A WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS: Selected Papers from 1930 to 1980 by Erik H. Erikson

A WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS: Selected Papers from 1930 to 1980

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A massive tome collecting everything from trivia to entire monographs by the famed psycho-historian who explained Martin Luther's life by his constipation, and Gandhi's by his sexual abstinence.""Selected"" is not the right word for a book of almost 800 pages that includes seemingly everything but laundry lists (e.g., a note of congratulations to some friends on their wedding anniversary). Otherwise, this book takes a lot of going through. Part of the reason is that Erikson, apart from being prolific, is a heavy, unexciting writer. His analyses of the Black Panther Movement and student revolts are detailed in slow polysyllables until Erikson actually makes these issues seem boring. In doing so, he may have provided a service in cooling angry hearts and minds, but surely this was not his intention. A curious modesty sneaks into these pieces, such as when Erikson accepts the National Book Award for his study on Gandhi, and denies that it is ""really a good book."" The Gandhi book has been thoroughly discredited by Ved Mehta, just as Erikson's work on Luther was discredited by Roland Bainton, among other scholars. In short, there may be much reason for modesty in the works of this psycho-historian whose history was often ill-founded. Doubtless, Erikson has integrity--he resigned from the University of California rather than reaffirm a loyalty oath he had already signed during the McCarthy era. His wartime analyses of Hitler's speeches and his own suggestions for the treatment of mentally damanged veterans have a firm place in the history of psychoanalysis. Yet most of the material reprinted here might well have remained in its original place, as it is of immediate interest to few but Erikson disciples and biographers of modern psychology.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1986
Publisher: Norton