Reviews: Freud in Cambridge. John Forrester and Laura Cameron. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. 2017. 695pp. ISBN 978-0- 521-86190-8. Psychoanalysis in Britain, 1893-1913: Histories and Historiography. Philip Kuhn. Lexington Books: London and New York. 2017. 444pp. ISBN 978-1-498-50522-2.
This review is dedicated to the memory of John Forrester (1949 – 2015).
On February 10, 1958, Mervyn Jones visited his father Ernest Jones in University College Hospital London, for what would be the final time. Now aged 79, Jones was incurably ill with liver cancer, bed bound and delirious with pain. Occasionally lapsing into renditions of hymns he had not heard since his Sunday school days in Gowertown, Wales, he was otherwise dictating portions of his unfinished autobiography, Free Associations. As Mervyn recalled in his own memoir, Chances:
He was dictating a sentence to my mother, to the effect that he had been the first person outside Vienna to take up Freud’s ideas. When the sentence was read over to him, he decided it was unfair to Jung. I suggested giving Jung a footnote: ‘too important’, my father said. I tried to work in an extra clause: ‘makes the sentence clumsy’, he objected. That was my last memory of him. Ernest Jones died the next day. (1987: 147)
So it was that Jones, on his deathbed, remained bothered by a pair of problems inherited from Freud – problems, largely under sway of mis-identification with the ‘official’ co-constructed Freud/Jones account of the early history of psychoanalysis, still seducing the majority seeking to tell the history of the ‘psychoanalytic cause’, as Freud liked to call it. Namely: how to guarantee priority of place for the truly converted, the loyal followers and, therefore, what to do about immunising ‘Freudian’ psychoanalysis from the part played by its various dissenters and defectors, especially the ‘crown prince’ of traitors, Carl Jung.
Psychoanalysis has always been dubious of histories claiming auto-authorisation for themselves. Except, so it would seem, when it comes to the history of psychoanalysis itself. There’s just too much blatant wish-fulfilment about such projects. Life is always messier than that and the repressed, after all, always eventually shows up again sooner or later. Because what are such histories if not someone’s dream or fantasy stamped with approval, certified for shared belief? Like all dreams and fantasies such approved histories never stop speaking of the unofficial histories they serve to silence, the events they are supposed to supress.