Unauthorized Freud

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Frederick Crews, a prominent literary critic, was a defender of Freudian methods and theories in the 1960’s, but he then became an angry opponent of these approaches, as demonstrated in his book, THE MEMORY WARS: FREUD’S LEGACY IN DISPUTE (1995). In UNAUTHORIZED FREUD: DOUBTERS CONFRONT A LEGEND, Crews has assembled impressive readings by seventeen heavyweight scholars who more or less share his point of view, including Frank Cioffi, Frank Sulloway, Malcolm Macmillan, and Ernest Geller.

Several of the selections concentrate on Freud’s methods, judged from the perspectives of logic and empirical evidence. Barbara van Eckardt’s essay, for instance, emphasizes how Freud assumed the truth of his theories, without any effort to consider alternative explanations. Philosopher of science Adolf Grunbaum argues that Freud loaded the dice by hinting at the kind of experiences the patient was expected to remember, so that Freud’s clinical findings had no real probative value for determining the truth of his theories.

The most interesting readings of the book are the critical evaluations of Freud’s case studies, especially the cases of Anna O., Dora, Little Hans, the Wolf Man, and Horace Frink. According to the contributors, there is no evidence that any of these individuals actually benefited from their therapeutic sessions, or even that they ever claimed to have received any benefit. Likewise, Crews’ contributors argue that Freud failed to present any logical or empirical evidence for inferring any relationship between his theories and the psychological disorders of these and other clients.

Although perhaps unnecessarily polemical in places, the readings in UNAUTHORIZED FREUD add up to a devastating indictment of Freud’s theories and therapeutic methods.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, July, 1998, p. 1833.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, June 22, 1998, p. 76.

San Francisco Chronicle. September 13, 1998, p. REV1.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 30, 1998, p. 11.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, November 15, 1998, p. 11.