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Roughton, R.E. (1991). Schreber: Father and Son: By Han Israëls. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1989. Pp. 376.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 72:750-752.

(1991). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 72:750-752

Schreber: Father and Son: By Han Israëls. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1989. Pp. 376.

Review by:
Ralph E. Roughton

Han Israëls is a Dutch sociologist whose research interest is the history of psychoanalysis. This book, a translation of his 1980 Ph.D. thesis Schreber, Vader en Zoon, is important on three counts: (1) it clarifies certain of the biographical facts about Paul Schreber and his father; (2) it points to methodological errors and to alleged political misuse of the Schreber material by later psychoanalytic writers; and (3) although this is not one of the author's primary aims, it does raise again, in passing, the vexing question of the relative importance of early trauma v. intrapsychic conflict in the causality of mental illness.

Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness is indeed a classic document in the history of psychoanalysis, and the controversies surrounding it make an excellent choice of study for a sociologist interested in that history. Israëls is a meticulous and tireless researcher (he persisted for three years until he obtained access to some archival material in East Germany); and in delving systematically into the lives of the two Schrebers, he has produced an authoritative biography backed by the thorough research that has been needed.

Beginning with Freud's use of the Memoirs in his discourse on the mechanisms of paranoia (1911), 'the Schreber case' has fascinated psychoanalytic readers and has attracted numerous authors who have used the Memoirs to 'prove' widely divergent points of view. In addition to psychoanalytic and psychiatric writers, the work has attracted critics and polemicists from the fields of feminism, structuralism, Marxism, and radical theology.

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