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Esman, A.H. (1984). Psychiatry and the Humanities: Edited by Joseph H. Smith. Vol. 2: Thought, Consciousness, and Reality, 1977, 316 pp.; Vol. 3: Psychoanalysis and Language, 1978, 402 pp.; Vol. 4: The Literary Freud: Mechanisms of Defense and the Poetic Will, 1979, 390 pp. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.. Psychoanal Q., 53:93-100.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:93-100

Psychiatry and the Humanities: Edited by Joseph H. Smith. Vol. 2: Thought, Consciousness, and Reality, 1977, 316 pp.; Vol. 3: Psychoanalysis and Language, 1978, 402 pp.; Vol. 4: The Literary Freud: Mechanisms of Defense and the Poetic Will, 1979, 390 pp. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

Psychoanalysis in the current decade appears to be confronted by an existential paradox. In the face of what are, by now, familiar challenges to its preeminence as a clinical procedure and of the reported decline in patient referrals and of candidate applications to its institutes, there appears to be a resurgence of interest on the part of scholars in a variety of fields in the possibility of interchange between academic disciplines and psychoanalytic ideas. It is as though psychoanalysis is seen by many students of the humanities not so much as an obscure therapeutic process but as a body of thought available, like others, for use in scholarly investigations about the human mind and its products.

At the same time, many psychoanalysts, particularly those with a theoretical cast of mind, have been engaged by the recent controversies within the field between those who seek to maintain the status of analysis in the realm of the natural sciences and the new breed of hermeneuticists, for whom the proper place of psychoanalysis is the family of the humanities. To the latter group, affiliated as they are with the critics of "metapsychology," psychoanalysis is closer in spirit and method to history than to, say, molecular biology. Engaged as he is in aiding the patient in the evolution of a coherent personal narrative, the analyst is, they believe, immersed in the universe of language and meaning, which play the central role attributed by "traditional" analysts to drive/defense configurations.

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