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Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder Drugs Paperback – April 20, 2005

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Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder Drugs + A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac + The Freud Reader
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (April 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822335247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822335245
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New England Journal of Medicine

Prozac on the Couch is a creative, intelligent, and provocative challenge to the notion that biologic psychiatry has replaced psychoanalysis as the dominant therapeutic model in psychiatry. Tracing treatments for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses from the 1950s to the early 21st century, psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl builds an argument that "the history of Freud is specifically the history of Prozac" by showing how "psychoanalytic themes and psychoanalytic notions of gender keep showing up in representations of biological psychiatry." He does so through closely reading representations of psychotropic medications in popular news and fashion magazines from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s (e.g., Newsweek, Time, and Cosmopolitan), in psychopharmaceutical advertisements from professional journals from 1964 to 1997 (e.g.,the American Journal of Psychiatry and Archives of General Psychiatry), and in selected works of American literature between 1990 and 2002 (dubbed the "Prozac narratives"). These periods correspond roughly to the heydays of psychiatry's three American "wonder drugs" -- Miltown, Valium, and Prozac. The book has six chapters. In the first, Metzl develops the intriguing premise that the shift from psychoanalysis to biologic psychiatry was, and is, incomplete, by exposing "those pieces of the prior regime that remain imbricated after the shift . . . [and that] can govern the form and function of the regime that takes its place." Metzl constructs his argument with a fascinating compendium of print images that show how both psychoanalytic and biologic constructs are often similarly engaged in "maintaining traditional gender roles" and how the uses of "psychotropic medications often redeploy all the cultural and social baggage of the psychoanalytic paradigm." In case readers need a refresher in the various theoretical orientations psychiatry has embraced during the past half-century, Metzl traces the "alleged demise" of psychoanalysis from 1955 through the present. In subsequent chapters, he explores the "marriage of mothers and medications" through the rhetoric of Miltown, America's "first psychopharmacological wonder drug," showing how, in the visual construction of patienthood in advertising, a woman's sanity was connected to her marital status, and mental illness was "presented as a threat to the nuclear family." His analysis of Prozac as depicted in popular memoirs such as Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation (New York: Riverhead, 1995) and in Persimmon Blackbridge's novel Prozac Highway (Vancouver, B.C., Canada: Press Gang, 1997) is particularly illuminating. In his conclusion, Metzl challenges psychiatry to "expose its own synapses and dendrites with the same vigor with which it has exposed those of its patients . . . [and to] become more aware of its own, uniquely biased spectator positions." Prozac on the Couch is an intriguing and challenging work standing at the intersection of medicine, history, culture, and "gender studies." Metzl -- who holds a Ph.D. in American studies and directs the Program in Culture, Health, and Medicine at the University of Michigan, in addition to seeing patients -- writes for an audience willing to think beyond traditional categories and to engage in serious cultural criticism. His arguments cross academic disciplines, and readers who are used to traditional medical discourse may struggle at times with Metzl's theoretical perspectives and language, which draw heavily from cultural studies. But for those who are looking for fresh perspectives, and who are willing to have their assumptions questioned, this book will be a real education and a pleasure to read. Delese Wear, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Prozac on the Couch is a totally fresh and mind-altering work of medical history and cultural criticism that challenges us to think about psychiatric medications in ways that are both uncomfortable and inspiring: in other words, in ways that challenge us to change our points of view about what we swallow and why.”—Lauren Slater, author of Prozac Diary

“Jonathan Michel Metzl's book is an original and insightful exploration of the lively cultural meanings he locates in the spaces between the person, the psychotropic drug, the physician, and the neuroscientist.”—Emily Martin, author of The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction

Prozac on the Couch combines a bold thesis regarding the persistence of Freudian categories of sexual difference amid the paradigm shift in psychiatry, documentation spanning professional and popular discourses, and lively, clear prose.”—Mari Jo Buhle, author of Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

More About the Author

Jonathan M. Metzl is associate professor of psychiatry and women's studies and director of the Culture, Health, and Medicine Program at the University of Michigan. A 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatry, and popular publications. His books include Prozac on the Couch and Difference and Identity in Medicine. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christopher T. Timura on April 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thought the era of talk therapy was over? Thought you didn't need your unconscious anymore? Think again. Metzl's startling and wholly convincing thesis that Freud's fingers can be found in Prozac's pies is amazing, and brilliantly told. His close readings of pharmaceutical ads are especially keen and insightful--a serious feminist intervention. This is a must read for all students of cultural history are well as medical doctors!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "stg84" on September 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. Metzl writes beautifully and compellingly, and his premise is fascinating and brilliantly argued. This is such an important book for doctors, patients, and anyone else interested in the cultural aspects of gender and mental illness.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By t49y on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jamie F. Metzl on October 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly a brilliant work. Metzl delves deeply into the social construction of the so-called wonder drugs which have permeated our society. In an age where prozec and ritilin have become as common as aspirin and M&Ms, Metzl's work should be required reading for all those contemplating responses to psychological phenomena.
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