Saturday, August 20, 2016

R.I.P. | July 18–Jung's Biographer, John Kerr (1950-2016)

This day in 2016 died John Michael Kerr, born in Washington, D.C., to Jean Kerr and Walter Kerr.

John Kerr is best known for his nonfiction book A Most Dangerous Method, which examined the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein.

The connection to this blog is that according to Max Eastman and others, Eugen Boissevain went to Zürich to be analyzed by Carl Jung. (A 21st century writer tried to find a record of this analysis and failed.) Jung's methods can be assumed to have left their mark on Boissevain, and possibly contributed to the self-awareness that attracted Inez Milholland and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

John Kerr was one of six siblings. Raised in a house of writers based, after Washington, D.C., in Larchmont, N.Y., his family was the subject of humorous articles written by his mother collected as Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1957).

His book, A Most Dangerous Method (Random House, 1993)examines the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein. John Kerr gives Spielrein recognition for her contributions to analytic theory, and gives fresh perspective on the Freud-Jung stalemate that resulted in the two parting ways.

The psychoanalytical community was deeply distressed by the book. In November 1993 Frederick Crews wrote "The Unknown Freud" in The New York Review of Books. He used a review of Kerr's book to attack Freud's methods and practices, drawing the largest volume of letters in the history of The New York Review of Books.

Hampton adapted the work for stage as "The Talking Cure" (2003). Hampton subsequently wrote the screenplay for the David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method (2011).

After a long period resident in Brooklyn, Kerr moved to Portland, Maine in 1998. Eight years later he  died at Maine Medical Center in Portland from complications of lung cancer.

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