Guttmann, Melinda Given 1944-
GUTTMANN, Melinda Given 1944-
The Enigma of Anna O.: A Biography of Bertha Pappenheim, Moyer Bell (Wickford, RI), 2001.
Also contributor of online reviews to New York Theatre Wire.
In Melinda Given Guttmann's debut publication, The Enigma of Anna O.: A Biography of Bertha Pappenheim, the author attempts to connect the two widely disparate aspects of Pappenheim's life as a patient of psychoanalysis and as the founder of the first national Jewish feminist movement. Both parts of Pappenheim's life are extraordinary. As a young woman of twenty-one, she underwent what became the first case of psychoanalysis treatment by her family physician, Josef Breuer. Breuer diagnosed Pappenheim's many physical and mental ailments as the result of a hysteria induced by stress over caring for her dying father. During their numerous doctor-patient sessions in the early 1880s, Bauer found that Pappenheim's symptoms lessened significantly after she talked about her dreams and thoughts. Pappenheim called this her "talking cure," and even Sigmund Freud credited Pappenheim—known in his writings as "Anna O." to protect her identity—with initiating a treatment method that most people today credit to him. But although Freud and Breuer maintained that the psychotherapy sessions cured Pappenheim, she actually underwent several more years of therapy outside of Breuer's care before she was completely well again.
What actually cured Pappenheim, says Guttmann, was a combination of occupational and writing therapy. Pappenheim wrote down many of her dreams as fairy tales, which she later published. She also published dramas and political commentaries. But what also helped her immensely was her work as a founder of the Judischer Frauenbund—the League of Jewish Women—in 1904. Through this organization, Pappenheim fought against the trade of Jewish women as slaves and prostitutes and established a care center for Jewish orphans in Frankfurt, Germany. Guttmann ties together these two halves of Pappenheim's life through an analysis of her fiction and nonfiction writings, as well as through a discussion of her medical records.
While Guttmann's research does not reveal any particularly new factual details about Pappenheim (she had already been identified as Anna O. in 1953 by Freud's biographer Ernest Jones), Women's Review of Books critic Mari Jo Buble maintained that "what is certain is that Guttmann has added a dimension to Pappenheim's character that other scholars have ignored, her 'intense spirituality.'" Before Pappenheim's death from cancer in 1936 at the age of eighty, she increasingly turned to her Jewish faith for comfort and drew on it as a way of resisting Nazi oppression. Although several reviewers found the biography flawed because of Guttmann's tendency to speculate about her subject's life where documentation, which was largely destroyed during World War II, was lacking, critics also praised Guttmann's overall accomplishment. As Times Literary Supplement reviewer Paul Lerner stated, "Guttmann's great achievement is to bring the two sides of Pappenheim together in a coherent portrait."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, March 1, 2001, E. James Lieberman, review of The Enigma of Anna O.: A Biography of Bertha Pappenheim, p. 108.
Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2001, review of The Enigma of Anna O., p. 192.
Times Literary Supplement, March 22, 2002, Paul Lerner, "Anna O. and Bertha P.," p. 6.
Women's Review of Books, January, 2002, Mari Jo Buble, review of The Enigma of Anna O., p. 9.*