Archive for January, 2012

Book Review – Veronika Fuechtner, Berlin Psychoanalytic: Psychoanalysis and Culture in Weimar Republic Germany and Beyond (California 2011)

Elizabeth Ann Danto

In late August 1908, the young psychoanalyst Karl Abraham wrote excitedly to Freud. “Things are moving!” he enthused. “On the 27th the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Society will meet for the first time.[1]”  Indeed the city of Berlin’s creative energy appealed to talented urban newcomers like Abraham, and also Max Eitingon, both recently arrived from training in Zurich and both self-reliant Jews. As usual, Freud tempered his own enthusiasm but encouraged his protégés. “The chronicle of our undertaking is perhaps not always pleasant, but that may be true of most chronicles; it will yet make a fine chapter of history.”[2] This is the chapter that Veronika Fuechtner, associate professor of German Studies at Dartmouth College, has attempted to deconstruct, an episode of urban history as rich in human despair and political aspersion as in cultural production. Fuechtner fastens her account of Berlin’s early twentieth-century élan to psychoanalysis, and she uses the word with postmodern multiplicity so that, in both its theory and its practice, psychoanalysis takes on the properties of a cultural meta-narrative all its own. As though ambiguity were its nom-du-père, the psychoanalytic discourse in Berlin is caught in a grim alternation between modernism and fascism; it rests where it can, landing interchangeably on the wildness of German culture, its battle cry of anti-Semitism, its intransigent Goethe-Schiller romance, and its cult of the scientific. How else could one explain the wild-eyed terror evoked in the photo, a still from Pabst’s 1926 movie Secrets of a Soul, that stares out at the reader from the book’s jacket cover?

Having taken up the task, Fuechtner develops a layered representation of what she terms “Berlin Psychoanalytic,” a particular nexus of avant-garde intellectuals grappling, each in their own way, with the mind and its unconscious. Perhaps to parallel her sense of the era itself, she has created a work of history where the incidents are not set down in chronological order (though there is some of that) but as they occur within four case studies of two or three protagonists each, “talking to” each other. There is no dialogue per se. Instead each case study features a sort of modern German existential theme around which the narrative – which is actually interpreted research – is told.

Alfred Döblin and Ernst Simmel “talk” about psychoanalysis, war neurosis and social misery in Case Study #1. Both men were physicians and psychoanalysts involved with the celebrated Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute (BPI), but Döblin was a novelist while Simmel was an organizer of people and programs. When Simmel died, Max Horkheimer remembered him, and Freud, as “relentless enemies of intellectual superstructures [and] the metaphysical hiding places of the mind.[3]” Though Simmel holds a very small place in this chapter which is largely devoted to Döblin’s biography and dark novels, Döblin’s apparent fascination with precisely those “metaphysical hiding places of the mind” would have made for solid, politically-charged, exchanges between the two men.  Instead the chapter details how Döblin applied psychoanalytic knowledge to evoke the chaos of human interiority in his novels Berlin Alexanderplatz and Two Girlfriends Commit Murder, and Fuechtner says that Döblin’s genre of psychological probing was specific to the “highly politicized psychoanalytic scene in Berlin (p. 64).” The literary analysis is well-crafted but the claims to Weimarian uniqueness of context leave me unconvinced.

Georg Groddeck was a novelist too, interested in those levels of consciousness that are tinged with the kind of mysticism thought to preclude the psychoanalytic method. Fuechtner reviews his novels and his The Book of the It systematically for psychoanalytic content and adds the degree to which Freud was, or was not, interested in each. Further, she pairs Groddeck with Count Herman von Keyserling for the purpose of adding high culture and spirituality to the Berlin mix, itself a tour through sexuality (alternatively pro- and anti-feminist), eugenic thought, and ideological shifts toward and away from the Nazis. Along the way, we meet Karen Horney, Thomas Mann, Carl Jung, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, among others, all of whose paths intersected with the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute as they pursued psychoanalytic explanations of human conditions and reacted, perhaps to Groddeck’s displeasure, far more to Freud than to himself.  Little of this mattered once Hitler took over. Felix Boehm and Carl Müller-Braunschweig, two analysts of the BPI Polyclinic (which is sorely underserved by the book, especially since Fuechtner wants to make a case for progressive politics at the BPI) who became Nazi collaborators and pretty much guided the endeavor’s aryanization, take second place to the pairing of Max Eitingon and Arnold Zweig. Their “dialogue” begins when both men emigrate to Palestine; Eitingon starts the Palestine Psychoanalytic Association and Zweig weaves in and out of his life, at times as confidant, as caretaker, as intellectual ally or opponent, as Jew in exile longing for a kind of community neither will ever find again.

