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Sex Versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein
Launer, John
Overlook Press / Softcover / 2017-06-01 / 1468312596
Classic Psychoanalysis / Biography and Memoir
price: $24.95 (may be subject to change)
320 pages
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Who was Sabina Spielrein? She is probably best known for her notorious affair with Carl Jung, which was dramatized in the film A Dangerous Method, starring Keira Knightley. Yet her life story is much more compelling than just one famous relationship. Spielrein overcame family and psychological abuse to become a profoundly original thinker in her own right.

Sex Versus Survival is the first biography to put her life and ideas at the center of the story and examine Spielrein’s key role in the development of psychoanalysis. Drawing on fresh research into Spielrein’s diaries, papers, and correspondence, John Launer shows how Spielrein’s overlooked ideas—rejected by Freud and Jung but substan-tially vindicated by later developments in psychol-ogy and evolutionary biology—may represent the last and most important stage in the rediscovery of an extraordinary life.

An absorbing account — Times Literary Supplement

In this gripping, archive-based, detective-like tale, Launer debunks depictions by Cronenberg and others of Spielrein, her affair with Jung, and Jung's troubles on this account with Sigmund Freud. — Times Higher Education Suplement

Spielrein emerges from the murk with more credit than either [Jung or Freud] . . . I’m impressed by the humane dignity with which [Launer] recounts her lurid life. — The Spectator

By the end of Launer’s account, there’s no mistaking what the founding fathers of analysis did to this particular founding mother—and probably to many other women. At least this biography offers Spielrien some retrospective justice. — Jewish Book World

This memorable book finally gives [Spielrien] the recognition she deserves. — The Lady

Now with Launer's authoritative and riveting biography, Sabina Spielrein's name may, hopefully, be spared from the dustbin of psychoanalytic history—while also serving as a reminder that intellectual giants, like Jung and Freud, are simply more human than otherwise. — Leo Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, New York University, World Association of International Studies

Launer has written an engrossing biography that shines a light on the trails blazed by this fascinating woman . . . Launer’s book goes far in promoting Spielrein as a major figure in the history of psychoanalysis. — The Psychoanalytic Review

It is an excellent book and a labor of love, a gripping account of Spielrein’s life and work, illuminated by a narrative of contemporaneous historical events — Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

Incredibly well-researched and beautifully written . . . A highly positive recommendation for everyone who is interested in the history of psychology and its most influential scientists. Pick up this book and spend a few days immersing yourself in the mind and story of 20th century scientist Sabina Spielrein. — In-Mind

An impressively researched, documented, and readable biography, this is long overdue but worth the wait. — Library Journal (Starred Review)

This biography is an invaluable resource for understanding Spielrein’s significance, her progressive thinking, and her groundbreaking contributions to the history of psychoanalysis. — Publishers Weekly

A forgotten psychoanalyst's fevered life. Tavistock Clinic senior staff member Launer asserts that Sabina Spielrein (1885-1942) deserves more attention for her groundbreaking work: the first study of the internal logic of schizophrenic speech, her insights into children's imaginations, and her use of Darwinian theory in her hypothesis of ‘the inseparable connection between death and sex.' — Kirkus

Sabina Spielrein has been presented to the world as an erotic go-between linking Freud and Jung in the steamy days of the beginnings of psychoanalysis. In this remarkable, ground-breaking work, John Launer shows just how distorted and limited a view this is of a woman who was a pioneer of psychoanalysis and of scientific thinking in psychology. With grace and scholarly passion, Launer offers a radical new biography that places Spielrein where she belongs—as a figure of major importance in twentieth century thought.” — Professor Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, London and author of For and Against Psychoanalysis

Dr. Launer argues cogently, and at times passionately, that Spielrein was not only an influence on Freud and Jung but an originating, and honestly female, analyst in her own right . . . The account of her anonymous end, in the Holocaust, is painfully moving. — D. M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel

This wonderful book is the first full-length biography in English of Sabina Spielrein. Mainly remembered, if at all, as someone who had an affair with Carl Jung, when she was a patient of his, she was also, as John Launer reveals, a highly original thinker whose work is only now becoming appreciated. — Professor Michael J. Reiss, Institute of Education, University of London

An eminently readable, detective story-like history of the early years of psychoanalysis and the fascinating woman at its heart. Spielrein’s intuition of a trade-off between survival and reproduction is now a cornerstone of evolutionary theory. But for sexism, anti-Semitism, World War I, Stalinism, and the Holocaust, psychoanalysis might long ago have been grounded in our only scientific theory of life.” — Professor James Chisholm, University of Western Australia and author of Death, Hope and Sex: Steps to an Evolutionary Ecology of Mind and Morality

About the Author:

John Launer is on the senior staff of the Tavistock Clinic in London, the leading training institute in the UK for psychological treatment and is the Associate Dean for postgraduate medical education at the University of London.


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Launer, John
Spielrein, Sabina
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Biography and Memoir
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