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Gedo, J.E. (1977). The Don Juan Legend: By Otto Rank. Translated and edited by David G. Winter. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975. 144 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 46:707-708.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:707-708

The Don Juan Legend: By Otto Rank. Translated and edited by David G. Winter. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975. 144 pp.

Review by:
John E. Gedo

The editor of this slim volume has made Otto Rank's monograph of 1924 available in English in the hope that study of this work would throw light on Rank's defection from psychoanalysis which took place shortly after its publication. He has written a scholarly Introduction, provided a list of Rank's several versions of this material, and added copious footnotes clarifying and expanding many of the author's source references. This meticulous treatment of a historical curio may, in fact, be too pedantic an approach to a fragile piece of work.

Winter seems to look upon Rank's interpretation of the Don Juan theme as currently viable, a judgment that this reviewer cannot share. To be sure, the monograph is exemplary in its methodology, and this fact makes it a rarity in the field of applied analysis. Rank carefully considered all of the extant versions of Don Juan in arriving at his interpretation, and he traced the theme back to its mythic antecedents. He did not fall into the error of equating each character in the drama with a real person; he saw clearly that these personages symbolize various aspects of a psychological constellation. Specifically, the protagonist, his servant, and the "stone guest" (i.e. the statue of the man he murdered which ultimately punishes him) stand for various attitudes which never exist in isolation but have to be understood as the elements of one intrapsychic world.

In spite of these merits, the book is no longer satisfactory. Rank begins by viewing compulsive womanizing in the context of Freud's theory of the primal crime in Totem and Taboo. Then in midstream, he abandons this interpretation, substituting one related to problems in the relationship with the mother, only to return again to a stress on Don Juan's downfall as evidence of oedipal guilt.

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