A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America

Lawrence R. Samuel

288 pages


April 2013


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eBook (EPUB)
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April 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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April 2013


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About the Book

“Psychology has stepped down from the university chair into the marketplace” was how the New York Times put it in 1926. Another commentator in 1929 was more biting. Psychoanalysis, he said, had over a generation, “converted the human scene into a neurotic.” Freud first used the word around 1895, and by the 1920s psychoanalysis was a phenomenon to be reckoned with in the United States. How it gained such purchase, taking hold in virtually every aspect of American culture, is the story Lawrence R. Samuel tells in Shrink, the first comprehensive popular history of psychoanalysis in America.

Arriving on the scene at around the same time as the modern idea of the self, psychoanalysis has both shaped and reflected the ascent of individualism in American society. Samuel traces its path from the theories of Freud and Jung to the innermost reaches of our current me-based, narcissistic culture. Along the way he shows how the arbiters of culture, high and low, from public intellectuals, novelists, and filmmakers to Good Housekeeping and the Cosmo girl, mediated or embraced psychoanalysis (or some version of it), until it could be legitimately viewed as an integral feature of American consciousness.

Author Bio

Lawrence R. Samuel is the author of several books, including The American Dream: A Cultural History and Freud on Madison Avenue: Motivation Research and Subliminal Advertising in America.


“A fascinating, funny, and fast-paced exploration of how psychoanalysis has become subtly but deeply ingrained in everything from American art and advertising to our aspirations and identities.”—Stephen J. Kraus, author of Psychological Foundations of Success: A Harvard-Trained Scientist Separates the Science of Success from Self-Help Snake Oil

“An exceptionally well-researched, accessible book that will undoubtedly appeal to both professionals in the psychoanalytic field and the interested lay reader.”—Therese Ragen, author of The Consulting Room and Beyond: Psychoanalytic Work and Its Reverberations in the Analyst’s Life

"[Samuel] takes psychoanalysis off the couch in this fascinating history of the growth of Freud's brainchild. . . . This compelling study will appeal both to proponents and detractors."—Publishers Weekly

"The distinctiveness of Shrink lies in its focus on popular culture. . . . An American book on America and psychoanalysis would not be complete without the extras: the retelling of horror and wonder stories that made news in the 1950s–1970s; the review of the popular terms that emerged to capture the psychoanalytic moment—from getting "psyched" in the 1920s to "hitting the couch" in mid-century; the discussion of films dealing with psychoanalysis; the treatment of the topic in women’s magazines, etc. etc."—Liana Giorgi, New York Journal of Books

"A fascinating history."—James A. Cox , Library Bookwatch

"Lawrence R. Samuel successfully explores the role psychoanalysis has had on shaping the country's consciousness overtime. Samuel delivers a powerful narrative of the discipline's ups and downs, packed with lively quotes, anecdotes, and fascinating historical tidbits."—Foreword Reviews

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The New Psychology
Chapter 2: The Voodoo Religion
Chapter 3: The Horizontal Hour
Chapter 4: The Pernicious Influence
Chapter 5: The Impossible Perfection
Chapter 6: The Comeback Couch

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