Books by Erik Erikson

Released: Feb. 1, 2000

A welcome collection of excerpts and essays from the work of the celebrated psychoanalyst (A Way of Looking at Things, 1987, etc.) who died in 1994. Coles, the eminent colleague and biographer of Erikson (Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson, p. 506), divides this volume into five sections: Coles's Introduction; On Children, Nearby and Far Away; On Psychoanalysis and Human Development; On Leaders; and On Moral Matters. The most extensive selections are from the now-classic Childhood and Society and Young Man Luther. For those who have never read Erikson—or have not read him in a while (his last book appeared a dozen years ago)—the compilation vividly illustrates the vast scope of his thought, explains the elements of his theories of development, and displays the language of an author whose best writing was often as lyrical as it was instructive. Commenting on his own profession, for example, Erikson writes: "A man, I will submit, could begin to study man's inner world only by appointing his own neurosis that angel with whom he must wrestle and whom he must not let go until his blessing, too, has been given." Erikson writes about a dazzling array of subjects—from the Lakota Sioux to Tom Sawyer (whose behavior at the fence-whitewashing Erikson playfully explores) to Martin Luther, Gandhi, and Jesus. He studies the small as well as the great, as in his account of a Yurok "doctor," an aged woman of the tribe, who sucks from the navel of a disturbed child the pain that afflicts him. Erikson's achievement, as presented by Coles, readily justifies such occasional excesses as his occasional descent into psychobabble: "A man should act in such a way that he actualizes both in himself and in the other such forces as are ready for a heightened mutuality.— Edited with intelligence and vision—a volume that confirms Erikson's honored place in the pantheon of psychological theorists. Read full book review >