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Encyclopedia and Handbook Entries

I contributed entries to three recent reference works:

Elms, A. C. (1999). Sigmund Freud. In M. Runco & S. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Creativity, vol. 1, 745-751. San Diego: Academic Press.

". . . . Though few psychologists and psychiatrists now wholeheartedly accept Freud's specific versions of theory and therapy, most current personality theories and psychotherapies incorporate his broad positions at some level. His influence is most strongly visible in two areas: first, the academic practice of critical and cultural theory, plus psychobiography and psychohistory; and second, in our society's most widespread conceptions of personality, which include many "pop psychology" versions of unconscious conflict, the retention of the "inner child," psychological defenses such as denial and reaction formation, and the variously named contrasts between male (rule-oriented) and female (relationship-oriented) personality patterns. Every few years -- sometimes every few months or even weeks -- a new book or magazine article announces that Freud is dead and that his ideas are in total disarray. But such repeated insistence on his death suggests that Freud is still a very lively ghost, continuing to haunt our most anxiously and aggressively defended ideas of our own basic nature."

Elms, A. C. (2000). Literature and psychology. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 5, 63-66. New York: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press.

". . . . Aristotle proposed that mimesis, the imitation of life in art, is an essential feature of human psychology. Freud saw the elemental storytelling phenomena of night dreams and daydreams as the original models for creative literature. More recently, such psychologists as Donald Spence (Narrative Truth and Historical Truth, New York, 1982) and Dan McAdams (The Stories We Live By, New York, 1993) have argued that rendering one's own remembered (or misremembered) life as a story is one of our most valuable means to get through that life in reasonably good shape psychologically. Not surprisingly, writers have also characterized the story-teller's role as central in human psychological functioning (see, for example, Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Storyteller, New York, 1989; Salman Rushdie's novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories, London, 1990; and Ursula Le Guin's story collection A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, 1994). However preferences among theories may shift, whether in psychology or in literary scholarship, the historically close relationship of psychology and literature is unlikely to diminish. Each field can benefit from greater attention to the other; neither can reasonably ignore the other."

Elms, A. C. (2002). Biography and psychoanalysis. In E. Erwin (Ed.), The Freud Encyclopedia, pp. 47-48. New York: Routledge.

". . . . Six decades after Freud's death, his direct and indirect influence on the writing of biography remains powerful, whatever the nature of the specific subject. Contemporary biographers may take their cue from such second-generation psychobiographers as Erik Erikson and Leon Edel; they may say little about Oedipal issues and id instincts; they may employ later expansions and modifications of psychoanalytic concepts by object relations theorists and self psychologists. But they are nonetheless likely to incorporate such distinctly Freudian features as (a) the shaping influence of the subject's early childhood; (b) the defensive distortion of the subject's memories and perceptions; (c) the symbolic significance of dreams, fantasies, and other imaginative products; and (d) most broadly, the role of unconscious motives and conflicts in the subject's adult behavior. Biographers have at times attempted to write psychological biographies that are totally non-Freudian, but with little success. Freudian concepts may have lost ground in other areas of intellectual enterprise, but in biography they continue to be useful, and therefore central."

In the newly published Handbook of Psychobiography, edited by William Todd Schultz (Oxford University Press, 2005), I have four chapters: a reprint of my 1988 paper "Freud as Leonardo: Why the First Psychobiography Went Wrong"; a chapter written in collaboration with Bruce Heller, "Twelve Ways to Say 'Lonesome,'" analyzing Elvis Presley's many recorded performances of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"; a chapter on how to decide which theory or theories to apply to a psychobiographical subject, "When the Glove Fits"; and a chapter written in collaboration with Anna Song, "Alive and Kicking," about studying active political candidates.

In the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Gary Westfahl (Greenwood, 2005), I'll have three entries: on Cordwainer Smith's novel Norstrilia, on psychology in science fiction, and on metafiction and recursiveness in fantasy and science fiction.

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