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Thompson, N.L. (1996). Freud, Jung And Sabina Spielrein: A Most Dangerous Method. By John Kerr. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. 607 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 65:644-649.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:644-649

Freud, Jung And Sabina Spielrein: A Most Dangerous Method. By John Kerr. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. 607 pp.

Review by:
Nellie L. Thompson

A Most Dangerous Method depicts the overlapping and intersecting relationships among Freud, Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, which Kerr argues decisively shaped the origins and development of psychoanalysis as a theory, clinical method, and institutional movement. Several sweeping and, I believe, questionable characterizations of psychoanalysis are advanced in the opening chapter and reappear in a final chapter as the book's conclusions.

In a scene-setting chapter Kerr introduces the protagonists and melodramatically warns the reader that much of what follows is unpleasant and ultimately tragic. We are told that early in its development psychoanalysis “ceased to be primarily a clinical method and became increasingly a literary, artistic, and cultural movement” (p. 10). According to Kerr, Freud and Jung together distorted psychoanalysis. Kerr writes, in a characterization I wish to question: “The real tragedy is what they did to psychoanalysis as a clinical method. They allowed the interpretive range of psychoanalysis to become woefully constricted while simultaneously creating a political organization that ensured that this constriction would endure” (p. 511). Psychoanalytic institutions are assigned a crucial role in the tragedy that allegedly befell psychoanalysis as a consequence of the split between Freud and Jung. Kerr seizes upon the near- disappearance of Sabina Spielrein from the history of the psychoanalytic movement to exemplify his argument:

The silence that for so long attended her story is emblematic of a more insidious silence that gradually overtook psychoanalysis during this time.

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