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John Michael Kerr (January 31, 1950 – July 18, 2016) was an American author raised in New York City and best known for his nonfiction book A Most Dangerous Method, which examined the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein.

John Kerr
Born(1950-01-31)January 31, 1950
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJuly 18, 2016(2016-07-18) (aged 66)
Portland, Maine, U.S.
Alma materNew York University


Early life and familyEdit

Kerr was born in Washington, D.C., to mother Jean Kerr and father Walter Kerr shortly before their relocation to Larchmont, New York. He was one of six siblings, the oldest being Christopher, his twin Colin, and younger Gilbert, Gregory, and Kitty. Raised in a house of writers, his family was the subject of humorous articles scribed by his mother that would be collected into the volume Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1957).


A Most Dangerous Method is the result of an eight-year examination of the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein, and creates a new narrative of the birth of psychoanalysis. John Kerr not only gives Spielrein her proper recognition for contributions to analytic theory, but gives fresh perspective on the Freud-Jung stalemate that resulted in the two parting ways.

Random House published A Most Dangerous Method in 1993,[1] to the outrage of the psychoanalytical community. In November 1993 Frederick Crews wrote "The Unknown Freud", an essay published in The New York Review of Books, in which he used Kerr's book review as a platform to attack Freud's methods and practices.[2] The essay would result in the largest influx of letters to the editor in the history of The New York Review of Books.


Soon after publication, talks were opened with production companies to adapt the book to film. Christopher Hampton was brought in as screenwriter. When talks stalled, Hampton adapted the work for stage. Entitled The Talking Cure, it opened in London in 2003.[3]

Hampton subsequently wrote the screenplay for the 2011 David Cronenberg Film A Dangerous Method.[4]

Later life and deathEdit

After a long stint in Brooklyn, Kerr relocated to Portland, Maine, in 1998. He resided in Portland's West End. He died at Maine Medical Center in Portland from complications of lung cancer, while surrounded by friends on July 18, 2016.[5]


  1. ^ John Kerr (August 2, 1994). "A Most Dangerous Method".
  2. ^ Frederick Crews, Ph.D (November 18, 1993). "The Unknown Freud".
  3. ^ Michael Billington (January 14, 2003). "The Talking Cure".
  4. ^ UMDb (2011). "A Dangerous Method".
  5. ^ Carey, Benedict (July 30, 2016). "John Kerr, Chronicler of Freud-Jung Rift, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-07-30.