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Tip: To see Abram’s analysis of Winnicott’s theories…

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In-depth analysis of Winnicott’s psychoanalytic theorization was conducted by Jan Abrams in her work The Language of Winnicott. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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Drinka, G. (2009). Before Freud: Hysteria and Hypnosis in Later Nineteenth-Century Psychiatric Cases. By Lilian R. Furst. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2008, 207 pp., $43.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(5):1274-1279.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(5):1274-1279

Before Freud: Hysteria and Hypnosis in Later Nineteenth-Century Psychiatric Cases. By Lilian R. Furst. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2008, 207 pp., $43.50.

Review by:
George Drinka

In this slender volume, Lilian Furst, a professor of comparative literature, presents a series of essays interspersed with the case descriptions of five late-nineteenth-century clinicians, most of whom influenced Freud. These incipient psychiatrists include the legendary French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, whose work fastened Freud's thinking on hysteria, and the American physician George Miller Beard, the exuberant if shallow popularizer of the idea of neurasthenia, a condition strangely seized upon by turn-of-the-century physicians throughout the Western world. Furst also selects case material from Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who first claimed sexual perversions as the domain of psychiatry; Pierre Janet, the heir of Charcot's legacy; and, most surprisingly, Arthur Schnitzler, who before launching into a celebrated career as a novelist was a doctor, the author of a paper on functional aphonia and its treatment with hypnosis.

The major thematic strands that connect Furst's five essays and the case material of these physicians are the evolving dialectic of neurological disorder vs. psychological condition. Into this fabric Furst weaves the more subtle theme of the pre-Freudian difficulty with perceiving patients as human beings replete with subjective points of view, rather than as physiological organisms whose neurological systems are wracked by both vaguely described hereditary weaknesses and strong shocks delivered through their eyes and ears to their nerves.

To tease out her ideas, Furst relies on a subtle reading of the texts of these physicians.

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