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. (Oct.)
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In 1909, the same summer Freud delivered the Clark University lectures, introducing psychoanalysis to the United States, he joined James Jackson Putnam, a Boston Brahmin physician, for a sojourn at his Adirondack retreat. Prochnik, who is Putnam's great-grandson, shows how Putnam championed Freud's methods to an elite and suspicious group of American physicians. At the same time, Putnam tried to convince Freud that therapy was incomplete without some metaphysical dimension, maintaining that patients might need "more than simply to learn to know themselves." Prochnik provides fascinating, if occasionally arbitrary, details of the historical and social context ("In a typical American meal circa 1909, starch was king"), but his narrative is strongest when it depicts Freud outside his element - trying to play his first game of tetherball, struggling amid campers who hike, sing, and play dress-up games at dinner.
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This review of Freud's only trip to America brings a great deal of little known information about the man, his friends and the early 1900's climate for new ideas in America. Read morePublished on May 9, 2009 by Photographer
I purchased "Putnam Camp" for quite a different reason than most. In the early 1940s & 50s I spent joyous vacations with my family, Aunts, Uncles & Cousins at Putnam Camp. Read morePublished on January 26, 2007 by John L. Goodall