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Shapira, M. (2020). On the couch: A repressed history of the analytic couch from Plato to Freud: by Nathan Kravis, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2017, 224 pp., ISBN 978-0-26203-661-0. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(2):415-417.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(2):415-417

On the couch: A repressed history of the analytic couch from Plato to Freud: by Nathan Kravis, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2017, 224 pp., ISBN 978-0-26203-661-0

Review by:
Michal Shapira

Nathan Kravis’s book On the Couch: A Repressed History of the Analytic Couch from Plato to Freud offers a stimulating intellectual and visual exploration of the significance of the psychoanalytic couch, providing many erudite insights along the way. The writer is not only a cultural critic and psychoanalyst, but also a historian of art, fashion, decoration and furniture. He examines the long cultural history of posture and sitting positions to shed light on the seating and furniture arrangements in Freud's office, and in those of many other psychoanalysts since. On the Couch received the 2018 Gradiva Award of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP).

Kravis is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He also maintains a private practice in Manhattan. These multifaceted professional interests led him to create this mosaic of the history of the couch throughout the centuries. His book shows how the couch became a symbol of psychoanalysis, of self-knowledge and reflection, as well as a site of ease, luxury, healing, cure, and even transgression.

Today, Freud's couch is a powerful symbol of psychoanalysis. He was given his first psychoanalyst's couch—actually a day bed—in about 1890 by Madame Benvenisti, a grateful and wealthy female patient. The couch was then covered with a warmly coloured Persian rug and scattered with matching chenille cushions and blankets.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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