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Bell, D.L. (2015). Reason and Passion: A Tribute to Hanna Segal. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(1):177-200.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(1):177-200

Reason and Passion: A Tribute to Hanna Segal Language Translation

David L. Bell

“Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining whatever happens…could this activity be among the conditions that make men abstain from evil-doing or even actually ‘condition’ themselves against it.”

Hannah Arendt


Hanna Segal's contribution to psychoanalysis was marked not only by its depth but by its extraordinary range. More than anyone else working within the Kleinian framework, she has demonstrated the relevance of psychoanalytic ideas to human knowledge in general; her papers on aesthetics, symbolism, literature and socio-political issues have made fundamental and original contributions which have influenced intellectual life far afield from psychoanalysis per se. It might, thus, seem reasonable to make a division in Segal's work between the clinico-theoretical contributions and what one may think of as the ‘applied work’. This however should be resisted, for this latter aspect of her work has not arisen from her ‘setting about’ applying psychoanalytic knowledge to other objects, but has always been emergent from her immediate clinical and theoretical concerns. Her classic paper on aesthetics (Segal, 1952) can be read both as a clinical discussion of patients who have difficulties in their creative work and, at one and the same time, as a contribution to the central questions of aesthetics. Her study of Joseph Conrad (Segal, 1984) though on one level a psychoanalytic exegesis of his work, turns out to have immediate clinical psychoanalytic relevance as an examination of the roots of creativity in the depressive position and the relation of this to the mid-life crisis.

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