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Allison, G.H. (1995). In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry. By Zvi Lothane. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 550 pp., $59.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:573-576.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:573-576

In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry. By Zvi Lothane. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 550 pp., $59.95.

Review by:
George H. Allison

Senatspräsident Daniel Paul Schreber c. 1890

This book, encyclopedic in scope, will prove an engaging and satisfying experience for anyone interested in psychiatry and mental illness or in the famous case of Daniel Paul Schreber, the subject of an important essay by Freud (1911). Zvi Lothane's research has unearthed new information, and he has clarified and enriched old material with a new perspective.

The work transcends previous studies, and offers a fresh and contemporary assessment of Schreber's life and illness. It corrects the often reductionistic studies of the past with a convincing critique. For example, Freud's thesis that Schreber's paranoid illness was based on latent homosexual impulses awakened in the transference to his psychiatrist, Flechsig, is placed in a new perspective embracing the actual details of Schreber's relationship with Flechsig. Lothane also provides a new perspective on William Niederland's papers of the 1950s (1959a, 1959b), which addressed data concerning Schreber's father's rigorous (and inferentially sadistic) application of orthopedic devices and rigid principles of child rearing to his children. Not only are Niederland's findings and speculations placed in a new light, but their elaboration by Morton Schatzman (1973), an American psychiatrist who claimed to present a radically new theory in his popular Soul Murder: Persecution in the Family, is further discredited.

Lothane is a first-rate scholar who succeeds in bringing Schreber and other key figures to life. Schreber is revealed as a distinguished, sensitive, and highly intelligent person whose tragic mental illness becomes coherent and emotionally moving as the details fall into place.

The book's title, In Defense of Schreber, refers to the real neglect and abandonment Schreber suffered at the hands of Flechsig, whom he idealized, and his wife Sabine at the time of his second hospitalization and commitment.

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