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Ward, I. (2004). The Importance of Fathers: A Psychoanalytic Re-evaluation edited by Judith Trowell and Alicia Etchegoyen, preface by Anton Obholzer (Hove: Brunner-Routledge, 2002, 256 pp); reviewed by Ivan Ward. Psychoanal. Hist., 6(1):107-116.

(2004). Psychoanalysis and History, 6(1):107-116

Books

The Importance of Fathers: A Psychoanalytic Re-evaluation edited by Judith Trowell and Alicia Etchegoyen, preface by Anton Obholzer (Hove: Brunner-Routledge, 2002, 256 pp); reviewed by Ivan Ward

Review by:
Ivan Ward

This is an important book about a subject which has been neglected in recent British psychoanalysis. As co-editor Judith Trowell says in her ‘scene-setting’ introduction to the volume (there are two introductions and a preface): ‘Fatherhod and fathering have recently become interesting again for psychoanalysts after a long period of preoccupation with mothers and mothering’ (p. 3). The title promises that the subject so long ignored is now once again on the analytic agenda; an overdue re-acknowledgement that the father has, as Freud discovered, a determining role in our mental life.

In her compelling introductory overview (‘Psychoanalytic ideas about fathers’) Alicia Etchegoyen offers some reasons for this neglect, suggesting that it was partly a response by post-war female analysts to the ‘phallocentric’ perspective of Freud and his early followers. The latter focused on the castration complex as the major organizer of emotional growth; the new guard shifted attention to the baby's early dependence on the mother and conflicts over separation and individuation (Mahler, A. Freud). In many cases the new theoretical stance was augmented by observational studies which further skewed interest toward the mother-infant dyad. It has been suggested that Klein's work too fostered the illusion of mother-child self-sufficiency as she increasingly tended to ignore the function of the father in psychological growth and placed all desired parental attributes inside the mother (milk, faeces, penis) (Sayers 1991, p.

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