Kurt R. Eissler

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Kurt R. Eissler (2 July 1908 – 17 February 1999) was an Austrian psychoanalyst and a close associate and follower of Sigmund Freud.

Training and contributionsEdit

K. R. Eissler took a PHD in psychology at Vienna University in 1934, and underwent a training analysis with August Aichhorn. His first psychoanalytic contribution, an article on early female development, was published in 1939, to be followed by others on anorexia nervosa and shock treatment.[1] With the Anschluss, Eissler moved to the States, where he developed into a combative supporter of the Freudian theory. Of his twelve, often heated and extensive books,[2] some half dealt with issues in Freud's life and work, the other half with figures from high culture such as Shakespeare and Goethe.

Eissler provided a spirited defence of the death drive,[3] and introduced the term 'parameter' to codify deviations from pure interpretation in the Freudian tradition.[4]

He saw creative art as emanating from an asocial element in the artist's mind, and as offering a form of conflict-resolution that need not be shared by the artist themselves.[5] He also considered that some forms of regression were of benefit to the artist in enabling them to break out of “the traditional pattern that he has been forced to integrate through the identifications necessitated and enforced by the oedipal constellation”.[6]

The Sigmund Freud ArchivesEdit

Eissler is also known for his work in establishing and filling the Sigmund Freud Archives, a wide-ranging collection of primary material relating to the life of Freud. The collection has not, however, proved uncontroversial. The historian Peter Gay commended Eissler on the one hand for his industry in preserving so much otherwise scattered and ephemeral material, but on the other hand challenged (on several occasions) his policy of restricting scholarly access to the said material.[7]

Controversy also surrounded his choice of successor for the Sigmund Freud Archives.[8]


Janet Malcolm described Eissler as a “singular mixture of brilliance, profundity, originality, and moral beauty on the one hand, and wilfulness, stubbornness, impetuosity, and maddening guilessness on the other”.[9] He was also an atheist.[10]

Selected publicationsEdit


___'On Certain Problems of Female Sexual Development' Psychoanalytic Quarterly VIII (1939)

____'Psychopathology and Creativity', American Imago 24 (1967)

___'Death Drive, Ambivalence, and Narcissism', The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child XXVI (1971)


  • ____Goethe (1963)
  • ____Medical Orthodoxy and the Future of Psychoanalysis (1965)
  • ____Talent and Genius (1971)
  • ____Freud and the Seduction Theory: A Brief Love Affair (2001)

See alsoEdit

  • ℳℳℳ


  1. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 608
  2. ^ The Lives They lived
  3. ^ P. Gay, Freud (1989) p. 768
  4. ^ J. Malcolm, Psychoanalysis (1988) p. 126
  5. ^ M. Solomon, Beethoven Essays (1988) p. 142-8 and p. 333
  6. ^ Quoted in M. Solomon, Beethoven Essays (1988) p. 149
  7. ^ P. Gay, Freud (1989) p. 784-5
  8. ^ Kurt Eissler, 90
  9. ^ J. Malcolm, In the Freud Archives (1997) p. 8
  10. ^ Erwin, Edward. The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print. "Eissler himself was an atheist who had never participated in a religious ritual"

External linksEdit