In this stunning addition to what has of late become a distinct genre of psychoanalytic literature, Peter Rudnytsky presents 10 substantive and provocative interviews with leading analysts (Enid Balint, Charles Rycroft, Stephen A. Mitchell, Roy Schafer, Jessica Benjamin), with theorists from allied fields (Mary Ainsworth, Peter Lomas, Peter Kramer), and with influential Freud critics (Frank Sulloway, Peter Swales). In conversations that Rudnytsky succeeds in making psychoanalytic both in form and in content, he guides his interlocutors to unforeseen reflections on the events and forces that shaped their lives (including, where appropriate, their experiences as analysands), and on the personal and intellectual grounds of their beliefs and practices.
Rudnytsky, a ranking academic scholar of psychoanalysis and the humanities, approaches his subjects with not only a highly attuned third ear but also a remarkable grasp of theoretical, historical, and clinical issues. He elicits from Enid Balint astonishing new revelations about her analysis with D. W. Winnicott and Winnicott's critical attitude toward her husband Michael Balint. When his interviewees turn from autobiographical narratives to matters of theory and clinical practice, Rudnytsky is clear about his own intellectual allegiance to the Independent tradition of object relations theory and his admiration for John Bowlby and attachment theory. His willingness to set forth his own point of view and occasionally to press a line of questioning infuses his exchanges with an energy, even passion, heretofore unknown in the analytic interview literature. Whether he is probing Stephen Mitchell about the scientific basis for adjudicating between drive theory and relational theory, seeking to persuade Frank Sulloway that an error by Darwin exhibits the workings of unconscious repression, urging Roy Schafer to justify the grounds of his theoretical preferences, or eliciting from Peter Swales the story of his itinerary from the Rolling Stones to Freud, Rudnytsky consistently emerges as a partner, even an analytic partner, in dialogues that meld discovery with self-discovery.
If, as Rudnytsky suggests, the interview, as the transcribed record of an oral encounter, is "an ideal mode of psychoanalytic discourse," it is equally an ideal vehicle for capturing the ferment of the contemporary analytic scene. By casting his net widely and including among his interview subjects analysts inside and outside the International Psychoanalytical Association, a prominent nonanalytic psychiatrist, an eminent developmental psychologist, and two of Freud's most stringent critics, he presents a collection whose strength resides in the diverse senses and sensibilities brought to bear on the psychoanalytic project. To be sure, Psychoanalytic Conversations will find many clinical and scholarly readers among those who relish a good engrossing read. But it will have special appeal to students of analysis who share Rudnytsky's belief that if psychoanalysis is to remain vital in the new century, "it can only be by expanding its horizons and learning from those who have taken it to task."