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Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam and the Purpose of American Psychology Hardcover – September 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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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From The New Yorker

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; 1 edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590511824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590511824
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Swett on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What I like about Putnam Camp is the assured way it uses a moment in history--Sigmund Freud's unlikely visit to a camp in the Adirondacks in 1909--to unlock previously unexplored material not only about Freud, but about the tentative beginnings of the psychoanalytic movement in America and the relationship of psychoanalysis to transcendentalism. Based on a cache of letters between Freud and Prochnik's great-grandfather, James Jackson Putnam, one of the early proselytizers for psychoanalysis in the United States and also the founder of the Adirondack camp, the book moves back and forth between Boston and Vienna and into the family concerns and intellectual anxieties of two very different men to paint a portrait of turn-of-the-century American intellectual life that is rich, complex and often very funny.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frederick Kaufman on September 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One of the thorniest (and most enduring) issues in the history of Freud and psychoanalysis has been the history of American misinterpretations of Freud and psychoanalysis. Prochnik's Putnam Camp uncovers the origins of America's infatuation with the science of the mind, and illuminates the fundamental issues that have hounded American ideas of modern psychology since their inception by William James. Prochnik masterfully places (and misplaces) Freud within the traditions of American Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, and Pragmatism. In prose both ironic and elegant, the anecdotes Prochnik tells of Freud in the Adirondacks amuse and enlighten. The book has strong narrative elements along with clear explanations of abstruse psychoanalytic concepts, which makes it valuable for those in the field, for academics, and for those in search of a good, informative read. In short, the writing is beautiful, and the gems Prochnik gleans from the correspondence are priceless.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Always hopeful reader on November 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I cannot overstate how important i believe this book to be. it is a book about a short stay freud had in america in 1909, during which his great discoveries were watered down for the american market, so to speak, and he was abandoned by colleagues he found he could not trust, particularly by jung, who appears a very unpleasant and nasty person. but the revolutionary material Prochnik has uncovered--stuff i have never seen, read, heard about, or even heard intimated, is that freud had no trouble with homosexaulity (this is more than just being accepting of it) and that he did not mind, even in himself, the fantasies that he knew to be homoerotic and that he himself fanatacized acting upon, on this particular trip with Jung himself. All these years freud's words have been twisted by his "followers" into a hate for homosexuals that he himself never harbored. yes, this is, for this gay reader, one of the seminal new bits of this endless puzzle of why we have been hated, somehow, and that this book, this quiet and beautifully written book by a heterosexual harvard scholar, may help to put right at last. prochnik writes about much more that happened on this trip; he has a cast not only including freud and jung, but also william james, emerson, ferenczi, adler, brill, jones, all the biggies of that day. and he makes you care about them. freud himself is made infinitely moving and sad in a way i have never encountered. by the end of this history, freud is all alone, no friends that once supported him and sat at this feet, his great system of treatment butchered by alien other philosophies of treatment that had nothing to do with what freud said. as i said, i could not put this book down. it took me three whole days and evenings to absorb it. a reader learns a great great deal. now who could ask more for a book than this! larry kramer
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