Spitz, Ellen Handler

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SPITZ, Ellen Handler

PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY. Education: Barnard College, A.B.; Harvard University, M.A.T.; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1983.

ADDRESSES: Office—UMBC Honors College, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250.

CAREER: Columbia College, co-instructor in psychology and psychoanalysis, 1984, 1985; Barnard College, visiting lecturer in philosophy, 1985; Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytical Training and Research, electives for advanced candidates, 1986, 1990, 1993, lecturer, 1995-96; Graduate Center of the City University of New York, adjunct assistant professor of art history, 1986; New York University, adjunct assistant professor of educational psychology, 1984-87; Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ayala and Sam Zacks visiting professor of art history, 1987; Cornell University Medical College, lecturer of aesthetics in psychiatry, 1987—; Rutgers University, Livingston College honors program, visiting faculty, 1993; Stanford University, visiting lecturer, department of art and art history, 1997-2000; University of California, Santa Cruz, visiting professor of art history, spring, 2000; University of Maryland, Baltimore County, honors college professor of visual arts, 2001—. Member of advisory board of Oxford University Press and the Lucy Daniels Foundation.

MEMBER: American Society for Aesthetics (member of board of trustees), American Philosophical Association, College Art Association, Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine (special member), American Psychoanalytic Association (academic associate member), Gardiner Seminar on Psychoanalysis and the Humanities, Kappa Delta Pi.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Psychoanalytic Association, grants from Liddle Fund, 1983, and Fund for Psychoanalytic Research, 1988; Fritz Schmidl Prize, Seattle Psychoanalytic Society, 1983; fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, and NEH Summer Institute on Image and Text, Johns Hopkins University, both 1988; research grant, Fund for Psychoanalytical Training and Research of the American Psychoanalytical Association, 1988; Getty/Kress travel grant, 1989; Getty scholar, Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1989-90; Robert S. Liebert Award in Applied Psychoanalysis of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytical Training and Research, 1991; scholar-in-residence, Center for Psychoanalysis and the Humanities, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1991; fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study at Radcliffe College (formerly The Bunting Institute), Harvard University, 1995-96, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 1996-97, and Camargo Foundation, Cassis, France, 1999; senior fellow, Center for Children and Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, 2003-04.


Art and Psyche: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1985.

Image and Insight: Essays in Psychoanalysis and the Arts, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor, with Peter L. Rudnytsky) Freud and Forbidden Knowledge, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Museums of the Mind: Magritte's Labyrinth and Other Essays in the Arts, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1994.

(Editor, with others) Bertolucci's "Last Emperor": Multiple Takes, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Inside Picture Books, Yale University Press (New Haven CT), 1999.

Some of Spitz's books have been translated into Italian, Japanese, and Korean.

Work represented in anthologies, including Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Art, edited by Mary M. Gedo, Analytic Press (Hillsdale, NJ), 1985; The Persistence of Myth, edited by P. L. Rudnytsky, Guilford Press (New York, NY), 1988; Postmodern Perspectives: Issues in Contemporary Art, edited by H. Risatti, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1989; Freud and Art: His Personal Collection of Antiquities, edited by Lynn Gamwell and Richard Wells, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1989; Pleasure beyond the Pleasure Principle, edited by R. A. Glick and S. Bone, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1990; Perversions and Near-Perversions in Clinical Practice: New Psychoanalytic Perspectives, edited by G. I. Fogel and W. A. Meyers, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1991; Essential Papers on Literature and Psychoanalysis, edited by E. Berman, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1993; Transitional Objects and Potential Spaces: Literary Uses of D. W. Winnicott, edited by P. L. Rudnytsky, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1993; Feminism and Tradition in Aesthetics, edited by P. Z. Brand and C. Karsmeyer, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1995; and Mirroring Evil: Nazi Images/Recent Art, edited by Norman L. Kleeblatt, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2001.

Contributor of articles and reviews to Baltimore Sun, New Republic, and New York Times. Contributor of more than seventy-five articles, chapters and reviews to academic journals, including Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Textbook of Psychoanalysis, Chronicle of Higher Education, Lilith, American Imago, Art Bulletin, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Arts in Psychotherapy, Art Criticism, Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Current Musicology, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and Art Bulletin. Member of editorial board, American Imago and Gender and Psychoanalysis.

