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Huss, R. (1972). The Double: A Psychoanalytic Study. Otto Rank. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1971. xxii + 88 pp A Psychoanalytic Study of the Double in Literature. Robert Rogers. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. ix + 192 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 59(4):635-637.

(1972). Psychoanalytic Review, 59(4):635-637

Book Reviews

The Double: A Psychoanalytic Study. Otto Rank. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1971. xxii + 88 pp A Psychoanalytic Study of the Double in Literature. Robert Rogers. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. ix + 192 pp.

Review by:
Roy Huss

Until now English-speaking readers were able to catch a glimpse of Rank's work on the double in literature and myth only from Freud's brief allusion to it in his 1919 essay “The Uncanny.” Now, more than fifty years later, Rank's slender volume, which he expanded in 1925 from the 1914 article that Freud admired, has been translated into English for the first time.

Unfortunately the event is considerably less than epochal. Not that Rank's analysis of alter egos, mirror images, shadow selves, and other such character doubles in films, fiction, and primitive myths is not fascinating. On the contrary, I find most intriguing his notion that duplications of the self are hallucinations to ward off the thought of death. In Rank's view, infantile narcissism creates an external immortal self to love, but this projection evolves into paranoia as it takes on the role of an adult conscience chastising the mind for excluding the opposite sex from such self-love. However, the chain of reasoning by which Rank reaches this conclusion sags under the weight of Germanic pedantry. Endless catalogues of the Doppelgängers that appear in the fiction of E. T. A. Hoffmann, Jean Paul Richter, and others and in literary biography and myth precede his monogenic explanation of their psychic origin. Several times I found myself longing nostalgically for Freud's more engrossing manner of leading us through the intricacies of his thought—for his way of making us feel as if we are on the brink of some exciting discovery.

Serious doubt can also be cast upon the universality of Rank's clinical assumptions about paranoia. Even though homosexuality seems generally to be a substratum of paranoiac projection, it does not necessarily follow that pervasive infantile narcissism leads to a brand of homosexuality that generates paranoia.

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