Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

A collection of fifteen essays written by Karen Horney between 1922 and 1936, Feminine Psychology presents groundbreaking material for the study of women as intellectual entities in their own right, rather than theories based on women’s supposed disappointment in not being born male. Initially intended as refutations of much of Sigmund Freud’s theoretical construction for psychoanalysis, the essays included are representative of Horney’s early work and teaching in the area of psychotherapy. The volume is not a comprehensive compilation of all of her essays written during this time period or on this subject. Rather, it is meant to encompass the breadth of Horney’s ideas. The book was edited by Harold Kelman, a disciple of Horney and one of the psychoanalysts who, with her, founded the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis and later became its president.

The essays in Feminine Psychology follow a roughly chronological order (“roughly” because dates of presentation and dates of publication often overlap). They span a period of Horney’s life which included the collapse of her marriage and her emigration with the youngest of her three daughters to the United States. These personal upheavals are reflected in such essays as “The Problems of Marriage,” “Maternal Conflicts,” and “The Distrust Between the Sexes.”

Most of the essays included in this work were presented as scholarly papers at...

(The entire section is 577 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Feminine Psychology was not published until twenty-five years after Horney’s death. During her lifetime, her work, like the women of whom she wrote, was devalued and dismissed. In her later years, her work became increasingly controversial, to the point that the New York Psychoanalytic Society split between the traditional Freudians and the disciples of Horney. This led to the establishment of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. Out of the bitterness that arose from this split, the New York Psychoanalytic Society launched a campaign to discredit Horney’s work—a campaign that proved to have substantial influence for many years.

In 1967, however, Horney’s colleague and friend Harold Kelman compiled the collection of essays that became Feminine Psychology. Leaders of the nascent feminist movement, hailed Horney’s work as a confirmation and vindication of their cause. Indeed, Horney’s attention to the consequences of sexual inequality in society put her ahead of her time. Her celebration of individuality validated the feminist position on the intrinsic worth of every woman. Her praise for the wonders of motherhood helped to establish the societal value of women. Her constant refusal to bow to the pressures of a male-dominated profession and world continue to be an example to respect and emulate.

This is not to say that Horney’s work is now universally accepted, even among feminists. She was not herself a feminist in the modern sense of the word, and some of her claims, such as the innate wish of every woman to be raped, are extreme enough that some critics want to discard all of her work. She was a product of her culture, just as she states the ideal of womanhood to be. Yet increasingly, even those who originally repudiated her work have come to acknowledge its insight. It is indisputable that Karen Horney and her work in feminine psychology provided the impetus for a movement in psychotherapy away from the patriarchal “father figures” of analysis to a more respectful treatment of women, both in analysis and in the greater society.

Later works of Horney include The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937), New Ways in Psychoanalysis (1939), Self Analysis (1942), Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis (1945), Are You Considering Psychoanalysis? (1946), and Neurosis and Human Growth (1950), as well as numerous articles in The American Journal of Psychoanalysis and other scholarly publications.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Chodorow, Nancy J. Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989. A highly acclaimed collection of essays that trace a history of the development of a feminist view of psychoanalysis, crediting Horney as the first to challenge the Freudian theory. Indexed.

Horney, Karen. The Adolescent Diaries of Karen Horney. New York: Basic Books, 1980. The diaries themselves are interesting, covering Horney’s life from the age of thirteen through her first year in medical school. More useful in many ways, however, is the introduction written by Horney’s daughter Marianne.

Quinn, Susan. A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney. New York: Summit Books, 1987. A clearly written biography, this work does not say much about Horney’s influence after her death but does provide a very complete analysis of the forces at work in her life. Extensive notes, a bibliographic essay on each chapter, a chronological list of Horney’s writings, and a thirteen-page index are included.

Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis. New York: Dial Press, 1978. A sympathetic analysis of Horney’s life and work. A chapter on Horney’s views of feminine psychology connects her writings to key factors in her life and career. Contains notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Sayers, Janet. Mothers of Psychoanalysis. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. A good introduction to Horney’s work, the volume comprises four essays on female psychoanalysts: Deutsch, Klein, Anna Freud, and Horney. Rather scathing on some of Horney’s beliefs, it provides a short, objective overview of her achievements. Features extensive notes and an excellent index, plus six pages of bibliography.

Westkott, Marcia. The Feminist Legacy of Karen Horney. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986. As this work presents a theory of women’s personality development in terms of the feminist perspective, it brings together all of Horney’s writing to assess her influence on the women’s movement. It emphasizes the concept of feminine alienation and explores cultural influences that encourage character traits commonly associated with women, especially nurturing inclinations. Includes a twenty-one-page bibliography and an index.