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Hinshelwood, B. (1990). Virginia Woolf and Psychoanalysis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 17:367-371.

(1990). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17:367-371

Virginia Woolf and Psychoanalysis

Bob Hinshelwood

Dear Sir,

I would like to respond to the excellent paper by Douglass Orr on Virginia Woolf's interest in psychoanalysis (The International Review, Volume 16, pages 151–161). His meticulous scouring of her writings to show the briefest mentions of Freud or psychoanalysis is helpful as a source of references. But I want to query his conclusions, especially on the question: why didn't Virginia Woolf have an analysis? He places some weight on the scathing remarks that Virginia Woolf makes in her diary about Freud and psychoanalysis prior to her visit to Freud in Hampstead in 1939. This, however, is less telling evidence than appears at first sight since she was scathing about everyone and everything in her diaries. It was part of her relentless internal destructiveness which no doubt could be related to her manic-depressive illness. It was not specific to her knowledge of psychoanalysis.

Orr makes three further blunt and related points: (a) psychoanalysis was hardly known; (b) analysts would not have considered a psychotic patient; and (c) there were hardly any analysts available anyway. These conclusions resemble the verdict of Quentin Bell (1972) who speculated that it is doubtful

whether she could have been analysed or whether analysis would have been an appropriate treatment. Analysts are usually reluctant to treat patients who have actually been mad and Virginia's first breakdown could hardly have been treated even by Freud himself: it was contemporaneous

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