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September 14, 1988 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-14

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 14, 1988

thing provided by science to mask
their own voracious will to power
and deny the highly biased nature of
their ostensibly objective accounts.
wth The chief culprit in Porter's
in- gallery of medical tricksters is Freud.
fo- Freud-bashing has become quite
for popular lately, and, as Porter lucidly
:ked demonstrates, with good reason.
kes Porter's analysis of the sexism
the informing Freud's infamous di-
his agnosis of Dora and scandalous
dual treatment of Emma Eckstein is de-
vastating. He concludes, with turn-
nse of-the-century feminist Charlotte
and Perkins Gilman, that Freud's theories
very represent "the resurgence of phallic
wri- worship set before us in the solemn
and phraseology of psychoanalysis."
and The Freud sections of the book are
the those in which Porter comes closest
heir to expanding his survey beyond
individual case histories into a broa-
the der social arena. Even here, however,
rery his insights are more often banal
tors generalities about the "patriarchal"
sent nature of Freud's society than in-
clo- depth pictures of how that patriarchy

imagined itself and repressed its
Furthermore, Porter's analysis
again ignores the problem of class by
by-passing the ground-breaking
work of theorists such as Peter
Stallybrass and Allon White, whose
Poetics and Politics of Trangressions
argues that Freud's middle-class theo-
ries of family romance are predicted
upon his marginalization of ties to
the servants who were an important
part of his childhood.
Porter's analysis of Freud is a
microcosm of the strengths and
weaknesses of the book as a whole,
and demonstrates why, for all its pro-
blems, it is still worth reading. By
calling into question how normalcy
is defined as well as the assumptions
of those who define it, Porter's
highly readable prose challanges our
convictions regarding just what
normalcy is. If he is less successful
in showing the historical reasons
governing why various societies
conceive of madness as they do, his
tale of injustices rendered make the
reader "mad" enough to search for the
connections and answers Porte,
himself fails to provide.
-Mike Fischer



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