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Acklin, T. (1998). Clara Schumann: ‘A Woman's Love and Life’: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Hendrika C. Halberstadt-Freud. Pp. 143-166. Psychoanal Q., 67(1):188-189.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Clara Schumann: ‘A Woman's Love and Life’: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Hendrika C. Halberstadt-Freud. Pp. 143-166

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(1):188-189

Clara Schumann: ‘A Woman's Love and Life’: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Hendrika C. Halberstadt-Freud. Pp. 143-166

Thomas Acklin

In a psychohistorical study of Clara Schumann, wife of the composer Robert Schumann, the author offers her interpretation of the various relationships in the subject's life. Suffering the loss of her mother when her parents separated, Clara endured loyalty conflicts throughout her life. She had to submerge her identification with her mother to placate her father on whom she was solely dependent. Her father was extemely demanding and cared for her only as long as she delivered what he required. In due course, she attained freedom from her father only by entering into conflicting identifications and expectations with her new husband,

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Robert Schumann. Eventually, the deterioration of the relationship with her husband led to conflicting loyalties with Johannes Brahms.

Her father's anger and moodiness affected Clara's relationship with her husband, a relationship which she assumed at the cost of losing contact with her father. Disregarding her father's advice that she not be trapped as the wife of Robert Schumann, she triumphed over her father and punished herself. With her husband Clara maintained the leading social role, while Robert withdrew into the background as the composer whose works she performed. Hypochondriasis and depression characterized their relationship as they continued their inability to handle aggression and the suppression of negative feelings. After her husband's death, Clara became independent, but only at the cost of many years of hard work performing his music and exhausting herself in fulfilling his dreams. Johannes Brahms had entered their lives several years before Robert Schumann's death, yet this relationship, too, had to end as she triumphed over her relationship with her husband while seeking to perpetuate his memory and his work.

Clara's father had become her superego, attacking her ego and herself, as evidenced in her relationship with her husband and in her career. Projective identification and repetition compulsion were the psychodynamics involved in the transference of her father's undesirable characteristics to her partner and in her struggles to combine the incompatible: mother and father, intimacy and autonomy. Ultimately, it may be interpreted that Clara Schumann had never known a normal separation, only loss and abandonment.

Article Citation

Acklin, T. (1998). Clara Schumann: ‘A Woman's Love and Life’: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Hendrika C. Halberstadt-Freud.. Psychoanal. Q., 67(1):188-189

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