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Goldberg, R.S. (1994). Meeting Freuds Family, by Paul Roazen, University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. 220 ps.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(4):377-378.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(4):377-378

Book Reviews

Meeting Freuds Family, by Paul Roazen, University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. 220 ps.

Review by:
Robin Steier Goldberg, Ph.D.

In the early 1960s, having recently completed his thesis in political science, Paul Roazen began to systematically interview members of Sigmund Freud's biological and psychoanalytic families. These included interviews with Anna, Oliver, Esti, and Mathilda Freud, as well as dozens of Freud's colleagues and trainees. The author undertook this project because he considered Freud to be a pivotal figure in the history of ideas, and felt that he needed to be evaluated in the familial, social, and moral realities of his time.

In the ensuing thirty years Dr. Roazen has published extensively on Freud and the history of the psychoanalytic movement. Much of the information that he gleaned from these interviews, such as Anna Freud's analysis by her father, has already been written about in other places. What then does this book have to offer us at this point in time?

In fact, this articulate, well-written book can be read on a variety of levels. Most simply, it is a “good read.” Through his interviews, the author captures the nuance and flavor of Freud's relationships, and in doing so, of important aspects of Freud's character. Freud emerges from Roazen's account as a fully dimensional, entirely human being. For example, in seeing Freud through the eyes of his surviving children and daughter-in-law, a clearer sense of Freud's morality and ethics can be understood. His relationships with his disciples, and the ways in which he encouraged both closeness and dependence, provide insight into Freud's character and help to explain how Freud aroused “the kind of loyalty among some of his followers that can only be compared to the fanaticism found within certain cults” (p. 28).

On another level, the author succeeds in placing Freud in historical context, and through this, brings certain commonly held notions into question. Thus, in his examination of Freud's relationships with many of his female disciples, Roazen seriously challenges the popular feminist notion that originated in the seventies that Freud was a misogynist who poorly understood women. Freud's professional encouragement and admiration of a group of intellectually ambitious women was highly unusual for the culture in which he lived. In fact, as Roazen notes, there were more prominent women in the top ranks of psychoanalysis during Freud's time than there are today.

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