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Whitford, M. (2002). Les Femmes dans l'histoire de la psychanalyse edited by Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor (Coll. Perspectives psychanalytiques, Paris: L'Esprit du Temps, 1999); reviewed by Margaret Whitford. Psychoanal. Hist., 4(1):101-102.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and History, 4(1):101-102

Les Femmes dans l'histoire de la psychanalyse edited by Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor (Coll. Perspectives psychanalytiques, Paris: L'Esprit du Temps, 1999); reviewed by Margaret Whitford

Review by:
Margaret Whitford

This collection of 13 papers incorporates the proceedings of the International Association for the History of Psychoanalysis conference, which took place in London in July 1998. It has to be said that the publication of conference papers is not always a straightforward matter, and the present collection indicates some of the pitfalls. Quite a significant editorial input is required, and I am afraid that, without such an input, the collection is not as user-friendly as it might be.

Some of the shortcomings are merely irritating. Helene Deutsch's name is spelt in at least three different ways, Donald Winnicott becomes David Winnicott, and so on. The translations of the Anglo-American contributions were apparently based on transcripts of the simultaneous conference interpretation, and are sometimes rather wooden.

A more serious problem is the rationale of the collection. Who is this book for? The publisher's blurb suggests both specialists and a broader public. I am not sure about the specialist audience; I am not a specialist in the history of psychoanalysis. But as a member of the broader public with some professional interest in psychoanalysis, I felt I needed much more extensive editorial guidance. As Nicolas Gougoulis points out in his admirable contribution, ‘Elfriede Hirschfeld: Réflexions à propos de l'historiographie de la pratique clinique de Freud’ (pp. 201-213), the history of psychoanalysis is quite a new discipline whose methodology is still in process of definition. In addition there are specific epistemological considerations in a discipline which allows for phantasy and the unconscious in its explanatory frameworks. Gougoulis points out, for example, that historical reconstruction might be analogous to the construction of a patient's history during the course of an analysis and should be subject to the same precautionary stance. Gougoulis provides in his own paper—as many contributors do not—the kind of methodological reflections which the collection as a whole so desperately needs if the reader is to be able to evaluate the individual papers. One looks in vain for any editorial framework which would sketch out for the reader some sort of provisional map of the disciplinary territory.


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