The book’s final transnational stop is New York where Karen Horney meets up with Charles R. Huelbeck (né Richard Huelsenbeck). The two had known each other in Berlin and reconnected through psychoanalytic institutions in postwar America. He was involved with Dada and drumming; she quarreled with colleagues but wrote persuasive arguments countering Freud’s biologism in women. Fuechtner has resurrected Huelbeck’s texts on sexuality, fascism, anti-Semitism and creativity to explore how he and Horney experienced exile and attempts at assimilation.

“Berlin Psychoanalytic” is a serious book with good primary source research and its share of Foucaultian touches.  The conceptual dialogues between psychoanalytically-oriented intellectuals portray a continent adrift in subversion and play, perhaps like Weimar Berlin or modernism itself, exhilarating at the time but lost to the forces of cooptation and repression. As the book draws to a close, its story seems nearly as anxious as the couple caught on the cover – a still from “Secrets of a Soul” (1926), the psychoanalytic film by GW Pabst that represents yet another expression of Weimar-era cultural and intellectual ferment.


Elizabeth Ann Danto

Elizabeth Ann Danto, PhD, is professor of social work at Hunter College and at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her book “Freud’s Free Clinics – Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938,” (Columbia University Press, 2005) was awarded the Gradiva Book Award and the Goethe prize. Her textbook on historical research in the social sciences was published by Oxford University Press in 2008. Dr. Danto writes and lectures extensively on the history of psychoanalysis as a system of thought and a marker of urban culture.

[1] Karl Abraham to Sigmund Freud, August 21, 1908. Letter # 46A in Ernst Falzeder (ed., 2002)  The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham. London: Karnac p. 56

[2] Sigmund Freud to Karl Abraham, January 2, 1912. Letter #119F in Falzeder, Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham. p. 145

[3] Horkheimer, M. (1948) “Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy”, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 29: 110-113

Call for paper – Material culture in closed spaces

Plan for a bed in a Belgium asylum (1930s)

Interest for closed spaces played an important part in the critical renewal of the humanities from the 1960s on, as demonstrated in particular the work of Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault. For the past ten years, the spatial turn has provided new impetus for a greater consideration of space as a place of socialisation. These approaches, devoted to the empirical study of institutions such as the mental hospital and prison, have put the actors and social dynamics at the center of their interest. In keeping with this line of research, we propose to shift the gaze to the material cultures of these spaces.
Be it the prison, the convent, the boarding school, the nursing home, the (psychiatric) hospital or the camp, the material culture of these institutions has gained little consideration till now. Objects, however, configure the experience of closed spaces as well for those who can leave them as for those who are locked up. They allow for a detailed classification of the different populations who constitute these places. How does the staff working in confined spaces appropriate these workplaces? How do the inmates arrange this enclosing physical framework, a framework which among other things, prevents any intimacy of the daily rituals, which are open to the gaze of others. How do these two groups of actors interpret, confirm, deny and/or transform this reality?
These spaces are commonly perceived as hermetically closed. On closer inspection, it appears that they constantly open themselves up to the outside: in particular, the maintenance of buildings and of the infrastructure requires the intervention of people (artisans, gardeners, surveyors, architects…), which are commonly not associated with these spaces. But there are also objects (letters, cigarettes, combs …) that make these enclosed spaces porous. People use objects to occupy the space and to manage the time in those places. These material items provide the framework of the social construction of space. They shape the possibilities for acting of the multiple actors.
The biography of an object – the imagined object, the produced object and the acting object – allows us to rethink spatiality. Its materiality opens but also limits the actors’ scope for manoeuvre. Professional items (medical devices, weapons, handcuffs …) as well as the infrastructure (toilets, tables, beds …) must be examined in relation with the people who use them. We would like to direct the attention at the techniques applied by the actors in order to use this arsenal of objects. The unspectacular objects and the daily rituals in using them are our main interest. The interaction between actor and the materiality of the objects produces focal moments where power relations become visible and that allow us to examine the material and bodily aspects of experiences and human practices.
This workshop is aimed at social scientists and hopes to bring together two methodological trends: on one hand the interest for the analysis of social practices at the micro level and of the different meanings that actors give to their experiences and on the other hand the attention given to objects by assigning them a certain agency, an approach advocated currently by the science studies.
The workshop will be held from 11 to 12 October 2012 at the University of Luxembourg. Proposals for papers (1 page) and a brief CV should be sent by 1 March 2012 to the following address: The working language will be English.

