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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Jul 7, 2019

“There were so many opportunities to ponder what’s going on with different characters, what’s going on with tensions between generations, what’s going on with family relations. It’s as if psychoanalysis shed a new light on literature and it’s as if literature, its persuasiveness and accomplishment of great literature, seemed to confirm psychoanalytic understanding of how human beings internally are put together.”


Description: Steven S. Rolfe welcomes Dr. Paul Schwaber who is Professor of Letters Emeritus of Wesleyan University and a practicing psychoanalyst. For many years he was Director of the College of Letters Wesleyan Undergraduate Major in Western literature, philosophy and history. He’s published extensively on the relationship between imaginative literature and psychoanalysis. He coedited Poetry and Power: Poems Occasioned by the Presidency and the Death of John F. Kennedy basic books, and he is the author of The Cast of Characters: A Reading of Ulysses. In 1993, he was given the Robert S. Liebert Award in applied psychoanalysis, by the Columbia Center of Psychoanalysis and the Association of Psychoanalytic Medicine and in 2014, the Edith Sabshin Teaching Award, by the American Psychoanalytic Association. A graduate of the Western New England Institute he was Chair of its faculty and served as its President. He has served on the editorial board of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and on the board of the James Joyce Quarterly Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, Psychoanalytic Quarterly and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He and his wife Rosemary Balsam have edited the book review section of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.


Key takeaways:

[3:58] Paul Schwaber’s interest in two “impossible professions”.

[7:57] Starting his own psychoanalysis.

[9:18] Realizing the need for analytic experience.

[11:50] Pursuing training without any previous clinical experience.

[13:10] Teaching and training at the same time.

[14:15] Literature and psychoanalysis confirming each other.

[18:02] The idea of including literature into the psychoanalytic curricula.

[19:15] Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare.

[22:00] A lifelong interest in Ulysses.

[24:34] Joyce and Freud’s fascination for  the human mind.

[26:18] Paul Schwaber gives an example in regards to the intersection between literature and the psychoanalytic world.


Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

The Cast of Characters: A Reading of Ulysses Yale University Press (1999).


Of Poetry and Power: Poems Occasioned by the Presidency and by the Death of John F.  Kennedy Basic Books (1964)


"Women and Freud's Imagination," The American Scholar, XLI (Spring, 1972), 224-37


"Scientific Art: The Interpretation of Dreams," The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, XXXI (1976), 515-33. 


“Freud and the Twenties," The Massachusetts Review, XXII (Spring, 1981), 133-51.


"The Patriarchal Tradition: Creation and Fathering in Genesis" in Father and Child: Developmental and Clinical Perspectives, ed. Stanley Cath, M.D., Alan Gurwitt, M.D. and John M. Ross, Ph.D. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982), 383-97.