After Freud Left A Century of Psychoanalysis in America
edited by John Burnham
University of Chicago Press, 2012
Cloth: 978-0-226-08137-3 | Paper: 978-0-226-21186-2 | Electronic: 978-0-226-08139-7


From August 29 to September 21, 1909, Sigmund Freud visited the United States, where he gave five lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. This volume brings together a stunning gallery of leading historians of psychoanalysis and of American culture to consider the broad history of psychoanalysis in America and to reflect on what has happened to Freud’s legacy in the United States in the century since his visit.        

There has been a flood of recent scholarship on Freud’s life and on the European and world history of psychoanalysis, but historians have produced relatively little on the proliferation of psychoanalytic thinking in the United States, where Freud’s work had monumental intellectual and social impact. The essays in After Freud Left provide readers with insights and perspectives to help them understand the uniqueness of Americans’ psychoanalytic thinking, as well as the forms in which the legacy of Freud remains active in the United States in the twenty-first century. After Freud Left will be essential reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century American history, general intellectual and cultural history, and psychology and psychiatry.



John Burnham is research professor in the Department of History at Ohio State University. His most recent book is Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology, and Misfits of the Machine Age, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


“With a superbly nuanced and reflective introduction by this collection’s editor, John Burnham—the doyen of the history of American psychoanalysis—the papers explore, with remarkable erudition and display of previously unexplored sources, the arrival of psychoanalysis in the United States, symbolized by Freud’s one brief visit, to Clark University, in 1909, and the long arc of its rise and decline across the hundred years from 1909–2009. Emigration, transformation, distortion all played their part in the production of American psychoanalysis, which was infused to a remarkable extent in midcentury American life and now appears to be evaporating as quickly as it arrived. Does it leave traces? The historians and critics whose fine papers are collected in After Freud Left give nuanced and original answers.”
— John Forrester, University of Cambridge

 “All too often the history of psychoanalysis has been written from polemical standpoints, leaving us to lurch between uncritical hagiography and categorical repudiation. After Freud Left avoids these pitfalls, locating the rise and fall of psychoanalysis in the United States within broader social, political, cultural, and international developments. The result is a lively and intriguing set of essays, which offer refreshingly new, often surprising, insights into the history of this important intellectual movement.”
— Greg Eghigian, Pennsylvania State University

“The book, which includes essays by historians of medicine and of culture, among them Elizabeth Lunbeck, George Makari, Louis Menand, and Dorothy Ross, tells a tale of how psychoanalysis resonated with some of the major thinkers of the time—including Lionel Trilling, Herbert Marcuse, and Norman O. Brown to name but a few. . . . In assembling an illustrious group of historians to write about this topic, Dr. Burnham has done a terrific service to a profession that might well want to reflect on its origins.”
— Tracy D. Morgan, New Books in Psychoanalysis

“[A] fascinating volume.”
— Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

“In this outstanding collection of essays, Burnham offers a rich, compelling illumination of how psychoanalysis, as the discipline that Freud founded and many refugees carried to America, fared given the changing cultural and historical landscape in the US since 1909, the year Freud delivered his famous Clark University lectures. . . . This volume will be of great value to historians of American culture, psychoanalysis, and intellectual history. Highly recommended.”
— M. Uebel, University of Texas, Choice

After Freud Left makes a much needed intervention into the historical record, revealing the eclectic and incongruous ways in which Freud’s ideas migrated stateside.”
— Courtney Fiske, Brooklyn Rail

“[T]his book contains many fascinating historical facts that help broaden the understanding of the development and decline of psychoanalysis in America.”
— Ronald Teague, PsycCRITIQUES

“[E]xcellent. . . . The book is strongly recommended to anyone who is interested in the history of psychoanalysis, but also to people who want to know more about this important chapter in the intellectual history of the twentieth century.”
— Shaul Bar-Haim, Birkbeck, University of London, Social History of Medicine

“An engaging collection of essays.”
— Andrew Fearnley, University of Manchester, Journal of American Studies



Part One: 1909 to the 1940s: Freud and the Psychoanalytic Movement Cross the Atlantic

