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Sauvayre, P. (2013). More Private than Otherwise: A Review of Private Practices: Harry Stack Sullivan, the Science of Homosexuality, and American Liberalism, by Naoko Wake (2011), Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 363 pages.. Psychoanal. Perspect., 10(1):169-174.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 10(1):169-174

Book Review

More Private than Otherwise: A Review of Private Practices: Harry Stack Sullivan, the Science of Homosexuality, and American Liberalism, by Naoko Wake (2011), Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 363 pages.

Pascal Sauvayre, PhD

A psychiatric patient under the scrutiny of Sullivan's interview retorts, “You seem to be trying to get away from yourself more than you realize and I have often wondered just why a person takes up this sort of work” (Wake, 2011, p. 40).

This quote captures a central theme of Wake's book. Just like the patient, she interrogates Sullivan's private life and work. But she aims to use her exploration of Sullivan as a prism through which to view and critique American liberalism. Understanding Sullivan's conflicted attitude toward (his own) homosexuality opens doors on what are usually made out to be liberating thoughts and attitudes attributed to his legacy, but that also reveal themselves to be repressive and regressive (with defining influences on the future), despite their often well-intended and well-meaning sources. Thus, Wake sets herself a task that goes well beyond a biographical account of Sullivan's life story and intellectual achievements.

The opening quote is part of an exchange recorded at Sheppard Pratt psychiatric hospital early in Sullivan's career. Wake quotes many such clinical back-and-forths between patient and psychiatrist, as well as conference discussions between Sullivan and other luminaries, not to mention interviews with friends and colleagues.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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