SIDELIGHTS: Professor and author, Ellen Handler Spitz told CA: "From my earliest years, drawing has always been a part of my life (once, to my parents' horror, exuberant childish scribbles appeared all over my freshly wallpapered bedroom)." Spitz examines the relationships between people and the art they come to love. In Museums of the Mind: Magritte's Labyrinth and Other Essays in the Arts, she takes "takes an indepth look at the surrealistic paintings of Rene Magritte," wrote a reviewer for Booknews, and then turns to exploring the interrelationship between various genres of art: plastic arts, drama, movies, opera, cartoons, poetry, and others. "Interdisciplinary consideration of art is nothing new," declared Julie C. Van Kamp in the Journal of Aesthetic Education, "but rarely has it been accomplished with the stunning breadth of this volume. Spitz's writing and insights dazzle the imagination. If one learns to write in part by reading, this volume is a teacher to be treasured."

Spitz examines another aspect of the relationship between humans and artwork in Inside Picture Books. The volume tries to establish an understanding of why some children's picture books continue to enchant children decades after their composition—far longer than most contemporary works for adults. "Read in the security of a parent's arms or in a caregiver's company," Marina Warner wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "picture books also act as bridges to the world of outer experience…. Shared, repeated, slow reading of such material also defends against the competing claims of television, movies, computer games and comics and their fast-paced, jumbled, raucous and often violent imagery, where 'children encounter … unmourned deaths—brutal, frightening and incomprehensible.'"

Works like Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963, and Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, published in 1947, have won their own literary immortality, and Inside Picture Books tries to understand why. "Through the lens of psychology," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, picture books offer children their first exposure to messages about aesthetics, culture, and morality. "Spitz's text makes a compelling case for the power of art and literature," the contributor concluded, "and the responsibility that accompanies such power, particularly when it relates to children."

Critics largely celebrated Spitz's accomplishment in Inside Picture Books. "Without jargon or pretension," stated Hazel Rochman in a review of the volume appearing in Booklist, "Spitz celebrates the story and art" of picture books. "Readers—and lovers—of the books she analyzes will differ in their memories and their judgments," Warner concluded, "but Spitz communicates vividly her pleasure in her material and speaks up vibrantly for the importance, complexity and place of shared reading and picture books in young lives and their future." As an example of Spitz's insight, she opens Chapter 4, titled "Behave Yourself," as follows: "With varying overtones of irritation, pride, and chagrin, we adults sometimes use the terms mischievous and disobedient to describe children's behavior…. As far as the children are concerned, [these terms] leave out wish and impulse, playfulness, and, above all, curiosity." J. Lane Tanner, writing for the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, commented: "With this preamble, the author leads us into a re-examination of such classics as Where the Wild Things Are, The Story of Peter Rabbit, and The Story about Ping, all of which involve various aspects of the preschooler's position, wavering between egocentric fantasy and self-control/compliance. These and other books explore different facets of this dialect. All join the child by taking misbehavior as a given, and moving their characters toward greater knowledge or mastery over the self—a journey that picture books are uniquely suited to describe."

Wendy Lukehart, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, noted that "Spitz's psychoanalytical background, her passion for the role of art as a transmitter of culture, her observations of children's experiences with books, her knowledge of Jewish ritual and writings, and her own vivid childhood memories all inform and influence this work," which she called a "fascinating, highly personal treatment of a popular genre." Quentin Blake in the Times commended Inside Picture Books, for "it's mixture of perception, warmth and commitment." He regarded the book as "a valuable contribution to a subject which asks for serious consideration: what children's books are, and what they do, and what important and curious introductions to life are taking place as we turn the pages together."



Booklist, May 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Inside Picture Books, p. 1644.

Booknews, September 1, 1995, review of Museums of the Mind: Magritte's Labyrinth and Other Essays in the Arts.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 14, 1999, Jennifer K. Ruark, "Scary and Soothing: How Picture Books Shape the Mind of a Child," review of Inside Picture Books, p. A18.

Journal of Aesthetic Education, spring, 1997, Julie C. Van Kamp, review of Museums of the Mind, pp. 117-120.

Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, December, 2000, J. Lane Tanner, review of Inside Picture Books, p. 452.

Library Journal, January, 1995, Mary Hamel-Schwulst, review of Museums of the Mind, p. 99.

New York Times, June 26, 1999, Edward Rothstein, "Stories That Reverberate in Mother's Voice: Good Night Childhood," p. B11.

New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1999, Marina Warner, "Gods and Monsters: An Art Historian Seeks to Identify the Enduring Appeal of Classic Children's Picture Books," review of Inside Picture Books, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1999, review of Inside Picture Books, p. 66.

School Library Journal, March, 2000, Wendy Lukehart, review of Inside Picture Books, p. 269.

Times (London, England), September 23, 1999, Quentin Blake, review of Inside Picture Books, p. 43.