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Gilman, S.L. (2013). The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Sonu Shamdasani Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012; 404 pp; $95.00 hardback: After Freud Left: A Century of Psychoanalysis in America edited by John Burnham University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012; 274 pp; $35.00 hardback. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 94(5):1036-1038.

(2013). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 94(5):1036-1038

The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Sonu Shamdasani Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012; 404 pp; $95.00 hardback: After Freud Left: A Century of Psychoanalysis in America edited by John Burnham University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012; 274 pp; $35.00 hardback

Review by:
Sander L. Gilman

The history of psychoanalysis has become an industry. And in a complex way an industry that is amazingly self-reflexive. Historians of psychoanalysis become obsessed with the history of psychoanalysis and the end result can be productive or it can be simply a form of what is usually called ‘Whig’ history - the assumption that the historian knows better than the subject of his or her history and that there is an upward trajectory of knowledge, culminating in the present stance of the author. No modesty here. The insights of the present trump everything else.

Thus we are confronted with two very considerably different volumes of the history of psychoanalysis. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen is the co-author of Le Livre noir de la psychanalyse (2005, The Black Book of Psychoanalysis) and Sonu Shamdasani, the editor and commentator of C. G. Jung's Red Book: Liber Novus (2009). Borch-Jacobsen's position has been and remains a radical critique of psychoanalysis and thus forms a pair with Shamdasani, whose critical suspicions, at least of Jungian psychoanalysis, have colored his work since his Cult Fictions: C. G. Jung and the Founding of Analytical Psychology (1998). First appearing in French as Le Dossier Freud. Enquête sur l'histoire de la psychanalyse (2006), this volume is an attempt to plumb the early history of psychoanalysis as a covert attempt to shape and create a Freud legend. The claim of this volume is that there was a general whitewashing of Freud, his actions and motivations, by Freud himself, his heirs and those who protect the Freud legacy. This debunking has ranged from the hidden family secrets of the Freud family (much made of by Peter Swales in the 1980s and others recounted in this volume) and the suppression of material sources for any history of early psychoanalysis. Now, this is an old and rather worn claim. It first appears in the very earliest Freud biography from 1924 by Fritz Wittels, a volume that Freud angrily annotated with corrections and comments after it had appeared. (Wittels's memoir of that episode, posthumously entitled Freud and the Child Woman by the editor, Edward Timms, was only published in 1995.)

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