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Renik, O. (1983). Freud as a Writer: By Patrick Mahony, Ph.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1982. 227 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:634-637.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:634-637

Freud as a Writer: By Patrick Mahony, Ph.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1982. 227 pp.

Review by:
Owen Renik

Freud as a Writer is not intended to be a literary aside. In essence, the book is a comment on psychoanalytic methodology. Mahony asks us to consider that Freud's work does not so much contain understanding as it produces understanding in the reader. Therefore, serious psychoanalytic study must pay attention to the forms of Freud's writing as well as to the content of what he wrote—since form and content together determine the impact of any communication. This is a point of view which psychoanalysts are obliged to take seriously. Our clinical task causes us to examine the means by which understanding is produced. We are constantly concerned with how patients say things to us and how we say things to them, just as much as with what is said.

Mahony attempts a completely textual analysis of Freud's writing. He steers away from the potential presumptions of psychobiography and relies instead on techniques drawn from rhetoric, esthetics, literary criticism, semiotics, linguistics, philosophy of science, and epistemology. His carefully selected and beautifully organized critical review of the relevant literature from these disciplines alone makes Freud as a Writer worth reading. Mahony, who is both an academic (Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature) and a psychoanalyst, is singularly well qualified for the task he undertakes. Working in bicultural Montreal, he brings to bear an easy familiarity with European psychoanalysis and social science. His brief critical comments on Lacan's conception of unconscious thought are among the most lucid and cogent I have seen.

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