Rachel's Reviews > Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind

Freud by Peter D. Kramer
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's review
May 06, 09

bookshelves: biography-autobiography, psychology
Recommended for: psycology students, biography buffs
Read in May, 2009

The glimpse Kramer gives us of the life and work of Freud is touching, sympathetic, critical, and brief.

I am not a student or a scholar of psychology, and this was the first work I've read on the subject. At times I found myself lost in the terminology of the subject, and I forced myself to reread some paragraphs in order to grasp their meaning. I relied on online psychology dictionaries to give me some of the background that the author assumed I already possessed. All in all, it is obvious that Kramer is a thoughtful, well-read, intellectual individual who has substantial writing skill.

I was very impressed with his even-handedness when comparing Freud's theories to the practical application of those theories. Freud's case studies and treatments of patients were massively flawed and sometimes damaging. I was shocked at how Freud approached the treatment of some of his patients, although I did find many of the case studies Kramer included in this book amusing. At the same time, his theories, stripped down to their basic parts, had some merit. Freud theorized and theorized and theorized...he thought outside the box, even though that meant he was probably wrong. (But he never admitted it.)

Why I recommend this to psychology students and biography buffs: the book was well-written and complete, but it felt incomplete, like looking at a sketch of an oil painting. I'm sure Kramer covers all the bases of Freud's research, but at times I wanted more story, more detail. A psych person probably knows a lot of the details I do not, and a biography buff might be willing to overlook these lapses because of Kramer's focus on Freud's own mental process.

Kramer's basic point is that even though Freud's work has been discredited over and over again, it remains that he opened the door to a whole different world of treating people. This is even evident today, with the proliferation of pop culture references to Freud and his work. Freud's enduring pseudoscientific failures just prove that you don't have to be right to be famous!
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