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Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson Hardcover – May 5, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Friedman, a professor of history at Indiana University and author of Menninger, offers the first authorized biography of Erikson, an engaging portrait of the psychologist's life and its relationship to his exploration of the concept of identity. Born out of wedlock to a Jewish mother, Karla Abrahamsen, in Denmark, Erikson didn't know who his biological father was. From the age of three, when Karla remarried a German Jew, Theodore Homburger, Erikson was raised in his adoptive father's household. As the author convincingly suggests, the circumstances of Erikson's childhood later prompted him to investigate the basis for a constant, enduring identity "because that pursuit... was vital to his personal quest for self-discovery." Friedman's biography is lucidly written, extensively researched and covers both Erikson's rise to celebrity in the 1950s and 1960s and the attacks on his reputation from feminist and New Left critics in the 1970s. However, he might have done more to counterbalance the emphasis on Erikson's personal life with a discussion of the concurrent developments of psychoanalytic theorists such as Spitz and Mahler and of psychologists such as Piaget and Bowlby, who had all taken an interest in the problem of establishing a permanent sense of self in childhood and who undoubtedly contributed to the development of Erikson's own thought. Nevertheless, this book presents a sensitive investigation of the connections between the life and thought of one of the most important psychoanalysts since Freud. Agent, Gerard McCauley.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A voice of hope amidst the pathologists of psychoanalysis, Erikson was committed to describing people's minds in a healthy state. In this complex, nicely rendered biography, Friedman draws a fine portrait of Erikson's enthusiasm (which caused tension with the Vienna school) and uncertainty (which stemmed from his sense of displacement). Ultimately, he describes a time of rapid change in mind science and an influential man in search of both himself and a way to help others. (LJ 6/15/99)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (May 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684195259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684195254
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rocco B. Rubino on June 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had been introduced to the theories of Erik H. Erikson in a grad. course in Educational Psychology. The course introduced just enough of Erikson to whet my appetite to learn more about the man; I am glad I did because after reading this book, I feel I have gained a richer understanding of his 8 Stage Life Cycle Theory, and the concept of Identity.
Professor Friedman's book is compassionate, but not fawning. He gives as complete a picture of a very complex man; as complete as one would hope to have, and he does so in a non-judgemental way.
There are many unattractive aspects of Erikson the man; why did this sensitive man, this lover of children who was estranged from his own step-father, virtually disown his own son, who had Down's Syndrome, and have him institutionalized? What made him so ambivalent about his Jewish identity? Friedman explores these issues in a very thorough, yet compassionate way. Erikson himself had a difficult time reconciling the dark side of Gandi while writing his biography; lovers of Erikson, like myself, may have that same struggle while reading this book, but Mr. Friedman does a superb job of bringing out, and sythesizing the "dark Erik" with the Erikson whose works have inspired many a generation of people like myself who are advocates for the welfare of children.
I read this book first before reading "Childhood and Society" and "Identity Youth and Crisis" and I am glad I did, for Eriksons paradigm was born from his own identity crisis he suffered, which Friedman does a masterful job of portraying.
If you really want to understand Erikson's Works, read this book first. You too will be glad you did.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Friedman's biography of Erik Erikson is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand how ideas and books about childhood development became a part of our modern-day vocabulary and a regular feature on bestseller lists. Easily accessible to a wide audience, he shows how Erikson's language and ideas have influenced how psychologists, therapists, teachers, politicians and others view the problems of youth today. Friedman also shows how Erikson's groundbreaking work on psychological development was intimately linked to his personal life. Identity's Architect is a great book which should interest parents, teachers, scholars, and activists of all ideological persuasions.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
All too often when reading a biography, the author fails to ask the questions that often spring to my mind. Most of these questions are about about the subjects motivation...the why questions. Lawrence Friedman dares to try and answer the hard and complex questions about a life, in this case, Erik Erikson's life. Even if Erikson is only a vaguely familiar name, this biography is worth reading because its a study of a very human life. In addition to being a well-written life study, Identity's Architect helps us to ask the difficult question about the origins of our own identity. In tracing the reoccuring themes in Erikson's life, Friedman makes transparent the very human activity of identity construction. We know none of us springs whole from Zeus'head, but we rarely question how we came to be the individuals we are. In asking the questions of Erikson's life, Friedman challenges us to question the construction of our own identities.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By andrdave@bright.net on April 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This work is an excellent example of scholarly rigor and narrative skill. Friedman has given us a wonderfully detailed account of Erikson's life and work in the context of post W.W.II American culture. He offers compassionate but critical insight into Erik Erikson's personal and professional story. From Friedman we learn how important Erikson is to American intellectual history and to the shaping of our collective identity. A great read.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For many these days, the name, Erik Erikson, may seem a distant memory. Yet unbeknownst to many of us, we often rely upon Erikson's insights into stages of development, the life cycle, and identity crisis for a just a glimpse or understanding of who we are and where we are heading in life.
In this penetrating biography of Erik Erikson, Lawrence Friedman sucessfully explores the inner conflicts and struggles of Erikson's own identity issues for insights into Erikson and his theories. What emerges from Friedman's book is the sense that both Erikson's legacy and insights are vital to our own struggles to know ourselves. In this reviewer's humble opinion, Friedman brilliantly shows how Erikson's relevance and impact today is no less than it was decades ago.
A jewel of biography!
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