Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam and the Purpose of American Psychology
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN 10: 1590511824
ISBN 13: 978-1590511824
Winner of the 2007 Gradiva Award
An innovative work of biography that traces the lasting impact of the friendship between Sigmund Freud and pioneering American psychologist James Jackson Putnam.
In 1909 Sigmund Freud made his only visit to America, which included a trip to "Putnam Camp”–the eminent American psychologist James Jackson Putnam's family retreat in the Adirondacks. "Of all the things that I have experienced in America, this is by far the most amazing," Freud wrote of Putnam Camp. Putnam, a Boston Unitarian, and Freud, a Viennese Jew, came from opposite worlds, cherished polarized ambitions, and promoted seemingly irreconcilable visions of human nature–and yet they struck up an unusually fruitful collaboration. Putnam's unimpeachable reputation played a crucial role in legitimizing the psychoanalytic movement. By the time of Putnam's death in 1918, psychoanalysis had been launched in America, where–in large part thanks to the influence of Putnam, and in a development Freud had not anticipated–it went on to become a practice that moved beyond the vicissitudes of desire to cultivate the growth and spiritual aspirations of the individual as a whole.
Putnam Camp reveals details of Putnam's and Freud's personal lives that have never been fully explored before, including the crucial role Putnam's muse, Susan Blow–founder of America's first kindergarten, pioneering educator and philosopher in the American Hegelian movement–played in the intense debate between these two great thinkers. As the great-grandson of Putnam, author George Prochnik had access to a wealth of personal firsthand material from the Putnam family–as well as from the James and Emerson families–all of which contribute to a new and intimate vision of the texture of daily life at a moment when America was undergoing a cultural and intellectual renaissance.
From Publishers Weekly
Descended from Boston Brahmins on his mother's side and Viennese Jews on his father's, Prochnik is well equipped to tell the story of the culture clash and strange synergy between the sardonic Sigmund Freud and pioneering American psychologist (and Prochnik's great-grandfather) James Jackson Putnam. Putnam hosted the father of psychoanalysis at his whimsically Waspy Adirondack retreat, Putnam Camp, during Freud's only trip to the U.S. in 1909. This delightfully written, erudite book intertwines the lives and works of Freud and Putnam, along with cultural and intellectual movements of the time, such as Progressivism, spiritualism, transcendentalism and American Hegelianism. While Putnam played an instrumental role in establishing psychoanalysis in the U.S., his intense relationship with Susan Blow, the Hegelian founder of the first American kindergarten, strongly influenced his arguments with Freud. Putnam insisted that psychoanalysis must do more than dismantle the patient's neuroses: it must offer the patient a higher spiritual and ethical purpose. Freud, knowing the long history of anti-Semitism, distrusted Putnam's faith in history's progress and in the ultimate harmony between individual and society. But while Freud's name became a household word, Putnam's views, deftly explained by Prochnik, drawing on long-lost correspondence, have arguably prevailed in American psychology. (Oct.)
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In 1909, the same summer Freud delivered the Clark University lectures, introducing psychoanalysis to the United States, he joined James Jackson Putnam, a Boston Brahmin physician, for a sojourn at his Adirondack retreat. Prochnik, who is Putnam's great-grandson, shows how Putnam championed Freud's methods to an elite and suspicious group of American physicians. At the same time, Putnam tried to convince Freud that therapy was incomplete without some metaphysical dimension, maintaining that patients might need "more than simply to learn to know themselves." Prochnik provides fascinating, if occasionally arbitrary, details of the historical and social context ("In a typical American meal circa 1909, starch was king"), but his narrative is strongest when it depicts Freud outside his element - trying to play his first game of tetherball, struggling amid campers who hike, sing, and play dress-up games at dinner.
Copyright © 2006