Paul Roazen (1936-2005)

Born into a Jewish family in Boston in 1936, Paul Roazen died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on 3 November 2005, while still working on a new study of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and William Bullitt. He was a member of the prestigious English journal, Psychoanalysis and History, edited by John Forrester.
A Freudian historian trained in political and social sciences, he had taught in a number of universities, most notably in Toronto, Oxford and Harvard. He first made a name for himself in 1969 with his book Brother Animal. The Story of Freud and Tausk (1969; Penguin Books 1973) about Viktor Tausk, wherein, thanks to an exceedingly detailed analysis, he recounted Tausk’s difficult relationship with Freud which official historiography had somewhat ignored. Therein one discovered for the first time the unbridled personality of this brilliant disciple of the master, this man who was Lou Andreas-SalomŽ’s loverÑand who ended up committing suicide following his analysis with Helene Deutsch. Roazen subsequently moved on to chronicling the oral history of the psychoanalytic movement. Helped along by an amazing number of surviving witnesses who themselves had known Freud and his early circle, he constructed the first portrait of the psychoanalytic milieu: details on the power struggles, alliances, generational and transferential links, daily life, etc. And above all, he attributed an important place to those disciples whose trajectory had been distorted or repressed for the sake of hagiography: Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth or Ruth Mack-Brunschwick. And he was also the biographer and friend of Helene Deutsch whose archives she passed on to him.
His major work, Freud and His Followers, published in 1971 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1992), had a well-deserved success, and went through numerous reprints and translations into many languages. It allowed historians to become aware of the fact that the everyday life of second- and third-generation FreudiansÑmost notably immigrantsÑhad a considerable importance for the genesis of concepts and for clinical practice. In this regard, Roazen’s work was rejected by the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), which reproached the author for his being given over to anecdotes; but even more than this, their criticism denied the right of historians to question the golden legends which the psychoanalytic movement’s pioneers had piously transmitted to their students. And as Roazen was not a psychoanalyst, he never ceased being ridiculed by clinicians intent on interpreting history in so-called Freudian terms.
His manner of reconstructing history, starting with the oral archive, continued to be questioned. Kurt Eissler, the noted orthodox master of Freudian historiography and curator of the Sigmund Freud Archives in the Library of Congress, never relented in pursuing Roazen with solid arguments opposing him. But thanks to such polemics, an enormous debate was launched between the conservative and progressive historians, which provided a rich spring for historical research.
All the evidence points to the fact that Roazen’s works have become indispensable for anyone who wants to grasp the passionate and fiery Freudian saga.

Journal of European Psychoanalysis published a paper by Paul Roazen: “Elma Laurvick, Ferenczi’s Step Daughter”, JEP, 5, Spring-Fall 1997, pp. 51-66

Share This Article

European Journal of Psychoanalysis