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Sauvayre, P. (2013). Sullivan in American History: An Interview with Naoko Wake. Psychoanal. Perspect., 10(1):175-182.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 10(1):175-182

Sullivan in American History: An Interview with Naoko Wake

Pascal Sauvayre, PhD

Pascal Sauvayre (PS): Your book, Private Practices (2011), has been receiving a lot of attention from the psychoanalytic community, where it might be read as a psychoanalytic book on Sullivan, and where one might thus expect to follow him as a key contributor (in the arena of psychoanalytic thinkers) to the development of psychoanalytic theory and technique.

But you are a historian, not a psychoanalyst. Your objective must lie elsewhere. Could you clarify? What stance would you recommend a psychoanalytic reader of your book keep in mind?

Naoko Wake (NW): I have always benefited enormously from my interactions with scholars in psychoanalysis, but yes, Private Practices is primarily a historical monograph written for historians. This is not only because I am a historian but also because I believe that Sullivan's life teaches us a lot about American history. For example, do his life experiences tell us something important about the changing sexuality in the 1920s? The relationship between racism and homophobia in the interwar years? The meaning of American foreign policies in international contexts after World War II? The answer to all of these questions is yes, and so I felt I must show how, exactly, this is the case. This is why I did not follow Sullivan's life or theory per se as my chief focus, but instead explored the intersections between his individual experiences and collective elements of culture that for the most part lay beyond the field of psychoanalysis in his era.

And I must tell you that my editor at Rutgers actually talked me into throwing away Chapter 1 of my original manuscript! In that chapter I talked about Sullivan's childhood in great detail, but the editor's response was that the chapter read too much like a “hagiography.” And this made sense to me (though it felt brutal at that time!).

[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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