Joan Riviere (1883-1962) is best known for her role in promoting the ideas of others. She came to prominence in the world of psychoanalysis as Freud’s favorite translator and Melanie Klein’s earliest and most loyal supporter.
In her new book The Life and Work of Joan Riviere: Freud, Klein and Female Sexuality
(Routledge, 2018), Marion Bower puts Joan Riviere herself, the woman and the psychoanalyst, in the spotlight. She shows how Riviere made use of the latest psychoanalytic ideas in a highly creative and original way, expressing herself with clarity and emotional depth in seminal works about the inner life of female sexuality and treatment impasses. She was able to draw from a lifetime of challenging and fruitful experiences. After a childhood rife with emotional neglect, she stepped into the rich ferment of the dying Victorian era and came in touch with major progressive forces of the time like the suffragettes and the Society for Psychical Research. As a dressmaker’s apprentice, she was among the first wave of women entering the work force. When the shifting soil of her childhood proved unstable, she entered analysis with Ernest Jones and, after becoming an analyst, with Freud himself. This personal connection proved fortuitous to the newly formed British Psychoanalytic Society, as it provided a solid anchor against the dividing drift between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein.
Bower paints an intimate portrait of a woman with a stern and sometimes vitriolic public persona and a shy and fragile personality that was saved by her involvement in psychoanalysis. In her best moments she was able to bridge that gap in her psychoanalytic writing, revealing herself through her theoretical musings.
Marion Bower has trained as a teacher, social worker and psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She has worked for many years in the child mental health services, including the Tavistock Clinic, and has edited and co-edited four books on various applications of psychoanalysis. She is currently co-editing a book on sexual exploitation.
Sebastian Thrul is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in training in Germany and Switzerland. He can be reached at email@example.com.