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Freud’s Visit to New England

Sigmund Freud x 4Today’s New York Times has an article by the psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman about Sigmund Freud’s only visit to the United States, which started a century ago today.  As is well known, Freud was invited by Granville Stanley Hall to give a series of lectures at the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Clark University in Worcester, MA, of which Hall was President. Freud’s lectures, given in German, were translated and became the book The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis, which has been in print ever since. Hoffman, however, focuses on Freud’s relationship with the Boston neurologist, James Jackson Putnam, who invited Freud to his retreat in the Adirondacks, where Putnam became a convert to the Austrian’s system of psychotherapy. Two years later Putnam would become the first president of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Knowing that all was not well with Hoffman’s fawning treatment of the encounter, I forwarded the article to the email lists of the Society for the History of Psychology (APA, Div 26) and of Cheiron to see what their reactions might be. Historian of psychology Ben Harris (U. New Hampshire) wrote back in short order. I think his words are better than any summary I might provide.

The errors in Leon Hoffman’s account of psychotherapy in America before Freud provide a mini tutorial in how one’s professional affiliations can bias one’s historical views. Continue reading Freud’s Visit to New England