Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


April 1, 2002

Psychoanalytic studies makes most of resources

By Eric Rangus


The practice of psychoanalytic studies owes its existence to many fields—some psychology here, a little philosophy there. Emory’s program in psychoanalytic studies owes its existence to the hard work of a host of professors, administrators and graduate students.

“Psychoanalytic studies has just been an intellectual idea until very recently,” said Elissa Marder, associate professor of French and director of the 4-year-old program. “There’s no office, and we have no phone number, yet this is one of the most powerful intellectual centers at Emory.

Throughout the country—internationally, in fact—Emory’s Psychoanalytic Studies Program is seen as the ideal other universities strive to emulate. Universities like Columbia and Southern Methodist as well as schools as far off as England and Argentina have contacted Emory for tips on how to build their own psychoanalytic studies programs.

“I didn’t foresee the growth, but I am pleased to see how it has taken shape,” said Bobby Paul, acting dean of Emory College and the man who spearheaded the program’s creation. “This is a real example of something that was built from the ground level.”

In the mid-1990s, Paul, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Study, received clinical training and eventually a certificate as a psychoanalyst from Emory’s Psychoanalytic Institute.

A longtime scholar of psychological anthropology, Paul’s experience gave him an interesting perspective in that he was able to view psychoanalytic studies from two viewpoints: that of a clinician as well as an academic. “I was eager to bridge the gap between the two,” he said.

In 1996, with the help of a small, interdisciplinary committee of writers, Paul drafted a proposal for the program. The envisioned program would utilize faculty members already at Emory and be made up of courses already being taught—Paul also would teach an introductory course.

In spring 1997, Paul received a University Teaching Fund (UTF) grant and used it to lay the program’s groundwork. By the fall, it was up and running. With limited resources, Paul needed a lot of help—which he got.

“It was a staggering stroke of luck for us to have some very talented and academically gifted, high-energy graduate students who have played an active role in the creation of the program,” Paul said.

Much of the work in building the program has been done by the students who have benefited from it. Fund raising, programming, advertising, planning conferences and speaker appearances, constructing the web page, all of these activities crucial to solidifying the program came from the labor of graduate students.

Students like Aimee Pozorski, who co-wrote an article describing the program for The Journal of Higher Education; and Eddie Gamarra, who along with Lisa Diedrich will make up the first graduating class of psychoanalytic studies minors this May, are two examples of the kind of students Paul is talking about.

“Being a student who is also involved in administration has been very gratifying, and it’s been a great way for me to learn how to train newer and younger graduate students,” said Gamarra, who has been a graduate student in the Institute of Liberal Arts since 1996 and worked with the Psychoanalytic Studies Program since its inception.

To earn a minor in psychoanalytic studies (a major is not offered), a graduate student must take three courses listed as part of the program as well as the seminar “Introduction to Psychoanalytic Studies.” To say students have a variety of academic disciplines from which to choose is an understatement.

This semester, classes in 10 departments, including disciplines as varied as comparative literature, psychology, philosophy, women’s studies and French, can be applied to psychoanalytic studies.

Minors must also participate in the program’s twice-a-month brown bag and monthly colloquia series. The brown bags most often feature Emory graduate students, who discuss aspects of their work. The colloquia are primarily opportunities to hear scholars, from both within and without the University, discuss psychoanalytic topics.

“Psychoanalysis offers one of the most genuinely fertile fields for productive interdisciplinary scholarship,” Marder said. “On one level it’s intrinsically interdisciplinary because it’s both a theory and a practice.”

Marder signed on as director for two years, and she already has a vision of where she would like to take the growing program.

“There is a sense that if psychoanalysis is going to have a future in the 21st century it won’t be a purely located in the medical sciences,” Marder said. The medical field is where psychoanalytic studies is a clinical practice; when applied in other disciplines, such as English or history, its theoretical aspect takes shape. “There is a sense of trying to bring together medical research with people in academia,” she continued.

Marder said one of her goals is to determine existing areas of concentration and research in psychoanalytic studies around campus. The next step would be to identify faculty members who fall into these categories and contact them about applying their work to the program. These areas of concentration, like everything else about the program, are wide ranging: gender and sexuality, trauma, and anthropology are just three avenues of exploration.

This plan is similar to the way psychoanalytic studies has been built already, only the scale is much larger.

“In my term I’d like to develop rigorous faculty participation,” Marder said. “I don’t want to burden anyone’s time, but instead maximize the energy people are already expending.”