Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis

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Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis
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.

Publication Date: 
April 10, 1999