Viktor Frankl

Start Your Free Trial

Download Viktor Frankl Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Viktor Frankl 1905–

(Full name Viktor Emil Frankl) Austrian nonfiction writer and essayist.

The following entry presents an overview of Frankl's life and career.

A world-renowned psychiatrist, Frankl is the originator of logotherapy, a system of psychological treatment he unexpectedly tested and found validation for while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Often called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy—Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler's individual psychology being the first two—logotherapy incorporates Frankl's belief that man possesses an innate "will to meaning" and that the search for significance in one's life is a psychologically beneficial process. Frankl introduced logotherapy in Ein Psychology erlebt das Konzentrationslager (1946), which was translated into English as both From Death-Camp to Existentialism and Man's Search for Meaning. His subsequent writings continue to elaborate on various aspects of this theory. Frankl has written: "As logotherapy teaches, even the tragic and negative aspects of life, such as unavoidable suffering, can be turned into a human achievement by the attitude which man adopts toward his predicament."

Biographical Information

Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Frankl studied medicine at the University of Vienna, graduating as a medical doctor in 1930. Attracted to the psychoanalytic work of Freud and Adler, Frankl began the study of psychoanalysis under Adler and became director of the department of neurology at the University of Vienna. In 1942 Frankl and his family—who were Jewish—were arrested and sent to concentration camps, where his wife and parents were killed; Frankl himself spent three years at Auschwitz, Dachau, and other camps. Following the war, he wrote about his death-camp experiences and about his logotherapeutic system in Man's Search for Meaning. In 1947 he remarried and returned to the University of Vienna as a professor of neurology and psychiatry, where he continued to teach and write about logotherapy. Frankl also lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe between the 1950s and the 1980s. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Austrian State Prize for Public Education, the Austrian Cross of Honor, and several honorary degrees, including an L.L.D. degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

Major Works

The largely autobiographical Man's Search for Meaning, which introduces the psychotherapeutic theory of logotherapy, incorporates Frankl's observations about the way human beings coped with life in concentration camps during World War II. In Ärztliche Seelsorge (1947; The Doctor and the Soul), Die Existenzanalyse und die Probleme der Zeit (1947), and Theorie und Therapie der Neurosen (1956), Frankl continues to expound his logotherapeutic theory by focusing on the spiritual dimension of the...

(The entire section is 628 words.)