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Johan, M. (1987). Presentations of Gender: By Robert J. Stoller. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1985. Pp. 219 + xi.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:142-145.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:142-145

Presentations of Gender: By Robert J. Stoller. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1985. Pp. 219 + xi.

Review by:
Morton Johan

This is a fine and valuable book. In the words of the author, the book is a report of a 'chapter' in his ongoing work in the areas of gender and erotic disorders. Stoller has followed a classical medical model in which the study of the most aberrant development is used to lead to an understanding of normal ('ordinary' is the author's word) development.

It is necessary at the outset of this review to say more than a few words about the author's writing style. While the author's presentation is convincing by the substance of the report itself, it is written in a lucid, easy to read, and engaging manner. He tells the reader that he is trying to write as if he were speaking. While he is clearly not imitating Freud, this stype is reminiscent of the 'Introductory lectures' and of 'The question of lay analysis'. Just as the experienced analyst can read those words of Freud and find substance, so too can he read this book by Stoller. Since he has published much of the information elsewhere, there is little to add for the experienced reader except a concise summing up, in which the author has altered his diagnostic vocabulary for greater clarity.

For the first time reader, this book is a clear and concise presentation of the author's research and theories on the origins of gender and of its disorders.

The book has two principle themes. One theme is the hypothesis which comes forth regarding the origins of gender identity. The second theme is a 'preliminary sketch' of the manner in which a psychoanalyst can set up a hypothesis and how such a hypothesis can be checked upon. The second theme, by far the shorter, is for this reviewer worth the price of the book. This second theme is pursued in the first and last chapters. Because space does not permit sufficient elaboration, and because Stoller has written in such an economically condensed manner, the titles of those first and last chapters will stand on their own to give a vivid impression of their contents. The first chapter is entitled 'Naturalistic Observation in Psychoanalysis: Search is not Research'. The last chapter is entitled 'A Preliminary Program for Naturalistic Observation of a Psychodynamic Issue'.

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