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Jacobson, J.G. (1984). Narrative Truth and Historical Truth. Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis: By Donald P. Spence. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1982. 320 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 53:459-466.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:459-466

Narrative Truth and Historical Truth. Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis: By Donald P. Spence. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1982. 320 pp.

Review by:
Jacob G. Jacobson

This book sets out to challenge the importance we grant to the historical dimension in clinical psychoanalytic work. On his way toward developing his primary thesis, Spence appeals to us to make our case protocols more complete, more understandable, and more convincing. While his terms, borrowed in part from aesthetic criticism, may not be the most felicitous for the task, he illustrates through their use our need for a conceptual framework with which to approach the task of making our case reports, our basic scientific data, more faithful to the analytic process. Ideally, he argues, "naturalizing" our text by "unpacking" it of obscure private references and providing explanatory gloss can convert the reader's "normative competence" (the capacity of any trained analyst to comprehend analytic case material) to something approaching what Spence calls the "privileged competence" of the treating analyst.

The primary data of psychoanalysis derive from private two-person processes which are difficult to reproduce for another. Transcriptions, even videotapes, fail to convey the past shared experience of the analytic twosome and its consequences for their current interactions. That such data "with only rare exceptions, are never made a part of the clinical record" (p. 30) is a sample of the overstatements with which the reader of this book will become all to familiar.

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