Introduction to Part I: Transnationalizing

- Shamdasani Sonu
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0003
[psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, Hugo Münsterberg, Morton Prince, August Forel, Carl Jung, Eric Caplan, United States]
This chapter reveals how mistaken Freudocentric writers have been who suggest that Sigmund Freud's colleagues recognized the special characteristics and implications of psychoanalysis. It discusses the landscape that made Freud's rise to prominence after 1909 possible. Hugo Münsterberg published a major book on psychotherapy in 1909. Münsterberg, Morton Prince, and August Forel argued for a unified, international discipline of psychotherapy. Prince emphasized that certain general principles governed the field of psychotherapy. 1909 witnessed the first translation into English of a book considered to be psychoanalytic, though the work was not one of Freud's, but Carl Jung's The Psychology of Dementia Praecox. (pages 31 - 48)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Richard Skues
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0004
[psychoanalysis, 1909 Clark conference, Carl Jung, America, Sigmund Freud, lectures]
This chapter uses a historical microscope to examine the iconic 1909 Clark conference and lectures. Carl Jung's presence in the American literature prior to 1909 gave his reputation in America a different character from Sigmund Freud's. Psychoanalysis developed no coherent body of thought in America before 1909, and Jung's work had an independent existence that cannot be apprehended as a mere reflection of Freud's project. It is suggested that Jung's attendance at the Clark conference and the content of his lectures dealt with a patchwork of interests and functions. From Freud's point of view, Jung unquestionably was there as a confirmed representative of psychoanalysis and also to act as his principal lieutenant. During the months immediately following the Clark conference a sudden rise in interest in Freud and psychoanalysis formed. Thus, his visit might mark a decisive event in the history of psychoanalysis in America. (pages 49 - 84)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Ernst Falzeder
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0005
[anti-Americanism, Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis, America, Horace Frink, ambition, humiliation, envy, gratitude]
This chapter reviews Sigmund Freud's notorious anti-Americanism. Its underlying theme is how personally irrelevant Freud became to psychoanalysis in America. The chapter reports some examples of negative things and positive remarks of Freud on America. Then, the chapter describes some of the peculiarities of Freud's attitude, and his possible motives. There were some remarks in which Freud made fun of America and the Americans. He had some particular dislike for particular groups of Americans, such as businessmen, journalists, publishers, and psychoanalysts. Apart from Freud's misjudgment of people, the Horace Frink episode revealed how his anti-Americanism corrupted his judgment of the institutional and political situation in America. Freud's anti-Americanism may have been due to ambition and humiliation, and envy and gratitude. Freud in fact helped to close a cultural gap and contributed to a new view and understanding of human beings in Europe and in the United States. (pages 85 - 110)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- George Makari
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0006
[psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Society, Sándor Radó, American Psychoanalytic Association, Sigmund Freud, Clark University, Freudianism]
This chapter employs details of what happened in New York to evoke the individual and institutional events that were so fateful for the general history of psychoanalysis in the United States, suggesting the personal costs and tragedy involved when established European figures had to adjust to their new professional and social environment. The New York Psychoanalytic Society, the main center of psychoanalysis in America, had once recruited Sándor Radó to bring weight to their fledgling institute and now had at its disposal a depth of experience. The American Psychoanalytic Association transformed itself from a loosely knit federation into a central power that policed standards throughout the country. Sigmund Freud's 1909 visit to Clark University helped promote the growth of the earliest American brand of Freudianism. (pages 111 - 124)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Hale Usak-Sahin
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0007
[Ruth Wilmanns Lidz, Edith Weigert, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, United States, Turkey, emigration, American psychoanalysis, psychoses]
This chapter uses Turkey, the stopping place of Ruth Wilmanns Lidz and Edith Weigert, to offer a powerful comparison to the relative openness that several women found in the Baltimore area of the United States. The effect of forced emigration on the lives and work of Lidz, Weigert, and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann is then addressed. Women, especially emigrant women such as Weigert and Lidz, experienced difficult working conditions in Turkey. Weigert was close to both Fromm-Reichmann and Lidz, and also gained a major role in American psychoanalytic circles shortly after her emigration to the United States. Their challenges in American society resulted in commonality among them, and they continued their psychoanalytic work on psychoses, which they began in their homelands, and made important contributions in that field in United States. (pages 125 - 154)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Part Two: After World War II: The Fate of Freud's Legacy in American Culture

