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Nemiroff, R.A. (1992). Psychoanalytic Studies of Biography: Edited by George Moraites and George H. Pollock. Madison, Conn.: Int. Univ. Press, 1987, 582 pp., $55.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:869-870.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:869-870

Psychoanalytic Studies of Biography: Edited by George Moraites and George H. Pollock. Madison, Conn.: Int. Univ. Press, 1987, 582 pp., $55.00.

Review by:
Robert A. Nemiroff, M.D.

Psychoanalytic Studies of Biography is the fruit of an interdisciplinary conference on psychoanalysis and biography held in 1982 as one of a series of events celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago. The book continues the tradition of psychobiography begun by Freud in 1910 with "Leonardo da Vinci." But it does more. It explores in a significant way a new dimension for psychobiography which holds the promise of answering sometime critics of the genre who may question the validity of such retrospective psychoanalysis in the absence of analysand.

The theme of the conference and consequently of the book is that a biography is itself a psychological document. What emerges from the contributions of editors Moraites and Pollock and their collaborators is the axiom that a biographer must go beyond careful study of the available facts about a subject and come to understand those elements of his own personality that have affected the path taken and conclusions reached in the work. Any biography that claims completeness must take seriously into conscious account the individual psychology of its author.

In Part I, "Twin Paths to Creativity: The Biographer and His Subject," distinguished biographers Leon Edel and Jean Strouse describe having a "multiple-level dialogical exchange" with their materials—subjects, Henry and Alice James, and their own unconscious processes. The results are informative about the making of biography with genuine psychological depth. For instance, Edel describes in a moving way the transferences that originally blocked him in his understanding of Henry James and the process by which he overcame those obstacles. In the same section, original papers by James Miller and Joseph Lichtenberg further illuminate the insights of these talented biographers.


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