Elissa Mailänder (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales / CIERA Paris)
Benoît Majerus (University of Luxembourg)

British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Monday 30 January 2012, 6pm

Psychoanalysis between Modern Brazil and the “Pindorama Matriarchy”

Professor Cristiana Facchinetti (History of Science and Health, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil    .

Psychoanalysis has been widely used in Brazil for diagnosing the country’s reality. Indeed, this analysis has often involved interpretations marked by value judgements about the material repressed in local traditional customs and unconscious and folklore fantasies. Generally speaking, the intellectuals in the period between the two world wars deemed it feasible to transfer the theory of the unconscious, heterogeneous, singular subject directly from the plane of the individual, with his/her subjective relationships and history, to the plane of the collective, resulting in unprecedented interpretations of the nation’s developing identity.

It is our assumption that different intellectual and academic traditions in Brazil paved the way for these quite peculiar and occasionally contradictory methods of appropriating the new systems of thought circulating in different domestic and international circles in the 1920s-40s. In the specific case of this work, we aim to demonstrate some of the specific agendas that linked the reception of psychoanalysis in Brazil to the construction of the nation’s identity and its modernisation, which is very unlikely if one starts off from the theoretical proposals made by Sigmund Freud.

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544, 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJDirections: From the main reception, go through the double doors at the back and turn left, walk the length of this corridor and at the very end turn left again – you will find yourself in front of the ‘West’ Lifts. Take these to 5th Floor. On exiting the lift, turn right through double doors and then left through single door, walk the length of this corridor pass through another door and then turn right – you will see a marble table ahead. Room 544 is straight ahead.

Happy Birthday h-madness

Two years ago, we published our first post on Soon, an editorial board was set up and h-madness found its place in the blogosphere. In the last year, we have published 139 posts, this one included (the first year we had been more prolific: 207 posts). We had 61 000 page views (the first year 53 000). This year we welcomed a new member on the editorial board – Alexandra Bacopoulos-Viau – and changed our url to We plan on forging ahead and encourage our readers to initiate discussions about our posts through comments. We would also like to thank all the authors of the last year. Here are some statistics (for the geeks out there).

All these posts have been written in the first year of h-madness.

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    • United States (45%)
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385 readers follow the blog through e-mail notification and 187 through a feed-reader.

Call for Papers – The Two Cultures: Visual Art and Science c.1800-2011

“It is bizarre how little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth century art”. – C.P. Snow, 1959

In his 1959 lecture “The Two Cultures” C.P. Snow asserted that the intellectual life of western society was increasingly being split into two polar groups: the sciences, and the humanities. The notion that visual artists and scientists are two entirely isolated strata of human activity and experience has proliferated since the nineteenth century, and continues to plague academic institutions and political policy today. The term “scientist” was coined in 1834 as a means of designating those who worked professionally in the various sciences. The “scientist” was described by direct analogy to the artist; suggesting that these now seemingly dichotomous areas of scholarship were in fact intended to exist in direct relationship to one another.