Introduction to Part II: A Shift in Perspective

- Dorothy Ross
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0009
[modernism, Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis, United States, Freudian ideas, Lionel Trilling, Philip Rieff]
This chapter argues that the rise and fall of Sigmund Freud's influence among intellectuals can be understood best by following the changes that occurred in their ideas of modernism from 1940 to 1980. Psychoanalysis was a modernist invention, and the high point of modernism in the United States co-occurred with the high point of the impact of Freud's ideas. Modernism was the lens that determined changing political and cultural anxieties into changing estimates of Freudian ideas. The respect that Lionel Trilling imparted on Freud was widespread in intellectual and academic communities. Like Trilling's, Philip Rieff's Freud was an Apollonian voice of civilization and a defender of the modernist individual. In general, Freud was a significant marker of the dissolution of the modernist ascendancy at mid-century into the postmodern multiplicity and ideological polarization of the twentieth century's fin-de-siècle. (pages 163 - 188)
This chapter is available at:
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- Louis Menand
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0010
[anxiety, World War II, Freudianism, postwar American culture, Cold War, atheistic existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, sociology, pharmaceutical industry, European existentialism]
This chapter describes a second major theme in the midcentury American cultural context—anxiety—which it considers as a concept that came to mark the era just after World War II. It specifically suggests that one reason for the “fit” between Freudianism and postwar American culture had to do with what might be called the Cold War discourse of anxiety, which Freudianism formalized. Cold War conditions toned the existing discourses, and an example was the discourse of anxiety. Anxiety played a significant part in atheistic existentialism, and this was a place where the wires get somewhat crossed. The Cold War discourse of anxiety was shown to be a somewhat improbable amalgam of European existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, some sociology and the history of ideas, and the promotional practices of the pharmaceutical industry. (pages 189 - 208)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Elizabeth Lunbeck
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0011
[psychoanalysis, Freudian thinking, Heinz Kohut, narcissism, psychoanalytic thinking, Ferenczi renaissance]
This chapter reports a transition from the narrative of technical psychoanalysis to the parallel and interrelated narrative of intellectuals' use of Freudian thinking after World War II, describing how Heinz Kohut as an analyst joined the outlook of the so-called generation of narcissism with psychoanalytic thinking. Among the factors accounting for his singular success was that he fashioned himself as a revolutionary while at the same time channeling spectral presences which had long haunted the discipline of psychoanalysis. Kohut's writings on narcissism entered a cultural field already focused on narcissism, the transformation of which from a clinical concept linked with emotional impoverishment into a cultural indictment of an unseemly plentitude was central to its appeal. It is suggested that the “Ferenczi renaissance” of the last ten to fifteen years was enabled by and indebted to Kohut. (pages 209 - 232)
This chapter is available at:
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- Jean-Christophe Agnew
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081397.003.0012
[modernism, Freudianism, Sigmund Freud, Lionel Trilling, social geography, postmodernism, poststructuralism]
This chapter addresses the link between modernism and Freudianism in relation to the concept of “the American Century,” and also reports on the complex cultural changes from the 1940s to the 1980s. It is noted that Sigmund Freud the scientist was also Freud the moralist, and the century-long “modernization of sex” about which cultural historians have written was always in intimate conversation with the sexual “modernism” of Freudians. Freudian modernism enabled Lionel Trilling to exercise a version of the close reading that New Criticism demanded without at the same time sacrificing himself to its textualist or formalist insularities. The social geography of modernism is then addressed. Postmodernism—and especially poststructuralism—can be nearly as severe in its attitude as the modernism and humanism it replaced. (pages 233 - 246)
This chapter is available at:
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Chronological Guide to Events

List of Contributors