Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth 1946–

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Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth 1946–


Born March 3, 1946, in Elkton, MD; daughter of Herbert Gibbons (a golf professional) and Lois (a homemaker) Young; married Robert C. Bruehl (a writer), divorced. Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College, 1964-67; New School for Social Research, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1974, Ph.D., 1974. Politics: Democrat.


Home—New York, NY. Agent—Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc., 136 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—


Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, assistant professor, 1974-81, associate professor, 1981-86, professor of philosophy, 1986-91; Haverford College, Haverford, PA, professor of psychology, 1992-98. Yale University Gardiner Seminar in Psychiatry and the Humanities, faculty member, 1984—.


Authors Guild, Authors League of America.


Alfred Harcourt Award in biography and memoirs from Columbia University, Present Tense Literary Award from American Jewish Committee, and Governor's Prize from Yale University, all 1982, all for Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1984-85; Guggenheim Foundation fellow, 1986-87; Freud fellow, Freud Museum, 1987-88; Anna Freud: A Biography was named one of the top books of 1988 by Publishers Weekly, 1989; The Anatomy of Prejudice was named the best book in Psychology for 1996 by the American Association of Publishers and received the Myers Center Award for the study of human rights in North America, 1997.


(With Robert Hogan) Conor Cruise O'Brien: An Appraisal, Proscenium Press (Newark, DE), 1974.

Freedom and Karl Jaspers's Philosophy (nonfiction), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1981.

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (biography), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1982.

Vigil (novel), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1983.

Anna Freud: A Biography, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Mind and the Body Politic (essays), Routledge (New York, NY), 1989.

(Editor) Sigmund Freud, Freud on Women: A Reader, Norton (New York, NY), 1990.

Creative Characters, Routledge (New York, NY), 1991.

Global Cultures, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1994.

The Anatomy of Prejudices, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Subject to Biography: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Writing Women's Lives, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.

(With Faith Bethelard) Cherishment: A Psychology of the Heart, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?, Other Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2004.

Why Arendt Matters, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.

Also author of short stories. Contributor to scholarly journals, including Studies in Psychoanalytic Theory, Academy Forum, The Annual of Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Psychology, Transition, American Imago, and Psychoanalytic Inquiry. Member of the editorial board, American Imago, Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Gender and Psychoanalysis, and Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.


Elisabeth Young-Bruehl is a versatile writer best known for her biographies of political philosopher Hannah Arendt and child-psychoanalyst Anna Freud, both of whom were prominent twentieth-century thinkers. In a Publishers Weekly interview, Young-Bruehl described the appeal of these two women: "Both these women had tremendous mobility of mind, tremendous ability to see things from many points of view."

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World is Young-Bruehl's 1982 biography of the German-born Jewish political philosopher known for her independent viewpoints. Young-Bruehl, whose doctorate was directed by Arendt at the New School for Social Research in New York, begins her book by describing Arendt's rapid intellectual development during her early years in Koenigsberg, Germany, where she learned Latin and Greek prior to her university training. Arendt went on to study under two of Europe's most acclaimed existential philosophers, Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger, and was romantically involved with Heidegger during the mid-1920s. Young-Bruehl notes that while Arendt felt relatively comfortable studying and working in her native country, the anti-Semitism that accompanied Adolf Hitler's rise to power caused her to flee Nazi Germany in 1933. After spending several years in exile in France, Arendt moved to America in 1941 and became a naturalized citizen in 1950. The following year Arendt gained international attention with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism, a book that explores the historical conditions that led to the totalitarian regimes of Germany's Hitler and the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin. Hannah Arendt also discusses the political philosopher's controversial positions—including her view that Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann had been a "thoughtless" or "banal" rather than "radically evil" agent of Hitler—and provides translations of some of Arendt's unpublished German poetry.

