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Grier, F. (2017). Lectures on Technique by Melanie Klein, edited with critical review by John Steiner, Taylor & Francis, 2017. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 7(2):225-228.

(2017). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 7(2):225-228

Book Reviews

Lectures on Technique by Melanie Klein, edited with critical review by John Steiner, Taylor & Francis, 2017

Review by:
Francis Grier

In 1936, Melanie Klein gave a series of six lectures to candidates at the British Psychoanalytic Society, and in 1958, she gave a seminar to young analysts of the same society. For the first time they are now published in a book edited by John Steiner. They had lain dormant in the Klein archive at the Wellcome Trust, until in recent years various scholars—particularly Elizabeth Spillius, Heinz Weiss, and Claudia Frank—have worked on them. The seminar was recorded at the time and has now been transcribed. The full story of the process of the recovery of these texts is told within Steiner’s introduction.

This is a major publication, bound to be of interest to all in the world of psychoanalysis, given the central importance of Melanie Klein. It is not that there are new ideas, hitherto unpublished; but, rather, that we are privileged to catch a glimpse of her, as if in person, imparting her ideas to students. There is a unique quality of liveliness and spontaneity to these writings—or perhaps I should say “speakings”, because these texts were all intended to be spoken in small gatherings. They are certainly not speeches, but documents, evidently often intended as notes, not necessarily to be spoken verbatim, but for use as aides-memoires.

In fact, the unevenness of the notes accounts in part for their fascination. It seems that Klein may have had the idea of working them up for publication. The first lecture is virtually fully prepared and could be published with almost no amendments, whereas for some of the others the notes are much more fragmented, and Steiner has had to edit them into a coherent whole. In the case of “Lecture 5”, Klein only set out the long clinical example in a rough series of notes: Steiner has worked these into a coherent narrative, preserving the unintegrated set of notes as an appendix. Readers can thus appraise the notes in their original version along with his well educated guess at the implied narrative.

Presumably, Klein was directly and consciously influenced by her particular audience. In the lectures directed to candidates, she knew they would be intelligent, curious, and psychologically minded listeners, with a basic, but not advanced, knowledge of psychoanalysis. Her discourse is pitched expertly to reach the candidates; she never talks down to them, but she explains much, taking nothing for granted.

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