Sonu Shamdasani Reviews The Wounded Jung: Effects of Jung’s Relationships on his Life and Work by Robert C. Smith.
The Wounded Jung carries an endorsement from Stanley Riukas, describing it as “simply indispensable for a truly existential understanding of Jung’s psychological theory.”
The cover blurb goes on to declare that the book is based on an “unprecedented number of primary sources, including archive research, his own interviews with many of Jung’s intimates, and personal correspondence with Jung himself.”
A reader expecting either is likely to be disappointed.
I did not find a single new archival document in this book, and it is curious that if he actually did conduct any interviews with “many of Jung’s intimates,” why none of them are cited.
Smith exchanged a few letters with Jung, shortly before the latter’s death, two of which are printed in the second volume of C. G. Jung Letters (1976).
Smith was then writing a thesis on Buber and Jung.
Jung’s letters pointed out Buber and Smith’s misunderstandings of his work.
The one new piece of information in this book is a paraphrase of an unpublished letter that Jung wrote to Smith in 1960—also critiquing Smith’s misunderstanding of his work.
Judging by this book, Jung was none too successful in this regard.
The Wounded Jung is a speculative psychoanalytically informed psychobiography of Jung.
Smith’s contention is that the key to an understanding of Jung’s life and work can be found in his childhood traumas.
Smith characterizes Jung’s work as “diffuse,” “convoluted,” “muddled,” and he claims that Jung frequently “misleads” his reader.
It is supposedly his childhood that provides the missing hermeneutic key.
Smith discusses and draws upon earlier work in this genre of the postmortem analysis of Jung via his childhood by George Atwood and Robert Stolorow, John Gedo, Peter Homans, Jeffrey Satinover, Harry Slochower, Anthony Storr and D. W. Winnicott.
Their diverging opinions as to whether it was Jung’s mother or his father who was at the bottom of it all provides the one element of comic relief.
There are several problems with this genre.
Elements from the historical record are woven into a narrative based on a psychodynamic model.
Psychoanalytic interpretation fills in the gaps of the historical record, and where it encounters obstacles, events and occurrences are simply resignified to fit into the pregiven frame, through a series of symbolic equivalences in which anything can stand in for anything else.
Thus, rather than illuminating anything to do with Jung and the historical foundations of his work, such studies serve merely to illustrate the monotony of their interpretive schemata, through which Jung’s scalp is paraded as a trophy for Klein, Kohut, Kernberg and company.
Thus, Smith reductively reads Jung’s psychology of religion, and Christianity in particular, as stemming from the projection of his own childhood traumas on to religious symbols (Yahweh 5 Freud 5 Father, etc.)
Though he does not deal with Jung’s writings on Eastern religions, he strongly suspects that they had similar origins, thus revealing his own idee fixe.
Furthermore, all these works heavily rely on Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963).
Smith seems to be unaware of the history of the publication of the text, as detailed by Alan Elms and myself (Elms, 1994; Shamdasani, 1995).
As I established, the text was by no means Jung’s autobiography.
Jung’s own statements were edited, cut, and reshaped by numerous editors and translators, and he complained that they had “auntified” him.
As a consequence, diagnosing Jung on the basis of this text becomes a recipe for disaster.
Smith has consulted a typescript of the draft translation of Memories in the Countway library of Medicine.
He states that apart from Freud, Jung does not discuss his relations with men in Memories.
If Smith had consulted the German edition of Memories, he would have come across tributes to Heinrich Zimmer, Albert Oeri, and Theodore Flournoy.
Furthermore, if he had read the Countway manuscript closely, he would also have found a chapter on William James and a tribute to James Jackson Putnam.
So much for his archival research.
The Wounded Jung is also marked by a failure to consult the available literature.
Smith informs us that the Jung estate has refused to authorize the publication of Jung’s letters to Sabina Spielrein, which remain unpublished.
However, these were actually published in German in 1986 (Carotenuto, 1986)!
Then again—perhaps works such as Smith’s should simply be marked “history lite.~ Sonu Shamdasani, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 35(1), 68–70 Winter 1999
Adler, G., & Jaffe´, A. (Eds.). (1976). C. G. Jung letters. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1963). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Random House.
Elms, A. (1994). Uncovering lives: The uneasy alliance of biography and psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shamdasani, S. (1995). Memories, dreams, omissions. Spring: Journal of Archetype and Culture, 57.
Carotenuto, A. (1986). Tagebuch einer heimlichen Symmetrie: Sabina Spielrein zwischen Jung und Freud. Freiburg: Kore.
Reviewed by SONU SHAMDASANI, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 183
Euston Road, London NW1 ZBE, England.