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WE ASKED FIVE EXPERTS IN PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY TO TELL US ABOUT THE MOST EXCITING BOOKS PUBLISHED IN THEIR FIELD IN THE PAST FEW YEARS. HERE ARE THEIR RESPONSES.

Harold Blum, executive director of the Sigmund Freud Archives; author of Reconstruction in Psychoanalysis: Childhood Revisited and Recreated (International Universities Press, 1994): Blum calls The Letters of Sigmund Freud to Eduard Silberstein, 1871-1881, Walter Boehlich and Arnold Pomerans, eds., (Belknap, 1991) "extraordinary." Written by an adolescent Freud to a close friend, says Blum, the letters outline the boys' "secret society of two, 'Academia Castellana,' and [how] they took the names of two characters from the Cervantes story and taught themselves Spanish just to be able to communicate in their own argot. The letters are fascinating for the light they shed on Freud's teenage interests, his social commentary on the society of the day, his first expression of romantic love, and his professional inclinations."

Jacqueline Rose, professor of English at the University of London; author of The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (Harvard, 1992): Rose cites Julia Kristeva's New Maladies of the Soul (Columbia, 1995), in which, she says, the French thinker explores her fascination with psychoanalysis both as practiced and as a source of insight into contemporary malaise. Kristeva "offers a diagnosis of new psychic states of being," Rose explains, "which she sees as emblematic of the modern condition; but also, and more intriguingly, cameo analyses of Madame de Stael and [psychoanalyst] Helene Deutsch. They read like partial autobiographies of her own journey as an intellectual woman."

Sander Gilman, professor of humane studies at Cornell University and of the history of psychiatry at Cornell Medical College; author of Freud, Race and Gender (Princeton, 1993): Gilman describes John Forrester and Lisa Appignanesi's Freud's Women (Basic, 1993) as "the first real attempt to understand the social and professional relations among Freud and women (mostly fellow analysts) and how they changed psychoanalysis. It's the first serious historical work in psychoanalysis that matches Juliet Mitchell's Psychoanalysis and Feminism (Random House, 1975). Most Freud scholarship is all secondary research, but Appignanesi and Forrester really did serious and original work. It's part of an indication that Freud studies have entered into a new decade in which Freud is thought about as an important figure in the history of science, like Darwin or Da Vinci."

Slavoj Zizek, researcher at the Institute of Sociology in Ljubljana; author of Tarrying With the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology (Duke, 1993): Zizek says the two most significant books in psychoanalytic thought today are two recently translated seminars given by psychoanalytic bad boy Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 19591960 (Norton, 1992) and The Psychoses (Norton, 1993). "The reception of Lacan," Zizek says, "is so often filtered through other disciplines--deconstruction, feminism--that even when he's accepted, it's only through a field not his own. These seminars, though, are in his own words; they are incredibly important, not just for psychoanalysis proper but also--in particular The Ethics of Psychoanalysis-- for their connection to cultural studies."

Jessica Benjamin, clinical assistant professor of psychology at New York University; author of The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and the Problem of Domination (Pantheon, 1988): Benjamin picks Stephen Mitchell's Hope and Dread in Psychoanalysis (Basic, 1993). Mitchell, an analyst, "deals with epistemological issues of concern in other theories--such as how to think about the self, or metapsychology--but approaches them from what he calls a relational perspective," says Benjamin. "It's basically the idea that in psychoanalysis the situation is always constructed by two subjectivities. So the basic unit of study in this book is the interactional field, a departure from the traditional intrapsychic model and its focus on the individual."

Kathleen M. Woodward, director of the Center for Twentieth Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; author of Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fiction (Indiana, 1991): Woodward chooses Teresa Brennan's The Interpretation of the Flesh: Freud and Femininity (Routledge, 1992). Brennan, says Woodward, looks at "the way that not only positions--mother, daughter, and so on--can be passed on, but also how emotions can be literally transferred from one person to the other. Those [in] the position of masculinity project their 'disordered affects'-- envy, anxiety--onto women; these become a kind of weight that immobilizes women into passivity. So sexual difference gets constructed by way of this emotional dumping--those in the active position construct those in the passive. "I like the literality of the notion that femininity is a weight," continues Woodward, "and that we have to get rid of it."

--Ariel Kaminer

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