IDENTITY'S ARCHITECT by Lawrence J. Friedman

IDENTITY'S ARCHITECT

A Biography of Erik H. Erikson

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sympathetic, and meticulous account of the life and times of the psychoanalytic giant who mapped a progression of the individual’s lifetime development of identity. Historian Friedman (Indiana Univ.; Menninger: The Family and the Clinic, 1990, etc.) worked with Erikson, his wife, and their family and friends in the years directly preceding Erikson’s death in 1994; he also had access to reams of professional and private records. The goal is not so much theoretical analysis and critique, but rather to place the body of work in the context of Erikson’s own life. As Robert Coles points out in his foreword, Erikson made the connection between psychoanalysis and the social sciences of anthropology, biology, and history; he was a gifted writer whose complex ideas he was able to make clear to a multitude of readers, and his lifetime investigation of how each person constructs an identity is the foundation of our current understanding of the subject. Erikson’s journey would be a compelling enough tale on its own—moving between languages, religions, countries—even had it not generated such a body of work. Erikson never knew who his father was but supposed him to be a Danish gentile; his mother was Jewish. Part of Freud’s inner circle—Erikson was an analysand of Anna Freud—he and his wife left Europe as fascism was on the rise. They lived the rest of their lives moving about the US, where friends and correspondents as varied as Margaret Mead, Benjamin Spock, and Huey Newton helped shape Erikson’s views. Friedman early on puts his finger on a cardinal Erikson quality: in an age of enormous human tragedies, when —contemporaries often described a human condition of gloom, despair, and degradation. . . . Erikson was different. His words and presence signaled hope and possibility despite the enormity of modern human tragedies.— High points (professional acclaim and satisfaction in helping others) and low (professional snarls, family tragedies), Friedman chronicles it all in careful detail. A complicated life, respectfully examined. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: May 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-19525-9
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999