Published as the catalog for the Library of Congress’ 1998 exhibit honoring Sigmund Freud, FREUD: CONFLICT AND CULTURE is a collection of eighteen essays largely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of the father of modern psychoanalysis. Edited by the exhibit’s curator Michael Roth, these essays review Freud’s writing habits, discuss his work as a practicing psychoanalyst, and examine his influence on medicine, the arts and humanities, and popular culture.
It becomes readily apparent from reading the essays in this volume that significant controversy has arisen over the enduring value of Freud’s work during the closing decades of the twentieth century. Roth and James Billington, the Librarian of Congress who was instrumental in staging the exhibit and publishing this collection, commissioned essays principally from scholars who admire Freud. As a consequence, many contributors who discuss his work habits and his accomplishments in psychoanalysis tend to dismiss criticisms leveled at Freud by their contemporaries. Among the more notable essays by Freud’s admirers are a personal memoir by Harvard professor Robert Coles, who relates his own early fascination with Freud spurred by his colleague Erik Erikson, and a thought provoking commentary by philosopher Frank Cioffi which attempts to explain why Freud has become the whipping boy for so many postmodern scholars.
Freud’s detractors are represented in the volume by Adolf Grunbaum and Muriel Dimen. Grunbaum attacks Freud for the derivative nature of his work and for his single mindedness in promoting his theories in the face of conflicting evidence. Dimen lays out the case for feminists who find Freud misogynous and myopic in his treatment of women.
As with any scholarly collection, the level of sophistication among essays varies widely. Most are written for the educated general reader, however, and anyone interested in the fate of Freud’s ideas will find FREUD: CONFLICT AND CULTURE illuminating.
Sources for Further Study
Library Journal. CXXIII, November 1, 1998, p. 115.
Mirabella. September, 1998, p. 96.
The New York Times Book Review. CIII, November 22, 1998, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, September 28, 1998, p. 88.
US News and World Report. CXXV, October 19, 1998, p. 60.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, November 15, 1998, p. 11.