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Kite, J.V. (1995). Mothers Of Psychoanalysis. Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein. : By Janet Sayers. New York/ London: W. W. Norton and Co., 1991. 319 PP.. Psychoanal Q., 64:381-384.

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(1995). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 64:381-384

Mothers Of Psychoanalysis. Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein. : By Janet Sayers. New York/ London: W. W. Norton and Co., 1991. 319 PP.

Jane V. Kite Author Information

It has been de rigueur within the last decade or so to opine that Freud and the Freudians, blinded by their convictions about the centrality of oedipal conflict in human development, have systematically ignored the influence of early mothering on psychic structure. Worse yet, the argument goes, this theoretical scotoma has radically skewed the actual practice of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in a patriarchal direction. One antidote to this, especially among feminists, has been to adopt an uncritically “mothercentered” approach to psychoanalytic practice; a kind of undoing by example. Sayers identifies and takes issue with this solution in her ambitious book, arguing that the current feminist-inspired focus on mothering and relational approaches to therapy and analysis largely ignores the more sophisticated and evenhanded critiques of psychoanalytic theory by early women analysts. It is the work of these analysts, she argues, that initiated a more complex and balanced understanding of the variety of factors—internal and external, maternal and paternal—that must be addressed in clinical psychoanalysis.

To illustrate her point, she presents individual biographies of Deutsch, Horney, Anna Freud, and Klein, whom she also in fact credits, as a group, with what we are now seeing as a more general shift toward a “psychoanalytic focus on mothering.” She argues that the several conceptual shifts which support this reorientation in theory and practice have been pioneered by these four women, singling out maternal identification (Deutsch), idealization and envy between the sexes (Horney), maternal deprivation and loss (A. Freud), and introjection and projection (Klein) for special mention. Devoting one major chapter to each analyst, Sayers focuses biographically on the vicissitudes of their relationships with their own mothers and their children, and thematically on the role of mothers and mothering in their work. Not surprisingly, with four very different biographies, Sayers is pursuing an argument which is both self-evident (identifications and disidentifications with mothers influence the lives and work of analyst daughters) and unwieldy, i.e.,

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