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Wilson, M. (1993). Jacques Lacan & Co. a History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985: By Elisabeth Roudinesco. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990. 766 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 62:457-463.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 62:457-463

Jacques Lacan & Co. a History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985: By Elisabeth Roudinesco. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990. 766 pp.

Review by:
Mitchell Wilson

Elisabeth Roudinesco begins her monumental history of psychoanalysis in France with a moving, darkly rendered account of André Breton rising to the defense of his friend, Max Ernst. Thirty pages later we read of Breton's profound disappointment when he met Freud, who seemed to him old and ordinary. From these novelistic scenes we are given to understand that the encounter between what Roudinesco calls "the message from Vienna" and its French audience will be passionate and difficult. She unfurls a vast Western landscape upon which cultural and intellectual traditions collide. Armed with deeply held beliefs about the nature of psychoanalysis, individuals march across countries and continents to fight for their Freudian cause. Lives assume epic proportions. Psychoanalytic institutions rise and fall as the dismantling of them becomes an essential part of the French psychoanalytic ethos. This English edition is Volume Two of her original French work, which she calls The Hundred Years' Battle. As described by Roudinesco, the stakes of battle are high: institutional power through doctrinal influence. What is the authentic nature of psychoanalysis? This is the central question over which these different doctrinal tendencies repeatedly battle.

Roudinesco describes the development of ideas with such skill that they become nearly personified (we end up caring about the life or death of an idea). We read in detail about the Surrealist movement, its particular appropriation of psychoanalysis, and its influence on the second generation of French analysts. We read about the intricate relationships between the early years of Bolshevism, Marxism, Pavlovian psychology, and Wilhelm Reich. We learn about Catholicism, Maoism, Hegel, structural linguistics, deconstruction—all in relation to the development of psychoanalysis in France after World War II. There are forays into the movies of Hitchcock, Wilder, and Chaplin.

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