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Baudry, F. (1979). Life and Death in Psychoanalysis: By Jean Laplanche. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, 148 pp., $10.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 27:687-694.

(1979). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 27:687-694

Life and Death in Psychoanalysis: By Jean Laplanche. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, 148 pp., $10.00.

Review by:
Francis Baudry, M.D.

For an analyst trained primarily in the American system of psychoanalysis, the task of critically reviewing this book is a formidable one. What is required is a total immersion in what appears at first as another world with a different language, syntax, history, and problematics. The book deals with a peripatetic survey of some of the nodal points of Freud's theoretical model. It is an attempt to highlight some of the issues described and isolated in that encyclopedic volume, Vocabulaire de la Psychanalyse, which we know as the Language of Psychoanalysis, written in collaboration with J.-B. Pontalis. In order to put the book in proper perspective, some introductory comments on the essence of the French approach to Freud are in order.

It is perhaps a gross oversimplification to refer to a French view of analysis (just as it is an oversimplification to refer to an American reading of Freud), but it is nevertheless possible to isolate certain overall tendencies or approaches which are characteristic of each culture's approach to Freud.

The French approach may be characterized as follows: a special concern about latent structure (heavily influenced by the school of Levi-Strauss) that can be read into a text; a special fondness and concern for the vicissitudes of language as an organizing concept (based on the work of Lacan); a lesser emphasis on purely clinical issues and developmental problems, so that the findings and observations of child analysis are rarely if ever alluded to; a heavy literary philosophical blend, with methods of literary analysis, particularly rhetoric, used freely with some crucial texts; an interest, at variance with the above, in attempting to describe metaphorically the analytic process in terms of space and forces; and finally, an attempt to apply psychoanalytic principles to the study of the theory itself.

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