This conference seeks to challenge Snow’s separatist assertion, and explore the ways in which visual artists have acknowledged, appropriated and assimilated the ideas and theories of the ever-expanding field of “science” in their work since c.1800, the moment at which the professionalization of the sciences engendered a seemingly irrevocable split in the academy. As a result, we hope to recoup a sense of interdisciplinary fluidity amongst the international fields of visual arts and sciences, in order to build as complex and nuanced a picture as possible of the exchanges and interconnections between the “two cultures” over the past two centuries.

We invite abstracts for papers of 20 minutes by postgraduates that address the theme of relationships between the visual arts and the sciences 1800-2011. We welcome submissions from students working across the humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and applied sciences, but ask that the papers specifically address such relationships from the perspective of visual or material culture. Possible themes for discussion might include, but are by no means limited to:

 Collaborations and communications between artists and scientists.
 Representation and/or use of scientific concepts, vocabularies or technologies by an artist in the creation of works.
 Modern medicine and representations of the body.
 Representations of warfare, machinery and technological development – their physical and psychological effects/treatments.
 The influence of post-Darwinian structures/theories on the visual realm.
 The effect of/responses to new media such as photography, film, and internet.
 The advent of cybernetics and computers, from early experimental use to contemporary digital media.
 The ways in which the relationship between art and science intersects with issues of class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity.
 The attitude of art education to science and vice versa.
 How established genres such as landscape and still-life have responded to scientific developments.

Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words. We ask that applicants also submit a brief biography in addition to their abstract. The deadline for submission is February 24th 2012. All submissions should be sent to Kirstin Donaldson and Robert Sutton at along with any questions regarding the conference or abstracts.

Kirstin Donaldson
History of Art Department
Vanburgh College
University of York

New Issue – Temple Law Review

A new issue of Temple Law Review is out and contains the following article which might interest the readers of h-madness.

Deirdre M. Smith, “Diagnosing Liability: The Legal History of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”, in Temple Law Review, 2011, 84 (1), p. 1-70.

This Article examines the origins of the unique relationship between the psychiatric diagnosis Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the law and considers the implications of that relationship for contemporary uses of the diagnosis in legal settings. PTSD stands apart from all other diagnoses in psychiatry’s standard classification system, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and is the focus of significant controversy within psychiatry, because its diagnostic criteria require a determination of causation. By diagnosing a person with PTSD, a clinician necessarily assigns responsibility to a specific event or agent for causing the person’s symptoms, a practice more commonly associated with law. In short, the diagnosis uniquely medicalizes liability. The law has turned to PTSD, on the erroneous assumption that its location in the DSM signifies that it is well-settled science, to serve as a mechanism to resolve difficult problems in assessing legal responsibility. These uses include determining whether a criminal complainant is credible and when emotional distress from another’s negligence is sufficient in itself to serve as a basis for liability. However, by adopting PTSD’s conceptualization of causation of psychological injury, courts unknowingly delegate normative determinations of liability to psychiatry broadly and to the individual psychiatrists who present PTSD evidence at trial. This Article argues that the legal system should consider PTSD’s origins and its persistent controversies as part of a broader reexamination of the role of the diagnosis in the law.

To read the entire article, click here.

The Institute of Psychoanalysis (London) – Spring 2012 events

21 January –  Oedipus through the Life Cycle: Infancy

The story of Oedipus can be used to explore significant aspects of emotional development from many perspectives. The myth was the foundation for Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex, mainly unconscious feelings of wanting to posses the parent of the opposite sex. Melanie Klein through her understanding of object relations opened the door to the exploration of the oscillations of positive and negative unconscious fantasies. Further theoretical contributions, in spite of their differences, acknowledge its importance

This fundamental stage in a child’s development will be discussed by speakers from different theoretical perspectives. Valli Kohon and Nora Markman present papers on ‘Little Hans and Maternal Seduction’ and ‘Subjective Construction on Standby’, and the event will be chaired by Robin Anderson.

29 January – Screening Conditions: Ossessione

A screening and discussion of Luchino Visconti’s provocative dama, adapted from James M Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1943. A young drifter falls for a married woman and they plot to murder her husband.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker Professor Peter Evans.

