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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 20, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE FREUDIAN MYSTIQUE: Freud, Women, and Feminism by Samuel Slipp, M.D. (New York University Press: $35; 288 pp.). "The great question that has never been answered and which I have not been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?' " So asked Freud, famously, of his friend and disciple Marie Bonaparte, and it inspires the important question posed by Samuel Slipp in this volume: "How could Freud, one of the great geniuses of our Modern Age, be so wrong about women?" The answer is relatively straightforward, in Slipp's view: Freud's mother emotionally withdrew from her son when he was 2 years old, the time at which a child begins to separate itself from its mother, and thus produced gender--identity problems in Freud--problems accentuated by Freud's almost simultaneous loss of his baby brother, Julius, and of his nanny. "The Freudian Mystique" is full of psychiatric jargon--ever hear of a "two-channel tachistoscope"?--but Slipp's ideas are generally lucid and convincing, if repeated a bit too often and sometimes well off his central point. Freud may have prided himself on the scientific nature of his investigations into the human psyche, but this book makes clear that his vision was limited both by the social climate in which he worked and the personal experiences he preferred, subconsciously, not to deal with. In short: If you're a woman seeing a self-proclaimed "strict Freudian," expect to be misunderstood.

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