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Elliott, A. Spezzano, C. (1996). Psychoanalysis At Its Limits: Navigating The Postmodern Turn.. Psychoanal Q., 65:52-83.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:52-83

Psychoanalysis At Its Limits: Navigating The Postmodern Turn.

Anthony Elliott, Ph.D. and Charles Spezzano, Ph.D.

In a 1929 essay, T. S. Eliot wrote about Dante that “he not only thought in a way in which every man of his culture in the whole of Europe then thought, but he employed a method which was common and commonly understood throughout Europe” (cited in Trachtenberg, 1979, p. 1). Dante may have been the last writer to enjoy this guaranteed rapport with his audience. Certainly no psychoanalytic author can expect anything like it. Quite the contrary, it is guaranteed that all psychoanalysts writing for their “colleagues” today will encounter, among at least some readers, disbelief at their failure to grasp basic principles, headshaking over their hubris in imagining that what they have written contains new ideas, or disinterest from readers not of their “school” because they talk “another language” that is too “old fashioned” or “not really psychoanalysis.”

Further, in the theorizing and clinical reports contained in contemporary analytic journals one does not only find authors whose work is intended to advance (or fits neatly into) a project called ego analysis, self psychology, object relational theory, or Kleinian analysis. One also finds authors whose work seems harder to pigeonhole; but, as philosopher Iris Murdoch (1993) has suggested: “We fear plurality, diffusion, senseless accident, chaos, we want to transform what we cannot dominate or understand into something reassuring and familiar, into ordinary being, into history, art, religion, science” (pp. 1-2). We want to say: “That is classical analysis, self psychology, relational psychoanalysis. The author is an element of one of our reassuring unities.”


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