THE MEMORY WARS: Freud's Legacy in Dispute by Frederick et al. Crews

THE MEMORY WARS: Freud's Legacy in Dispute

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two long essays by longtime Freud nemesis Crews that originally appeared in The New York Review of Books, along with reprints of 23 letters from psychoanalytic thinkers and practitioners, and Crews's responses to them. Crews (The Critics Bear It Away, 1992, etc.) has read and written widely on Freud and modern psychoanalysis. In ""The Unknown Freud,"" the first essay here, he effectively summarizes recent revisionist scholarship on Freud and convincingly demonstrates that the founder of psychoanalysis often badgered patients into accepting his contrived, even bizarre, interpretations of their verbal material. Crews also provides some very telling evidence for his conclusion that ""Freud's scientific and ethical standards were abysmally low,"" as when the father of psychoanalysis strongly encouraged a wealthy patient of his to donate money for psychoanalytic study. ""The Revenge of the Repressed,"" the essay on ""recovered memory"" (by which adult patients supposedly are helped to remember childhood incidents of sexual abuse) is devastating in that it demonstrates the often empirically spurious nature of therapeutic evidence of abuse. But this essay also is far more problematic than the first, in part because Crews tries to trace a direct line between Freud's somewhat indistinct conception of ""repression"" and recovered memory therapists' claims concerning the repression of trauma. Crews also considerably undermines his case through some selective quoting out of context and through recurrent, rancorous polemical overkill. For example, he claims that advocates of the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder ""constitute the Satan-fearing, lunatic fringe of present-day psychiatry."" He apparently is so obsessed with refuting his adversaries' views that he sometimes barely listens to, much less engages, them. Thus, the letters serve little purpose other than providing material for his sometimes intellectually scintillating, but often gratuitously snide, rhetorical counter-thrusts. Like Freud himself, penetrating but flawed.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 314pp
Publisher: New York Review of Books--dist. by Consortium