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FreudReview - Freud
by Jacques Sedat
Other Press, 2005
Review by Matthew Ray
Mar 1st 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 9)

    Jacques Sedat's Freud -- translated here by Susan Fairfield -- is a brief, chronological and very reliable introduction to the essentials of Freud's psychoanalysis. Its chronological architectonic is far from its only innovation, though. It also gives some -- but happily not too much -- attention to the literary genres of Freud's work (such as case histories, metapsychological writings and technical advise for analysts) and also aims to reveal the "subjective and personal factor" in Freud's impressive body of texts (p.72). The subjective and personal factor in Freud's writings is naturally associated with their origins and most clearly explicated by Sedat with regard to Freud's discovery -- if discovery it was -- of thanatos: the death drive. On this broad subject, however, it is probably worth mentioning that Sedat's Freud -- for all its lucidity and careful exposition elsewhere -- does not appear to emphasise clearly enough the point that just because a theory has a subjective origin does not impugn or discredit (or, indeed, effect in any other way) its validity.

    Sedat is the general secretary of the International Society for the History of Psychoanalysis. Yet despite his obvious comfort with, immersion in and masterly use of the psychoanalytic vocabulary, Sedat has a surprisingly light and engaging touch when it comes to lucidly explicating the core of Freud's groundbreaking theories concerning human character and motivation. Sedat's Freud can therefore be recommended as a fresh and trustworthy introduction for those new to the study of Freud and -- as it sometimes ambitiously attempts to iron out inconsistencies in Freud's own writing (see p.50) -- can also be recommended as an interpretation likely to interest those not entirely unacquainted with Freudian theory.

    The text under present consideration also wants to underline the idea that the analyst is not there as himself but is rather there as a placeholder for an absent but significant other (p.166). He or she substitutes himself for this other, which Sedat rather strangely -- though possibly under the influence of a Levinasian understanding of ethics -- sees as removing psychoanalysis from the space of ethics, since the true otherness of the other is not acknowledged. However, it seems to the present reviewer to be at least arguably an ethical act insofar as it is motivated precisely by the needs of the other (the analysand).

    The main Freudian texts under consideration in this book's chronological explication are more or less the ones which you would expect an introductory text to cover, allowing, of course, for the fact that every author has his own perspective on Freud. In his exposition, Sedat looks chiefly at the Studies on Hysteria, The Interpretation of Dreams, Three essays on the Theory of Sexuality, On Narcissism, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and the analysis of the Ego and The Ego and the Id, as well as The Question of Lay Analysis. The inclusion of the latter text in particular demonstrates the extent to which Sedat aims to look at the clinical encounter from, as it were, both sides of the couch.

   Two things remain to be mentioned in this review. Firstly, that in this brief introduction Sedat reads Freud's work on, as it were, Freud's own terms, and so Freud does not, in this book, suffer from a misleading over--association with the work of, for example, Jacques Lacan. Secondly, and finally, we must mention that for the most part Jacques Sedat's Freud eschews explicit polemical engagement with the vast secondary literature on Freud, thereby remaining concise and immediate.

   

© 2006 Matthew Ray

    

 Matthew Ray, Bristol, UK


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