Joy Damousi, Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in
Joy Damousi, a historian currently lecturing at the University of Melbourne, has shown a vested interest in psychoanalysis since her third and fourth books, The Labour of Loss: Mourning Memory and Wartime Bereavement in Australia (Cambridge, 1999) and Living With the Aftermath: Trauma, Nostalgia and Grief in Post-War Australia (Cambridge, 2001). This inclination for Freudianism was spelled out in the subsequent book she co-edited with Australian historian Robert Reynolds History on the Couch: Essays in History and Psychoanalysis (Melbourne University Press, 2003). In 2005 she brought her ongoing project to fruition by publishing Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australia, which had mixed reviews in
Currently working on a psychoanalytic book project, I had high expectations for this cultural history, hoping to find out why psychoanalysis has never really kicked off in
Things also were stirring as far off as
With historical hindsight, one might feel these were the heydays of psychoanalysis in the
Lacanian studies being more popular than Freudian theories in the Antipodes, it comes as no surprise that the first major book-length study on the influence of psychoanalysis in
As I suspected Damousi’s study would cover the arts – and we have remarkable pages on Freud’s impact on Australian painting as reflected in the works by James Gleeson, Joy Hester, or Albert Tucker – I had also expected to read about Xavier Pons’s monograph on Henry Lawson entitled Out of Eden (which launched in the 1980s the pathography trend in Australia that eventually fizzled out) or about David Tacey’s Patrick White: Fiction and the Unconscious, the other landmark psychobiographical study in Australian fiction. But literature was left out of the picture. Freud in the Antipodes may therefore be envisioned as a form of teasing for readers to look forward to perusing its forthcoming companion volume, should there be any.
While reading Freud in the Antipodes, not only was I under the impression that Damousi’s initial project began as a world history of Freudianism in the twentieth century, but I was also left in want of more specific details on its impact Down Under. Say, why would psychoanalysis fare better in Europe than in
In his book review of Double-Wolf, David Tacey, a Jungian critic, has analysed how
Firstly, Australian consciousness is suspicious of theory per se. Our own Australian pragmatism, backed by British positivism and rationalism, makes us culturally unappreciative of any kind of theory, whether Freudian or otherwise. Secondly because relatively few Australians actually read Freud we are all susceptible to crude summaries and vulgar simplifications of Freudian theory. [...] In “rejecting” Freud, many people are merely rejecting popular clichés and prejudices which have arisen from gossip and misinformation over several decades. (Tacey, 12)
Michael Dudley’s argument runs along the same lines : “Australian distrust of psychiatry may be linked with our frontier culture, and our cultural myths about self-sufficiency and masculine prowess, our suspicion of intellectualism and ‘things mental’, and our aversion to authority and ‘tall poppies’.” (
Joy Damousi’s massive study, which I found being tantalizing food for thought, has certainly whetted my appetite. Yet, I have also felt that there was something missing, like delineating a major distinction between psychology, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry. Damousi’s assimilation of different trends typifies the strange twist psychoanalysis has taken in
In more recent years, there have been efforts to draw together analysts as well as psychotherapists and counsellors into a unified body around common interests and concerns. PACFA – the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia – was established to ‘provide an umbrella group for the whole counselling and psychotherapy profession’ in order to break down some of the tensions and differences between the various groups. (328).
Having second thoughts about this review, I believe after all that Damousi’s achievement has matched her intent: throughout her account, she has proved – more often than once – that Freudianism has had little impact in Australia, leaving people confused about definitions and being relegated to a simmering offshoot of bubbling activities which were taking place at the core of European cities. In the Antipodes, Freudian theories were only of concern to a cluster of aficionados based in
Dudley, Michael. “Apologia Pro Vita Nostra: Critics and Psychiatrist,” in Harry Heseltine (ed.) Literature and Psychiatry: Bridging the Divide (Canberra: ADFA, 1992): 67-98.
Elliott, Anthony (ed.). Freud 2000. (New-York: Routledge, 1999).
Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. (London: The Hogarth Press, 1963).
Pons, Xavier. Out of
Rutherford, Jennifer. The Gauche Intruder: Freud Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy. (
Tacey, David. Patrick White: Fiction and the Unconscious. (Melbourne: OUP, 1988).Tacey, David. “Freud, Fiction and the Australian Mind,” Island 49 (Summer 1991): 8-13.