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Beres, D. (1960). Psychoanalysis and American Literary Criticism: By Louis Fraiberg. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1960. 263 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 29:416-417.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:416-417

Psychoanalysis and American Literary Criticism: By Louis Fraiberg. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1960. 263 pp.

Review by:
David Beres

This book may be devided into two parts: the first, a detailed summary of psychoanalytic writings on literature and art, including the works of Freud, Jones, Sachs, and Kris; the second, an evaluation of the application of psychoanalytic concepts by certain American literary critics—Van Wyck Brooks, Joseph Wood Krutch, Ludwig Lewisohn, Edmund Wilson, Kenneth Burke, and Lionel Trilling.

The summary of psychoanalytic writings is sufficiently detailed and accurate to make it a useful reference work and a source for further bibliographical study. The author presents psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline, the concepts of which are useful in literary criticism. He places proper emphasis on the importance of ego psychology and he insists, correctly I believe, that neurosis is not an essential condition of artistic creativity. There are some points, however, which the author maintains with a degree of certainty that many psychoanalysts do not share.

The discussion of the work of the literary critics is of a different order. Professor Fraiberg expects the critics to be informed of psychoanalytic theory in the greatest detail and he quarrels and scolds them for their inaccuracies. He is, one may say, more royal than the king. A vigorous attack on Van Wyck Brooks for his superficial use of psychoanalytic concepts in a book written in 1920 seems unfair; Professor Fraiberg has the advantage of the more developed psychoanalytic formulations of recent years. To expect a nonanalyst to be familiar with all the complexities of psychoanalysis in its early years is unrealistic. It would be more in order to search for what is valuable in these early contributions and to trace the development of later, more accurate studies. Among the critics, Trilling emerges with the fewest wounds.

It is surprising that an author so critical of others permits questionable editorial practices in his own book.

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