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Freeman, P. (2008). Meeting Movies by Norman N. Holland Fairleigh Dickinson Press, Madison, NJ, 2006; 201 pp; $41.50. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(3):676-679.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(3):676-679

Meeting Movies by Norman N. Holland Fairleigh Dickinson Press, Madison, NJ, 2006; 201 pp; $41.50

Review by:
Phillip Freeman

The shift in emphasis from the object of perception to the perceiver that is represented in psychoanalysis by the shift from a one- to a two-person psychology is paralleled in literary criticism by the shift from New Criticism to reader-response theory. Norman Holland, who studied psychoanalysis in the early 1960s to inform his literary criticism, began his long and prolific career as a devotee of New Criticism. As such, he attempted close readings of texts and films in order to ferret out the themes and qualities placed “in” them by the authors and directors (p. 17). By the 1970s his criticism reflected the new reader-response emphasis whereby no qualities exist in the text except as they can be known through the highly personal and actively constructed responses of readers and viewers. “Movies happen in us”, (p. 12) he says, and “even a skillful psychological critic … cannot explain a movie's appeal just by looking at the movie itself” (p. 18). Although, in the last half century, such conclusions based on the irreducible subjectivity of the perceiver have become commonplace, some critics, like some analysts, remain particularly alert to presumptions of detached objectivity.

In Meeting Movies, his thirteenth book, Holland, on the eve of his eightieth birthday, not content to bracket and qualify his observations as contextualized opinions, the products of his personal readings and filters, decides he will try “something else” (p. 13). He will no longer hide his personal response behind intellect. Instead, he will offer, through self-disclosure, what he takes to be the raw data of his experience, his personal and autobiographical associations to the films. Only by coming clean, he concludes, can he level the playing field, and avoid the fallacy of his erstwhile ‘god's-eye view’. In short, Holland decides to get real with the movies.

By means of these self-disclosures, Holland hopes to “open up the psychological possibilities of the movies” (p. 13). He also challenges the reader to “Use my thinking about a movie to think about yourself (p. 13). The general reader has a chance to evaluate the success of Holland's efforts to model self-exploration and thereby enhance and deepen the experience of these movies.

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