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An Accident of Hope: The Therapy Tapes of Anne Sexton Hardcover – 12 Mar 2012


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Review

"An Accident of Hope is a rich and far-ranging text that covers such diverse topics as creativity, identity, narrative, the history of psychiatry/psychology, and the history of feminism. Skorczewski’s explorations touch upon very fundamental questions of identity and creativity." –PsycCRITIQUES

"Dawn Skorczewski explores this explosive material with delicacy and a sensitive hand. While An Accident of Hope limns the contours of Anne Sexton's deep-seated emotions – both the joy and the anguish – and the intertwined roots of her poetry, it simultaneously gives us a compelling read that never, ever, disappoints." - Linda Gray Sexton, author of Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide and Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother: Anne Sexton

"By combining close readings of Anne Sexton's poems, mid-20th-century cultural history, and reflections on the development of psychoanalytic theory and technique, Dawn Skorczewski has produced a richly contextualized interpretive account of the audio recordings of the last six months of the poet's treatment with psychiatrist Martin Orne. An Accident of Hope amply demonstrates the mutually generative potential of literary and psychoanalytic texts and methodologies, while also reinforcing our sense of the propriety of Freud's oft-cited avowal that, wherever he went, he found that a poet had gotten there before him. Toggling back and forth between Sexton's poems and her taped conversations with Orne, Skorczewski reveals that, in certain ways, Sexton had a more forward-looking understanding than her doctor did of the psychotherapeutic relationship as a creative partnership." - Max Cavitch, University of Pennsylvania, USA 

"In An Accident of Hope, worlds creatively collide. Skorczewski composes a contrapuntal work of great force that resonates on several levels at once. Poems comment on intimate therapy encounters, and the encounters themselves reveal a patient trying to teach her beloved therapist how to listen to her and a therapist teetering between sexist and rigid theoretical analytic paradigms and a desire to nurture the creative human being in his care. Masterfully―and lyrically―connecting Sexton's poems, therapy sessions, and the therapeutic and cultural norms of the time, Skorczewski tells the tale of a great poet, a traumatized and traumatizing woman, and a patient whose challenges to her therapist foreshadow relational understandings of what harms and what heals." - Lynne Layton, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, USA

"Dawn Skorczewski's responsiveness to the psychoanalytic narrative invites readers into an affecting study of the inner lives of men and women. With sophistication, care, and a literary style that makes for compelling reading, she draws readers into Dr. Martin Orne's tape recorded clinical treatment of the poet Anne Sexton. It is an unusual record of poetry and life woven from the fragility of creativity between the poet and the analyst. Nested in this commentary are the erotic tensions between North American psychoanalysis and the arts in the 1960s. Through the painful complications of childhood, adulthood, and illness, Skorczewski writes of love, hate, and sexuality; there is rare attunement to the backstage of lives in search of meaning. And new questions follow: Must one choose between art and life or between poetry and therapy? This book promises to open significant debate on the emotional conflicts of the imagination." - Deborah P. Britzman, York University, UK, and author of Freud and Education

"An Accident of Hope offers the reader insight into the workings of the mind of a patient who is fully aware of the importance of her relationship with her therapist, not only to free her from her demons but to give birth to her poetic creativity. Dawn Skorczewski succeeded in writing a book that is instructive, entertaining, and a captivating read. It is instructive because of the author's appreciation of how psychoanalytic theory of the 1960s had affected this treatment, and because in interpreting Sexton's poems she was able to establish the connection between Sexton's increasing insights into her turbulent inner world and what her poetry was successfully communicating. The easy, conversational style of writing is experienced as if the reader were a third person in Dr. Orne's consulting room. This is an extraordinary book that psychoanalysts and literary critics will find equally rewarding." - Anna Ornstein, University of Cincinnati, USA

"Skorczewski’s work with the transcripts of Sexton’s private therapy sessions refuses any prurient interest the reader may have in Sexton’s flamboyant character―or the melodramatic features of her suicide. With her extensive knowledge of psychoanalytic theory, Skorczewski is able to make lucid comparisons between Orne’s clinical approach, which relied heavily on Freudian theory and its later expression as ego psychology, and contemporary theories of analysis that she argues provide superior modalities for treating mental illness and depression." - Judith Harris, DIVISION | REVIEW WINTER 2014

About the Author

Dawn Skorczewski, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English and Director of University Writing at Brandeis University. She is the author of Teaching One Moment at a Time: Disruption and Repair in the Classroom (University of Massachusetts Press, 2005) and co-editor of Conflicts and Crises in the Composition Classroom (NCTE, 2003). Her articles on the connections between psychoanalysis and pedagogy include "Analyst as Teacher/Teacher as Analyst: A Confusion of Tongues?" (Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2008) and "Questioning Authority in the Psychoanalytic Classroom" (Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2004). She was the 2009 recipient of the CORST Essay Prize in Psychoanalysis and Culture from the American Psychoanalytic Association and the 2007 recipient of the Gondor Award for Contributions to Psychoanalytic Education.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Even if you know all about Anne Sexton, you will learn more from this book 14 Jan. 2013
By D. Kovacs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After my disappointment over Linda Gray Sexton's last book (Half In Love),
I decided not to bother with further books related to Anne Sexton.
However, when I came across this book on her therapy tapes, I changed my
mind and took a chance on it. After spending several days reading it, I can
say that it is very worthwhile.

I am approaching this book as a fan of Sexton and her poetry, as one who
is already aware of the great pain that her mental illness caused for her
and all who cared for her. I figured that the book would have its share of
politically correct academic language and "psychobabble". That turned out
to be the case, but it was easy to look past it to the human story -- the story
of Sexton, her family, friends, therapists -- and the story of the creation
of great poetry in the face of unclear but horrific memories and gripping mental
illness.

I knocked off one star because some more judicious editing would have helped
(there are a number of typos in the text). The book is lengthy and raises
the reader's interest in the speculation as to whether Sexton would have been enabled
to beat more of her demons and avoid suicide IF Dr. Orne had been able to continue
as her therapist. Their work together allowed Sexton to leave the gift of her poems
to us, and for that we must be thankful.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
sexton addict 17 Oct. 2012
By ezgraphic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
cannot get enough information about this tortured soul. Wonderful book to add to my already large collection
Wish she was still with us and had been able to overcome her mental illness issues. So sad that the most tortured touch us the most.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a disgusting invasion of privacy and quite sickening 4 April 2015
By David Skeens - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
These tapes should have been burnt. This is a disgusting invasion of privacy and quite sickening.
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