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Smith, H.F. (2001). The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture: Nancy. J. Chodorow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 328 pp., $27.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(4):1427-1431.

(2001). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49(4):1427-1431

The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture: Nancy. J. Chodorow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 328 pp., $27.50.

Review by:
Henry F. Smith

There is a chance for the renewal of any discipline when a gifted thinker from another intellectual culture enters the field. But few who do so take the lessons of the second discipline back to the first to the benefit of both fields.

Although Nancy Chodorow was originally trained as an anthropologist and sociologist, she is no newcomer to psychoanalysis. She had turned her attention to analysis twenty-five years ago with her landmark book, The Reproduction of Mothering, but now, after having completed full training in psychoanalysis, she has begun to focus her interest on clinical work, to bring to bear some of her cultural expertise upon it, and to take some of the lessons of her clinical experience back to the world of cultural studies.

This book has three parts, each addressed to one of the fields that inform Chodorow's threefold professional life: psychoanalysis, gender theory, and sociology/anthropology. The author quite remarkably finds a way to make us feel at home in each venue, a feat made somewhat easier because, as it turns out, each of the fields is struggling with similar intellectual issues, notably the familiar tension over the creation, as opposed to the discovery, of meaning. In each of the disciplines, moreover, Chodorow takes pains to explore that most elusive of interfaces, the personal and the cultural, and to elucidate, more generically, the clash between specific observation and general theory.

In the first section, “Psychoanalysis,” Chodorow presents her view of analysis as a “theory of personal meaning.” Her approach leans heavily on Loewald, Klein, and Winnicott, but includes, as well, Erikson and Schachtel, along with a few more recent figures, such as Hoffman, Mitchell, and the contemporary Kleinians. These have been the primary influences on her psychoanalytic thinking.

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