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Esman, A.H. (2000). Psychoanalysis and Culture at the Millennium: Nancy Ginsburg, Ph. D., and Roy A. Ginsburg, M. D. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1999, 394 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 69(3):585-588.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(3):585-588

Psychoanalysis and Culture at the Millennium: Nancy Ginsburg, Ph. D., and Roy A. Ginsburg, M. D. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1999, 394 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

This is a rather curious book. Ostensibly “stimulated” by a conference on psychoanalysis and culture held at Stanford University in January 1991 (itself inspired by the exhibition there of Freud's antiquities collection), the book consists of a potpourri of papers on various aspects of “applied” psychoanalysis, only four of which were actually presented at the meeting (it is not clear which four). The “millennial” theme is rather muted, evoked by a number of contributors who are concerned with the impact of “postmodernist” thinking on psychoanalysis and its place in the intellectual world. This issue is raised in the book's introduction by the historian Paul Robinson, who, in surveying the various papers in the collection, concludes that

In the emerging postmodernist canon, psychoanalysis has been reduced to one of several competing systems of knowledge: an admired one, insofar as Freud himself raised doubts about the stability of the self and its power to achieve a disinterested picture of reality, but an arrogant one insofar as psychoanalysis seeks to normalize (or “naturalize”) a story about the human situation that “privileges” men over women, straights over gays, sameness over difference. [p. 6]

Outstanding is Carl Schorske's masterful paper, “To the Egyptian Dig: Freud's Exploration in Western Cultures.” Drawing directly on Freud's passion for antiquities, this work traces his two psychological excavations of Egyptian culture—the first in the Leonardo paper and the second in “Moses and Monotheism.” In the Leonardo essay, Freud was concerned with bisexuality, the phallic mother, and the union of opposites, whereas in the later work, he showed a very different Egypt, “one wholly oriented toward masculine cultural achievements, with Geistigkeit and instinctual repression at the center” (p.

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