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Bragman, L.J. (1934). Ludwig Lewisohn: Psychoanalyst of Literature. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(3):300-315.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Review, 21(3):300-315

Ludwig Lewisohn: Psychoanalyst of Literature

Louis J. Bragman, M.D.


The early writings of Ludwig Lewisohn are permeated with evidences of a turbulent neuroticism (1). Two major problems irked him, from the galling influences of which he desperately endeavored to shake himself free. He was harassed by a youthful sense of frustration in his literary ambitions, attributable as he thought to the oppressiveness of racial prejudice. In the emotional sphere he was infinitely pained by the yoke of an incompatible marriage. A sense of defeat nearly overwhelmed him, and his nervous problems arose from a feeling of hopelessness in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Basically, it seemed as though a fatal and fateful CEdipus situation would overtake him (2). True to the neurotic character, he fled, again and again, both actually and symbolically, to the shelter of maternal arms. Sympathetic readers of the works of Lewisohn have ever been curious to know what the outcome might be: complete submission to the forces of reality, or successful solution through absolute understanding of the mechanisms in operation.

That efforts at self-healing were in effect is evident from the start. Thus, as if in reply to a hostile racial attitude, he who had denied his very ancestry immersed himself in a thorough study of his people and their problems and in such works as “Israel” and “The Last Days of Shylock,” he becomes a Jew with a vengeance. Over-determination, over-compensation saved him here, and as an apostle of Judaism the stings of anti-Semitism hurt him no longer. Again, he rationalized his marriage and divorce attitude in a manner thoroughly satisfactory to his peace of mind. Thus, in “Stephen Escott” he becomes the clinician of marriages; and in “The Case of Mr. Crump “he ab-reacts his hard and harsh feelings towards marriage and its incompatibilities, and attains health and well-being by cutting, as he himself puts it, the umbilical cord.


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