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Roazen, P. (1990). On Defining Freud's Discourse by Patrick J. Mahony New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989, viii + 104 pp., $15.95. Psa. Books, 1(4):409-414.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(4):409-414

On Defining Freud's Discourse by Patrick J. Mahony New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989, viii + 104 pp., $15.95

Review by:
Paul Roazen, Ph.D.

Scholarship on Freud remains in an odd situation. On one hand, there are numerous psychoanalytic journals, in a wide variety of languages, that regularly cite Freud's work. Yet the authors are usually not professional academic scholars, but busy practicing clinicians. Thus, they not only have a special interest in the clinical import of Freud's writings, but also are involved exclusively in the concerns of present-day practice. Knowing what Freud was like historically is a specialized matter requiring immersion in his texts and time. In all the psychoanalytic training institutes that I know of, however, Freud's writings are taught in isolation from the cultural context in which they were originally authored.

As a result of the need of present-day clinicians to find in the past some sanction for how they proceed now, and the desire to link up today's thinking with earlier ideas of Freud, the tendency to be ahistorical has become commonplace in the literature. Thus, we commonly find isolated sentences by Freud being taken out of their original context on behalf of some pressing contemporary issue. To make the scholarly situation even more troublesome, practicing clinicians seldom have the abundant free time necessary for the secure pursuit of genuine scholarly research.

The upshot is that although Freud is quoted profusely in professional articles, from a scholarly point of view all of this citation does not succeed in adding much to genuine historical knowledge. The pursuit of the past needs to be undertaken for its own sake, and by people with a commitment to the impartial search for truth.

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