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Grotstein, J.S. (1993). In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry. Zvi Lothane. Hills-dale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 550 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 80(4):633-639.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Review, 80(4):633-639


In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry. Zvi Lothane. Hills-dale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 550 pp.

Review by:
James S. Grotstein, M.D.

The author presents us with one of the most unique and painstakingly laborious contributions to psychohistory and psychohistoriography to date. Now, after almost a century of what Lacan so aptly calls “meconnaissance” (“misrecognition”), Senatsprasident Daniel Paul Schreber has been redeemed by the most thorough rereading, to my knowledge, to which any subject of psychoanalytic investigation has been treated. Its scope is as broad as it is deep, and its methodology does justice to the biopsychosocial perspectives, each of which is of unusual importance in this case and has never been so particulately and integratively considered in the annals of this case.

Lothane's Schreber, unlike those of virtually all his interpreters since and including Freud, is shown to be a man of intellect, wisdom, culture, a high level of curiosity before his illnesses, and, during his illnesses and thereafter, a man whose creativity came out only in the very argot of his illness. Nevertheless, he was both a spokesman of his times and yet was beyond his times, anticipating much of Freud's ideas of infantile sexuality, autoerotism, primary process, unconscious bisexuality, and so on. Lothane's Schreber emerges as a unique depathologized “everyman” of late 19th-century Germany who happened to have suffered manic-depressive illness and who whose delusions during his illnesses are examples more of the daydream trances of patients of that category than of schizophrenia—and, furthermore, that these delusions and hallucinations were in most instances primary processed transformations of real events occurring in his life, particularly personally painful events in reference to feelings about his wife, Sabine, and his psychiatrists, Flechsig and Weber.

Let me cite a summary of the author's investigative efforts. After first reading Freud (1911) on the Schreber case and then reading Schreber's (1903) own account, Lothane following the more empathic technique of historiography that he had gleaned from the work of Collingwood (1946), wondered what Schreber's life was like, what were the influences upon it, what was it like to be legally confined to his mental hospitals, and the like.

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