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Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychologyby George Prochnik
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2007 Gradiva Award
An innovative work of biography that traces the lasting impact of the friendship between Sigmund Freud and pioneering American psychologist James Jackson Putnam.
In 1909 Sigmund Freud made his only visit to America, which included a trip to "Putnam Camp”-the eminent American psychologist James Jackson Putnam's family retreat in the Adirondacks. "Of all the things that I have experienced in America, this is by far the most amazing," Freud wrote of Putnam Camp. Putnam, a Boston Unitarian, and Freud, a Viennese Jew, came from opposite worlds, cherished polarized ambitions, and promoted seemingly irreconcilable visions of human nature-and yet they struck up an unusually fruitful collaboration. Putnam's unimpeachable reputation played a crucial role in legitimizing the psychoanalytic movement. By the time of Putnam's death in 1918, psychoanalysis had been launched in America, where-in large part thanks to the influence of Putnam, and in a development Freud had not anticipated-it went on to become a practice that moved beyond the vicissitudes of desire to cultivate the growth and spiritual aspirations of the individual as a whole.
Putnam Camp reveals details of Putnam's and Freud's personal lives that have never been fully explored before, including the crucial role Putnam's muse, Susan Blow-founder of America's first kindergarten, pioneering educator and philosopher in the American Hegelian movement-played in the intense debate between these two great thinkers. As the great-grandson of Putnam, author George Prochnik had access to a wealth of personal firsthand material from the Putnam family-as well as from the James and Emerson families-all of which contribute to a new and intimate vision of the texture of daily life at a moment when America was undergoing a cultural and intellectual renaissance.
"Descended from Boston Brahmins on his mother's side and Viennese Jews on his father's, Prochnik is well equipped to tell the story of the culture clash and strange synergy between the sardonic Sigmund Freud and pioneering American psychologist (and Prochnik's great-grandfather) James Jackson Putnam. Putnam hosted the father of psychoanalysis at his whimsically Waspy Adirondack retreat, Putnam Camp, during Freud's only trip to the U.S. in 1909. This delightfully written, erudite book intertwines the lives and works of Freud and Putnam, along with cultural and intellectual movements of the time, such as Progressivism, spiritualism, transcendentalism and American Hegelianism. While Putnam played an instrumental role in establishing psychoanalysis in the U.S., his intense relationship with Susan Blow, the Hegelian founder of the first American kindergarten, strongly influenced his arguments with Freud. Putnam insisted that psychoanalysis must do more than dismantle the patient's neuroses: it must offer the patient a higher spiritual and ethical purpose. Freud, knowing the long history of anti-Semitism, distrusted Putnam's faith in history's progress and in the ultimate harmony between individual and society. But while Freud's name became a household word, Putnam's views, deftly explained by Prochnik, drawing on long-lost correspondence, have arguably prevailed in American psychology." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Therapist, literary scholar, poet, and fiction and non-fiction writer Prochnik discusses how Boston psychoanalyst Putnam (1846-1918) introduced the profession to the US and in so doing altered it in ways that its creator Freud (1856-1939) might not have understood or appreciated. The crux of the study is Freud's 1909 visit to Putnam's family estate in the Adirondacks. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This innovative work of biography traces the lasting impact of the friendship between Sigmund Freud and pioneering American psychologist James Jackson Putnam. Two 8-page photo inserts.
About the Author
George Prochnik's essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous journals. He taught English and American literature at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and has also worked as a therapist for the chronically mentally ill. He lives in New York City.
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