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Fogel, G.I. (1991). Sublimation: Inquiries Into Theoretical Psychoanalysis: By Hans W. Loewald. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, x + 89 pp., $15.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:250-257.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:250-257

Sublimation: Inquiries Into Theoretical Psychoanalysis: By Hans W. Loewald. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, x + 89 pp., $15.95.

Review by:
Gerald I. Fogel, M.D.

This thought-provoking monograph is not only about sublimation, but also (in a somewhat loose-ended way) a number of other ambitious and controversial subjects in psychoanalysis. In it, the reader will not find a systematic literature review or careful explication of the many significant issues to consider for a balanced and thorough historical perspective on the theoretically elusive concept of sublimation. For such a review, see Boesky's (1986) recent attempt to unravel this conceptual thicket, which he opens by stating that "those who have said that there is no satisfactory definition of sublimation are correct."

Loewald's way is very different. It is as if he says, "Since that is so, I shall dispense with all that. Definitions and rigorous comparisons among theorists must not be what is called for here." In fact, one rarely finds in any of Loewald's work succinct, quotable definitions of important theoretical concepts. Instead he assumes that classic concepts which persist despite theoretical shifts that seem to render them outmoded or inexact, do so in part because the experiences signified remain important. We sense we still need—descriptively or theoretically—the concepts that refer to them. Theoretical concepts must be reexamined in the light of these experiences, in effect, continually reinterpreted and revitalized, if they are to fulfill their proper function, which is to be "live and enlivening entities." Concepts should not merely organize and define, but should also bring life to—be vital representations of the experiences to which they refer.

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