Sabina Spielrein and the Beginnings of Psychoanalysis: Image, Thought, and Language, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Sabina Spielrein and the Beginnings of Psychoanalysis

Image, Thought, and Language, 1st Edition

Edited by Pamela Cooper-White, Felicity Brock Kelcourse


374 pages

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Sabina Spielrein stands as both an important and tragic figure—misunderstood or underestimated by her fellow analysts (including Jung and Freud) and often erased in the annals of psychoanalytic history. Her story has not only been largely forgotten, but actively (though unconsciously) repressed as the figure who represented a trauma buried in the early history of psychoanalysis.

Sabina Spielrein and the Beginnings of Psychoanalysis joins the growing field of scholarship on Spielrein’s distinctive and significant theoretical innovations at the foundations of psychoanalysis and serves as a new English language source of some of Spielrein’s key works. The book includes:

  • Four chapters by Felicity Brock Kelcourse, Pamela Cooper-White, Klara Naszkowska, and Adrienne Harris spanning Spielrein’s life and exploring her works in depth, with new insights about her influence not only on Jung and Freud, but also Piaget in Geneva and Vygotsky and Luria in Moscow.
  • A timeline providing readers with important historical context including Spielrein, Freud, Jung, other theorists, and historical events in Europe (1850-1950).
  • Twelve new translations of works by Spielrein, ten of which are the first ever translations into English from the original French, German, or Russian.

Spielrein’s life and works are currently undergoing a serious and necessary critical reclamation, as the fascinating chapters in this book attest. Sabina Spielrein and the Beginnings of Psychoanalysis will be of great significance to all psychoanalysts, psychoanalytic psychotherapists, analytical psychologists, and scholars of psychoanalysis interested in Spielrein and the early development of the field.


"This fascinating book fills a large gap, and provides an important corrective, showing Sabina Spielrein as an original and innovative psychoanalytic thinker in her own right, not as a minor or romantic character between Jung and Freud, nor as one who primarily borrowed from them and Piaget, for example. Cooper-White and Kelcourse, along with Harris and Naszkowska, give us Spielrein as one of the truly influential women in early psychoanalysis, despite erasure and non-citation. Accessible translations of her writings allow us to hear her own extraordinary voice."-Donna M. Orange, Ph.D., Psy.D., New York Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, USA

"Felicity Kelcourse and Pamela Cooper-White have edited an important collection of essays on the life and psychoanalytic contributions of Sabina Spielrein. The literature on Spielrein has come a long way since Aldo Carotenuto’s 1982 A secret symmetry: Sabina Spielrein between Freud and Jung. Subsequent literature has moved away from a focus on the triangular relationship between these famous figures to a critical assessment of Spielrein’s original work. Kelcourse focuses on Spielrein’s 1911 psychiatric dissertation, "On the Psychological Content of a Case of Schizophrenia." Cooper-White analyses Spielrein’s important 1912 article, "Destruction as a Cause of Becoming." Two additional contributors. Klara Naszkowska and Adrienne Harris cover Spielrein’s return to Russia in 1923, assessing her contributions to the development of psychoanalysis in Russia, with a specific focus on child language development."-Brian Skea, IAAP, Ph.D., Jungian psychoanalyst, private practice, Brewster, Massachusetts, USA; teaching faculty, past President and current Curriculum Coordinator, Boston Jung Institute

Table of Contents

Introduction – The Editors Part I: Life and Works – an Overview A Comparative Timeline: Spielrein, Freud, Jung, and Other Theorists, Including Key Works and Significant Events within the History of Psychoanalysis – Cooper-White, Kelcourse & Harris Ch. 1 - From Rostov to Zürich: The Making of an Analyst - Felicity Brock Kelcourse Ch. 2 - From Zürich to Vienna: "The Power that Beautifies and Destroys" – Pamela Cooper-White Ch. 3 – Passions, Politics, and Drives: Sabina Spielrein in Soviet Russia – Klara Naszkowska Ch. 4 – "Language Is There to Bewilder Itself and Others": Theoretical and Clinical Contributions of Sabina Spielrein – Adrienne Harris Part II: Samples of Spielrein’s Writings – New Translations in English Ch. 5 – Excerpts from On the Psychological Content of a Case of Schizophrenia (dissertation) (1911) Ch. 6 – Destruction as the Cause of Becoming (1911) Ch. 7 – Maternal Love (1913) Ch. 8 – The Forgotten Name (1914) Ch. 9 – Two Menstrual Dreams (1914)Ch. 10 – Russian Literature: Report on the Progress of Psychoanalysis in the Years 1914-1919 (1921) Ch. 11 – Who is the Guilty One? (1922) Ch. 12 – Time in Subliminal Psychic Life (1923) Ch. 13 – The Three Questions (1923) Ch. 14 – Some Similarities between a Child’s Thought, Aphasic Thought, and Subconscious Thought (1923) Ch. 15 – Dr. Skalkovskiy’s Report (1929) Ch. 16 – Children’s Drawings with Eyes Open and Closed (1928/1931)

About the Editors

Pamela Cooper-White is the Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York, and 2013-2014 Fulbright-Freud Scholar of Psychoanalysis, Vienna, Austria. She is the author of Old and Dirty Gods: Religion, Antisemitism, and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2017).

Felicity Brock Kelcourse is Associate Professor of Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Psychotherapy at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Her most recent books include (as editor and contributor) Human Development and Faith, 2nd edition (Chalice, 2015) and Transforming Wisdom: Pastoral Psychotherapy in Theological Perspective, co-edited with K. Brynolf Lyon (Cascade, 2015).

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Jungian