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Salman, S. (1996). Neumann, Erich. The Fear of the Feminine: and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology. Transl. Boris Matthews et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press (Bollingen Series LXI:4), 1994. Pp. xiv + 296. Hbk $39.95, £35.00; Pbk $12.95, £10.95.. J. Anal. Psychol., 41(2):298-299.

(1996). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 41(2):298-299

Neumann, Erich. The Fear of the Feminine: and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology. Transl. Boris Matthews et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press (Bollingen Series LXI:4), 1994. Pp. xiv + 296. Hbk $39.95, £35.00; Pbk $12.95, £10.95.

Review by:
Sherry Salman

This volume contains five essays written in the 1950s during which Neumann attempted a depth-psychological analysis of Western patriarchal culture. Forty years later, it is humbling, infuriating, illuminating, and crucial to read the prescient and paradoxical work of a ‘founding father’ of feminine, if not feminist, psychology. For those who wonder about the continuing relevance of Neumann's work on the evolution of culture and the alchemy of feminine consciousness, this volume of newly translated essays will prove quite thought-provoking.

In ‘The psychological stages of woman's development’ (translated by Boris Matthews), Neumann outlined what he believed to be specific to women's developmental journey: namely that Self-discovery and identification with the maternal uroboros can coincide. A man remaining in identification with the primal relationship, i.e. Great Mother, is ‘castrated’ and becomes ill, while a woman is merely ‘fixated’, and can still ‘flourish as a natural whole in a psychologically undeveloped form’ (p. 9). This kind of idealization salted with a little contempt is what has caused feminist theorists to reject Neumann outright.

But then there is the Neumann who understood that individuation and relationship to the feminine self constitutes the core problem of modern women. In the beautiful meditation on ‘The moon and matriarchal consciousness’ (translated by Boris Matthews), Neumann muses on the lunar aspect of the matriarchal spirit and the veiled dimension of the creative process.

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