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Rubin, L.S. (2002). Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children: James Herzog. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2001, 350 pp., $49.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(2):698-701.
(2002). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(2):698-701
Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children: James Herzog. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2001, 350 pp., $49.95.
Review by: Lynne S. Rubin
In childhoodimagination, the power of Erlkönig—the King of the Elves—can be lethal. His fearsome influence was the subject of James Herzog's 1980 paper, “Sleep Disturbance and Father Hunger in 18-28-Month-Old Boys: The Erlkönig Syndrome.” And now it is the subject, vastly expanded to be sure, of Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children.
Herzog's work has addressed the psychic implications of the Erlkönig fantasy for a long time. In Goethe's poem “Erlkönig,” as a father ignores the incomprehensible pleas and fears of his young son, the boy dies—in the father's arms—of fright. Herzog's book describes how young boys, without benefit of a father's care, can become victims of their undeciphered fears, and how these fears are manifested in the deprivation syndrome Herzog has labeled “father hunger.”
Father Hunger documents how Herzog uses psychoanalytic intervention to confine the Erlkönig to the realm of childhoodimagination. Unaddressed, father hunger can consume a childhood, and can recur in destructive adult sequelae. Here is the focus of this new and important book.
The role of the father in conflicted human psychology has been powerfully addressed by Freud (the demonological neurosis of Christoph Haizmann and the tormented father-son relationship of Schreberbeing two of his more dramatic case histories), and by Peter Blos, Michael Lamb, Henry Biller, Ernst Abelin, John Munder Ross, and others.
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