"Interpreting Interpretation" by Elyn Saks

Interpreting Interpretation The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis Elyn Saks

Publication date:
10 Apr 1999
Yale University Press
280 pages: 210 x 140mm
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Psychoanalytic interpretation, according to the hermeneutic view, is concerned with meaning rather than facts or causes. In this provocative book, Elyn R. Saks focuses closely on what hermeneutic psychoanalysis is and how the approaches of hermeneutic psychoanalysts differ. She finds that although these psychoanalysts use the same words, concepts, images, and analogies, they hold to at least five different positions on the truth of psychoanalytic interpretations. Saks locates within these five models the thought of such prominent analysts as Roy Schafer, Donald Spence, and George Klein. Then, approaching each model from the patient’s point of view, the author reaches important conclusions about treatments that patients not only will—but should—reject.

If patients understood the true nature of the various models of hermeneutic psychoanalysis, Saks argues, they would spurn the story model, which asks patients to believe interpretations that do not purport to be true; that is, the psychoanalyst simply tells stories that give meaning to patients’ lives, the truth of which is not considered relevant. And patients would question the metaphor and the interpretations-as-literary-criticism models, which propose views of psychoanalysis that may be unsatisfying. In addition to discussing which hermeneutic models of treatment are plausible, Saks discusses the nature of metaphorical truth. She arrives at some penetrating insights into the theory of psychoanalysis itself.

Elyn R. Saks is Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychiatry, and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Law School. She is also research clinical associate at the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

"This is a challenging book by a law professor who has been trained as a psychoanalyst. In a stimulating and clarifying manner, the author explores theories of interpretation in psychoanalysis by formulating and analyzing five models of hermeneutic psychoanalysis. With the provocative presumption that patients would reject hermeneutic psychoanalysis if informed of its true metaphoric nature, the author forces into view cutting-edge, penetrating questions for all who are interested in psychoanalysis and its applications."?Albert J. Solnit, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics & Psychiatry, Yale University

?Well informed and tightly reasoned, this book makes an original and important contribution to the topic of psychoanalytic interpretation.??Ernst Prelinger, Yale School of Medicine

"The intelligent person?s guide to hermeneutic psychoanalysis in its five guises, clear and robust. And why any patient informed of its nature would reject the hermeneutic effort and seek ?historical? truth rather than ?narrative? substitutes. Compelling."?Gerald Aronson, M.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, Los Angeles Institute of Psychoanalysis

?This volume is a difficult and important effort to illuminate various aspects of interpretation and to provide a typology of hermeneutics in psychoanalysis. . . . Psychoanalysis can be more effective, the more they understand and think about the various origins and elements of interpretation. This volume will provide analysts of all persuasions with new ways to obtain this understanding.??Richard L. Munich, Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

?[Saks] succeeds in giving readers a clearer sense of the positions of prominent hermeneuts, and in providing models that make the different versions of hermeneutics in analytic thinking and practice easier to understand. The book can be recommended to anyone interested in hermeneutics, to analysts with a hermeneutic orientation, and to the uninitiated who might want a bird?s-eye perspective of hermeneutic analysis.??Cecilio Paniagua, JAPA

Winner of the Jacques Brien Award given by the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute