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Schwartz, J. (2002). Writing and Wronging: Reflections on the History of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Hist., 4(2):197-202.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and History, 4(2):197-202


Writing and Wronging: Reflections on the History of Psychoanalysis

Joseph Schwartz, Ph.D.

One of the many interesting things about the journal Psychoanalysis and History, the co-sponsors with the Freud Museum of this conference, is its title. I like the stated independence of the two disciplines—psychoanalysis and history. I take it as implying that there is a bridge or bridges to cross to bring the disciplines into useful contact. We've already heard from two of those bridges, psychohistory and the psyche in history. Now it's the turn of the history of psychoanalysis. I want to speak briefly to allow time for discussion and my remarks should be taken more as reflections on histories of psychoanalysis for discussion rather than a sustained argument.

What are the connections between psychoanalysis and history in the histories of psychoanalysis? How have these histories been written up to now? What directions might future work in history and psychoanalysis take, what might be the interesting problems to explore through historical analysis? Finally, writing history always involves wronging. Every act of selection from the historical record involves rejection of other material and is therefore a certain wronging. Can we be clear about the dynamics that form our interest in the history of psychoanalysis? Do we know what are we looking for when we consult the historical record? Whose needs are being met by any given historical investigation?

It certainly is true that the history of psychoanalysis ‘has been the focus of polemics and scandal’. So true in fact that much historical material has never been published because it does not contain polemic and scandal. A colleague of mine, who is in possession of a memoir by a granddaughter of Freud's, could not find a publisher for the manuscript because ‘all’ it said was what a nice man he was.

There is, of course, a virtually unlimited media appetite for scandal stories. In the case of psychoanalysis the stories are mainly about Freud, denouncing him as a fool, as a scoundrel or as both.

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