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About the book:

Sigmund Freud's legacy and reputation have been under attack for several decades, but when the Library of Congress originally planned its Freud exhibition in 1996, their work seemed to have been conceived in total denial of that fact, and critics cried foul. After two years of tinkering, the exhibit was finally rescheduled to open in October 1998, and this coinciding collection of essays reflects the intervening debate. Librarian of Congress James Billington sets the wary editorial tone of a somewhat altered book in his foreword, speaking for example of the "now famous" Freud-Fliess correspondence--although anyone who knows the history of that correspondence's suppression, never mind its content, might well conclude that the more appropriate adjective is "infamous."

Most of the 18 essays, however, remain tenderfooted and pious, especially those by analysts such as Ilse Gubrich-Simitis and Patrick Mahony. Hannah Decker's article on the Dora case mentions critics in passing, but likewise sidesteps the more unpleasant issues, writing that Freud eventually "acknowledged his errors and showed he had made significant advances." But many critics, unmentioned by Decker, have argued strenuously that there were no real advances; even if there were, it remains clear that they did not permit Freud to see his own behavior in an honest light. Some of the overtly Freudian contributors are more flexible and, by extension, more interesting: Peter Gay on psychohistory, for example, and Robert Coles on the social idealism accompanying the idea that psychoanalysis was a key to resolving human conflict. And, as a result of the 1996 controversy, topnotch critics of Freud such as Adolf Grunbaum are now grudgingly represented. Still, Peter Kramer's rueful retrospective could serve as a coda not only to the volume but to the current state of Freud studies: "Our vision of Freud is composed of extreme images that barely intersect." --Richard Farr

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