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Sternbach, S.E. (2005). WHY PSYCHOANALYSIS? By Elisabeth Roudinesco. Translated by Rachel Bowlby. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. 184 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 74(2):591-598.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 74(2):591-598

Book Reviews

WHY PSYCHOANALYSIS? By Elisabeth Roudinesco. Translated by Rachel Bowlby. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. 184 pp.

Review by:
Stephen E. Sternbach

In his posthumously published paper, “Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defense” (1938), Freud referred to the “person whom we know as a patient in analysis” (p. 275). Quietly stated, obliquely referred to—since the direct referent in fact is to the ego—the designation of this “person whom we know as a patient in analysis” nevertheless strikes us as something new, the conceptual realization over a lengthy theoretical process of a new status of being. Joined with other philosophical traditions that developed a theory of the process of subjectivization, this “person” was later to be called the analytic subject, or, by Lacan, the subject of the unconscious emerging as the “I” of full speech. And this person, now granted the status of subject, over time was to acquire characteristics and dimensions marked out by psychoanalytic theory that both absorbed revolutionary trends in history, and, in turn, revolutionized our relationship to knowledge in the culture of modern society.

The subject demarcated by psychoanalysis, and in particular Freudian psychoanalysis, has to make its way through an embattled terrain marked by inner and outer threats, losses, and traumas that arise not only from external sources, but are also inherent in the structure of its own existence; and it must navigate the specter of the uncanny (for Freud, the chimera discerned in a gap between the familiar and unfamiliar in the encounter with the reality of castration) before it can find itself. A subject of discord, inhabiting a scene of otherness, erupting through the gaps of accepted knowledge, this subject conceived of by Freud is in continual struggle with its drives and desires, its insatiable longings and its sexuality, its anxiety and guilt—in short, its tragedy in a struggle to achieve a life within the constraints of the social order.

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