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The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry is a classic work of medical history and historiography, written by the Swiss medical historian Henri F. Ellenberger. First published in 1970 and constantly in print since then, it has become the standard historical reference for the early and middle development of dynamic psychiatry, covering the period from antiquity up to about 1950.The major focus of this 932-page work is on the contributions and thought of Janet, Freud, Adler and Jung, but the five large chapters on earlier centuries contain a wealth of information on the many precursors of modern psychiatry, including exorcism, Mesmerism, and hypnotherapy. The work describes the earliest inklings in medicine of the existence of an unconscious mind, a part of the mind that remains below the surface of awareness. Ellenberger relates the gradual exploration of this uncharted world of unconscious thought and feeling, with its many false starts, incorrect assumptions, and (to modern eyes) bizarre theories.The work is encyclopedic, with thousands of references into the literature, but the author is not without a particular point of view, nor is the work free of polemics. Abrams, Samuel (1974) Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 43, 303-306. It has been credited with beginning a 25-year-long reevaluation of the position of psychoanalysis within the history of medicine. For example, Frederick Crews wrote that Ellenberger's "... long and learned chapter on Freud demolished the myth, carefully nurtured by Freud himself and his Boswell, Ernest Jones, of the master's utter originality, his facing up to disturbing truths unearthed in his clinical practice, and his solitary defiance of his contemporaries' prudish hypocrisy. By displaying Freud's all-too-human opportunism and disingenuousness and by bringing him down from the clouds into 19th-century intellectual history, Ellenberger tacitly invited other scholars to inquire whether the vast cultural success of psychoanalysis rested on any actual discoveries." Crews, Frederick (1996) "The Verdict on Freud". Psychological Science, vol. 7, No. 2.
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