sand: A Woman's Destiny


This 1928 paper, which has hitherto been untranslated into English, plays a part in the history of psychoanalysis. When Helene Deutsch first delivered it, she was the founding Director of the Training Institute of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

Psychoanalytic theories about femininity have been among the most controversial parts of Freud's legacy. As the first analyst to publish a book on women (1925), Helene Deutsch has taken her share of the criticism for the import of Freud's outlook. In making the subject of women her speciality, Helene Deutsch felt she had to come to terms with the life of George Sand. With the inevitable limitations of such a pioneering application of psychoanalysis to a non-clinical subject, the article is a precursor to what today comes under the heading of psycho-history.

Helene Deutsch did uncritically accept certain stereotypes of her time as to what constitutes maleness and femaleness. It is fairer not to pretend that what we now think could have been magically foreshadowed in early psychoanalysis. The history of ideas should expand our tolerance for the inevitable limitations of any era's viewpoint, and include acknowledging our own biases.

It is unfortunately still true that talented women have an exceptionally hard time of it emotionally. In her account of George Sand, Helene Deutsch worked from the premise of the universality of bisexual trends. The earlier Freudian viewpoint did have the advantage of accepting a good measure of non-conformity as an inevitable and desirable part of life. One of Helene Deutsch's themes is the twisted course of mothering in George Sand's life. If Helene Deutsch over-emphasized George Sand's divided soul, one ought to remember how innovative it was to be writing about motherhood in 1928.

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