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Marcus, P. Rosenberg, A. (1994). Introduction. Psychoanal. Rev., 81(3):371-378.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Review, 81(3):371-378

Introduction

Paul Marcus, Ph.D. and Alan Rosenberg

I find Bettelheim difficult to read simply because he says everything and there is nothing to be said that one could be certain has not been said by him. But one must read him because he can be exactly right, or more nearly right than other writers.

—Donald W. Winnicott1

When Bruno Bettelheim died by his own hand at age 86 he was described in a New York Times obituary as a “psychoanalyst of vast impact” (Goleman, 1990) and in another article as “one of the century's most important scholarly and therapeutic legacies” (Bernstein, 1990). In the public's mind, Bettelheim's work on childhood psychological problems, personality development, education of children, and therapeutic techniques, although often controversial, was highly respected, even celebrated. Such books as Love is Not Enough, The Empty Fortress, and The Uses of Enchantment, for example, had a tremendous influence on millions of people. In the general professional, psychological, and scholarly communities, Bettelheim's writings on his soul-saving efforts to help emotionally damaged children in institutional settings, on fairy tales, contemporary social problems, and the Holocaust were, and still are, frequently points of departure and debate. Most recently, Bettelheim's life and work—including his controversial suicide and the allegations that he systematically, physically, and psychologically mistreated his patients at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School where he was director—is, as far as we know, the subject matter of at least five biographies that are in progress by authors in the United States and Europe.2

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