Freud's development of psychoanalysis is one of the great fault lines of twentieth-century cultural history. The field as such provides one of the great professional dramas of our time: a classic struggle between a new, vital idea and the ignorance, prejudice, and refusal that so often attend major breakthroughs and innovations.
Helen Puner's biography, long unavailable, is far more than a professional appreciation. It is the story of a complex, by no means flawless individual, whose personal characteristics helped sow the seeds of controversy as well as ultimately establish a new field. Upon its initial appearance, the Herald Tribune identified the book as "the first authoritative and profoundly perceptive biography of the man who more than any other has shaped the thinking of the Western World." It was summarized as a "brilliant performance, done without fear."
Puner did precisely what irritated Freud most: probe the sources, social no less than personal, religious no less than scientific, that made Freud such a towering figure. Dorothy Canfield caught the spirit of this work when she noted that in this book, we see Freud "as we never saw him before, as most of us never knew he was, a rigidly virtuous, deeply troubled, upright, dutiful Jewish son, husband and father. We see him tracing the significance of clues he hit upon hi the practice of medicine, and then fit these clues into the bewildering mastery of human behavior."
In his Foreword, Erich Fromm indicates that Puner looks at Freud with genuine admiration, but without idolatry. "She understands his own psychological problems and has a full appreciation of the pseudo-religious nature of the movement which he created." And the late Ernest Becker, in The Denial of Death, seconded this estimate by calling the Helen Walker Puner effort "a brilliant critical biography." This new edition contains a new introduction by Paul Roazen; with this, and the appreciation of the author by her husband, Samuel Puner, we can better locate the author of the book as well as the famous object of her analysis.
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Helen Walker Puner was born hi New York City in 1915. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University. Her first job was with Time Incorporated. In 1940, she became the first woman feature editor on Fortune Magazine. After World War n she wrote extensively for national magazines and did a series of books for children. The final years of her career were spent as editor of Parents Magazine; and finally as co-administrator of the Human Relations Division at the New School for Social Research.
Erich Fromm until his death in 1980, was professor at Michigan State University; and adjunct professor of psychology at New York University from 1955 to 1968. He also served as head of the Department of Psychoanalysis at the Medical School of the National University of Mexico. His many works include The Art of Loving, Man for Himself, Escape from Freedom, The Heart of Man, and The Revolution of Hope.
Paul Roazen (1936-2005) was professor of social and political science at York University in Toronto. He was the author of Helene Deutsch and Brother Animal, both available from Transaction.
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