Saturday, August 29, 2009

Freud in the Adirondacks!

Interesting Op-Ed today by Leon Hoffman, a psychiatrist, about Freud’s only visit to America. He arrived via Hoboken 100 years ago today, which is pretty neat in itself, but it’s also intriguing that while here he hung out at the Adirondack camp of one James Jackson Putnam,“a professor of neurology at Harvard and a leader of a growing movement to professionalize psychotherapy in the United States.”

After listening to Freud at Clark [University, where Freud lectured], Putnam invited him and the other psychoanalysts who had traveled with him to the United States — Carl Jung (who also lectured and received an honorary degree at Clark) and Sandor Ferenczi — to spend a few days at the Putnam family camp in the Adirondacks, after the group visited Niagara Falls. Freud marveled at Putnam Camp, “where we had an opportunity of being acquainted with the utter wilderness of such an American landscape.” In several days of hiking and feasting, Putnam and Freud cemented a strong bond.

The article doesn’t mention the location of Putnam Camp, but it appears to be near Lake Placid.

Putnam’s great-grandson, George Prochnik, wrote a book in 2006 about this meeting, Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychology, and a review provides some fun details:

Prochnik introduces him at Putnam Camp, an Adirondack hideaway where he, James and fellow Transcendentalists would gather to play whimsical games, stage Wagner sing-alongs, eat griddlecakes and commune with nature. Freud proved something of a wet blanket, disdaining the sailor outfit worn by Putnam’s teenage cousin and lagging on the group’s vigorous hikes. His private goal, of seeing a porcupine, was fulfilled in part — he found a dead one.

Freud fans: any particular significance of porcupines? (I’m reminded of a joke I heard Lou Reed tell once, in a radio interview. He said something about the way he worked on a particular project: “The way porcupines make love — carefully.”)

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