Elizabeth Danto and Alexandra Steiner-Strauss
Anna Freud, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham and the Best Possible School
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in PsychoanalysisNew Books in Science & Technology July 19, 2019 Tracy Morgan
When we imagine Anna Freud, how does she appear to us? I have a snapshot image in my mind of a woman, almost nondescript, decidedly meek, standing usually near her father, Sigmund Freud. Her posture, bad from years spent stooping towards him, reflects not that of a woman, with her own interests and desires. Instead, I see a person who is self-abnegating and plain. My guess is that this image rings true for many.
Elizabeth Danto and Alexandra Steiner-Strauss’ edited book, Freud/Tiffany: Anna Freud, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham and the Best Possible School (Routledge, 2018), stands to alter what has become practically an idee fixe about Anna Freud. Whereas she can seem to exist only in a dyad with her father, she comes to life in this collection, outside of his purview. We meet the wealthy Dorothy Tiffany (as in stained glass) Burlingham from NYC who settles in Vienna with her children, fleeing a hard marriage, seeking analytic treatment for herself and her family. In short order, Anna Freud becomes the most important person in her life. Anna returns Dorothy’s affections and together they embark on many marvelous and groundbreaking psychoanalytic projects.
They create the Hietzing School in Red Vienna wherein the seeds for some of the most important psychoanalytic theorizing about children and adolescents are planted. Anna analyzes Dorothy’s son. Sigmund Freud analyzes Dorothy who he accepts as a daughter-in-law. Together these two women form an over 40 year love and professional relationship that included buying a country cottage for weekend sojourns away from it all to creating the Hampstead war nurseries. Anna helped raise Dorothy’s three kids and Dorothy trained to become an analyst. Thanks to the wonderful essays in this book, Anna Freud begins to take a new and exciting shape.
The book reads like a psychoanalytic who’s who: Erik Erikson, Peter Blos, August Aichorn are all on the scene teaching and advising at Heitzing. Almost all the students have analytic sessions. The Dewey method is applied. We meet Blos before he decides to enter analysis, having fallen into this position. We meet Erikson before he left his career as an artist to pursue analysis as well.
This collection tells the story of a school, the lives it impacted, the intellectual and clinical legacy it generated, but most especially it highlights the libidinous legacy of Freud and Burlingham, who, in finding and loving each other, created new modes of research, innovative forms of clinical education and a variety of radical institutions that have forever changed the way we understand the lives of children. And I have not even mentioned all the gorgeous photographs sprinkled throughout the text.
Tracy D. Morgan is the founding editor and first host of NBIP. A psychoanalyst, practicing in NYC and Rome, she serves on the faculty at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies. Trained also as a historian, she writes about many things. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org