Torok, Maria (1925-1998) (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
A French psychoanalyst of Hungarian birth, Maria Torok was born on November 10, 1925, in Budapest and died in New York on March 25, 1998.
She trained as a psychologist at the Sorbonne in the early 1950s; there she met Nicolas Abraham, a philosopher interested in the phenomenology of Husserl and a psychoanalyst, and she became his companion. She was initially a psychological counselor in nursery schools when she went into analysis with Béla Grunberger and later with Margaret Clark-Williams, an American-born psychoanalyst. Torok went on to become an analyst and a member of the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society).
In Torok's work together with Abraham as well as in their individual work, both were concerned with differentiating the "shell" from the "kernel" of any theory, a concern that is articulated in their book The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals in Psychoanalysis (1978; trans. 1994): "[I]f Freud's theories form the protective shell around his intuition, simultaneously concealing and revealing it, what of the actual kernel? For it is the kernel which, invisible but active, confers its meaning upon the whole construction. This kernel, the active principle of psychoanalytic theory, will not show through unless all the apparent contradictions have found their explanation of the unity I ascribe hypothetically to Freud's intuition" (p. 82).
In her 1968 article "The Illness of Mourning and the Fantasy of the Exquisite Corpse," Torok reexamined the problems of introjection and incorporation, as presented from the works of Sándor Ferenczi through those of Melanie Klein. She distinguished introjection, as a process that allows the ego to be enriched with the instinctual traits of the pleasure-object, from incorporation, a fantasmatic mechanism that positions the forbidden or prohibited object within the self in secret. "Installed in place of the lost object, the incorporated object continues to recall the fact that something else was lost: the desires quelled by repression" (p. 114). She developed a theory of the crypt and the phantom that haunts the subject and begins to speak in the subject's place. The phenomenon of the phantom results not from the return of the repressed, but from the cryptic inclusion of an Other, in the face of which the illness of mourning and the work of mourning have not been able to take effect.
Torok thus took on the work of a patient and critical rereading of Freud, Ferenczi, and Klein, in an attempt to identify all that remained unanalyzed and "encrypted" in the systems of psychoanalysis. After Nicolas Abraham's death in 1985, she continued this line of inquiry into psychoanalysis with Abraham's nephew, Nicholas Rand.
See also: Abraham, Nicolas; Introjection.
Abraham, Nicolas, and Torok, Maria. (1986). The Wolf Man's magic word: A cryptonomy (Nicholas Rand, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1976)
. (1994). The shell and the kernel: Renewals of psychoanalysis (Nicholas T. Rand, Ed. and Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1978)
. (1995). Questions for Freud: The secret history of psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Torok, Maria. (1968). Maladie du deuil et fantasme du cadavre exquis. Revue française de psychanalyse, 32, 4. (Reprinted in translation as "The illness of mourning and the fantasy of the exquisite corpse," in Abraham and Torok, The shell and the kernel: Renewals of psychoanalysis.)