Becom­ing Freud: The Mak­ing of Psychoanalysis

Adam Phillips
  • Review
By – July 14, 2014

Read­ers look­ing for a biog­ra­phy of Freud might do well to pay atten­tion to this vol­ume’s sub­ti­tle; this book focus­es heav­i­ly on Freud’s devel­op­ment of psy­cho­analy­sis. Indeed, Phillips opens by explain­ing to read­ers why the very notion of biog­ra­phy is anti­thet­i­cal to psy­cho­analy­sis: what is tru­ly impor­tant about any per­son can only real­ly be known to that per­son, as uncov­ered in analy­sis. If biog­ra­phy reveals any­thing, it is some­thing about the biog­ra­pher’s desires, not the sub­jec­t’s. With that caveat in mind, Phillips then offers read­ers a few oblig­a­tory pages detail­ing the facts of Freud’s birth, upbring­ing, and edu­ca­tion, before com­ing to what he con­sid­ers the core mate­r­i­al:, Freud’s intel­lec­tu­al influ­ences and his evolv­ing under­stand­ing of the work­ings and unwork­ings of the human mind. While Phillips’; exper­tise with the lan­guage, con­cepts, and his­to­ry of psy­cho­analy­sis is obvi­ous, lay read­ers may find them­selves a bit lost in the minu­ti­ae of hermeneu­tic debates for which they have no real con­text for com­pre­hen­sion. That this biog­ra­phy” was assem­bled from a series of lec­tures only adds to the dif­fi­cul­ties; many pas­sages must be read aloud to make sense. How­ev­er, for the read­er well-versed in psy­chol­o­gy, this book might be bril­liant. Index, notes.

Relat­ed Content

Bet­ti­na Berch, author of the recent biog­ra­phy, From Hes­ter Street to Hol­ly­wood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezier­s­ka, teach­es part-time at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty College.

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