25 February – Eating Disorders: Anorexia and Obesity

Obesity is a multi-faceted issue. It has social, governmental, physiological and psychological links, causes and consequences. Psychoanalyst Marilyn Lawrence will attempt to make links between the personal and political, the social and psychological.

Following this, Bryan Lask will present a fully comprehensive and integrative model to explain the pathogenesis and maintenance of anorexia nervosa.


Marilyn Lawrence – The Obesity Epidemic

Bryan Lask – Anorexia Nervosa: How can we explain it and how should we treat it?

The event is chaired by psychoanalyst Gianna Williams.

26 February – Screening Conditions: The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz

Directed by Luis Bunuel, this 1955 film tells the darkly comic story of a would-be serial killer with a sexual obsession with murder.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker Professor Peter Evans.

Part of the Screening Conditions ‘Eros and Thanatos’ series, which examines the cinematic portrayal of love and death from a psychoanalytic perspective.

9 March – Temporality in the Unconscious. A Matter of Time: From Churches to Sculpture

The collection included in The Matter of Time, the metal pieces Richard Serra created for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, is one of the most impressive contemporary artistic creations.

The concept of their creation was partly inspired by the church of San Carlo allo Quartro Fontane, designed by Francesco Borromini in the 17th century. The aesthetic emotions we experience in response to Serra’s sculpture are closely related to the descriptions offered by psychoanalysis in its understanding of time and space in the unconscious.

In psychoanalysis, as in philosophy, the notions of time and space are interlinked. We cannot understand one without reference to the other. Reference will be made to the concept of Nachträglichkeit.

18 March – Screening Conditions: Le Boucher

An unlikely relationship forms between a schoolmistress and a butcher – but how will she handle her suspicions when a series of murders takes place in their provincial town? Directed by Claud Chabrol, 1970.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker Professor Peter Evans.

25 March – Screening Conditions: Matador

A mix of black humour, melodrama, fantasy and violence in Pedro Almodovar’s stylish 1986 drama, in which an ex-bullfighter and a female lawyer, both turned on by killing, and a young man who confesses to murders he didn’t commit are drawn together.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker Professor Peter Evans.

29 April – Screening Conditions: Frankenstein

‘Stark, solid and impressively stylish’ (Time Out), James Whale’s 1930s adaptation of Shelley’s novel intelligently explores the world of the obsessive scientist and his monster alter-ego. The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker psychoanalyst Donald Campbell.

This event is part of the Screening Conditions series ‘Horror: The Dark Side of the Unconscious’, a selection of chilling but intelligent films raising fascinationg questions about the appeal of horror movies and concepts of spectatorship and transformation.

4 May – Solitude and Separation Anxiety in Psychoanalysis

Many patients nowadays come to analysis because of a sense of solitude that is being experienced painfully. Some patients are able to express their anxiety in words; others have no words to convey what is sometimes an intolerable sense of loneliness. They express their psychic suffering in a wide variety of ways, such as separation anxiety, disturbances in their sense of identity or somatic symptoms. What solutions can a psychoanalyst offer to such patients?

With the help of clinical examples, Jean-Michel Quinodoz will illustrate how a sense of solitude, which is a nightmare, can change in psychic quality and become a source of personal creativity and a stimulus to affective  relations.

20 May – Screening Conditions: Little Otik

A childless couple take a tree stump for a baby, but it comes to life and develops an insatiable and cannibalistic appetite. Jan Svankmajer’s surrealist retelling of a folk story, released in 2000, uses a combination of live action and stop-motion animation.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker psychoanalyst Donald Campbell.

17 June – Screening Conditions: Pan’s Labyrinth

Set against a backdrop of fascist Spain, a young girl escapes into her own fantasy world which is both captivating and nightmarish. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, 2001.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker psychoanalyst Donald Campbell.

1 July – Screening Conditions: Let The Right One In

An isolated and bullied boy forms a friendship with a mysterious young girl whose appearance in town coincides with a horrifying series of murders. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, 2008.

The film will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker psychoanalyst Donald Campbell.

For more information, click here.

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