Hannah Arendt won several awards, though some reviewers had doubts about the book's merits. Times Literary Supplement contributor Ernest Gellner, for instance, found Young-Bruehl's account of Arendt's affair with Heidegger "very disappointing," and he also alleged that the author mistranslated some of Arendt's poetry. Gellner nevertheless lauded the coverage of Arendt's German intellectual and social background as a "considerable merit" of the book. Other reviewers were less equivocal. Saying Hannah Arendt "represents biography at its best," Peter L. Berger hailed it in the New York Times Book Review as a "lucidly presented work." Alfred Kazin, moreover, described the book in the New York Review of Books as an "extraordinarily full … biography."

Young-Bruehl's next biographical effort, Anna Freud: A Biography, was undertaken at the request of Freud's literary executor, Lottie Newman, who afforded Young-Bruehl access to Freud's unpublished letters, poetry, and personal notes. Although Young-Bruehl was initially reluctant to take on the task of writing about the famed daughter of Sigmund Freud—the founder of psychoanalysis—she eventually agreed because, among other reasons, she wanted readers to understand that the "research done in Anna Freud's clinics has informed everything in child study today," as she said in the Publishers Weekly interview.

Anna Freud characterizes the sixth child of Sigmund and Martha Freud as a devoted daughter whose main concern was winning her father's attention, which was primarily devoted to the study and practice of psychoanalysis. She gained his respect by becoming a psychoanalyst herself and by acting as his nurse and secretary as he struggled with cancer from 1923 until his death in 1939. Shortly after her father's death, Freud continued her practice in child psychoanalysis by opening a nursery—and, later, a clinic—in Hampstead, England, with longtime companion and co-worker Dorothy Burlingham. Although Freud distinguished herself through her own research and writings, Michael Ignatieff contended in the New York Review of Books that she still worked under the shadow of her father: "The energy of her later years even suggests that she put to creative use some of the anger she must have felt."

As with her first biography, Young-Bruehl's biography of Anna Freud received qualified praise. Some of Anna Freud's detractors claimed that the book may have been tainted by its close connection to Anna Freud's literary estate. Describing Anna Freud as a "partisan book," for example, Globe and Mail contributor Paul Roazen stated that the author "lacks adequate critical distance." Several reviewers, however, praised the book. Robert Rodman lauded Young-Bruehl's research in his Los Angeles Times Book Review article, saying the author wrote a "thoroughly absorbing and well-rounded book." In addition, Ignatieff praised Anna Freud as a book that "demeans neither psychoanalysis nor history," and Chicago Tribune writer Ron Grossman called Anna Freud a "gem of biographical writing."

In 2006 Young-Bruehl returned to the subject of Hannah Arendt with Why Arendt Matters. The book serves as an overview of Ardent's life, including the work she did and the ideas she pursued. The author then applies Arendt's ideas to the modern world and current events, including the war on terrorism. Young-Bruehl draws upon her relationship with Arendt and the knowledge she gained while writing her biography to fill in details where other authors may not. Why Arendt Matters was met with favorable reviews overall, with many critics finding that the author was able to make her case of Arendt's significance with strong research and solid writing. Young-Bruehl "makes it clear by the end" of the book that Hannah Arendt and her work do matter, wrote one Publishers Weekly contributor. Others appreciated the author's overall knowledge of her subject and ability to translate complex ideas into coherent arguments. Young-Bruehl has a "wide grasp of political theory," noted Leslie Armour in a review for the Library Journal, for example.

About some of her other books, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl once told CA: "Creative Characters presents a psychoanalytic theory of three basic human types—hysterical, obsessional and narcissistic—with three different typical modes of creativity. The Anatomy of Prejudices uses this typology to explore three different modes of being prejudiced. The social sciences since the end of World War II have tended to study prejudice (in the singular), while my approach emphasizes the plurality of prejudices and the different psychological and social functions they serve. Anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia are explored in their differences."



Booklist, November 15, 1994, Kathleen Hughes, review of Global Cultures, p. 579; January 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of Cherishment: A Psychology of the Heart, p. 836.

Canadian Journal of Political Science, December, 1997, H.D. Forbes, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 778.

Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1988, Ron Grossman, review of Anna Freud: A Biography.

Choice, October, 1996, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 365; April, 2004, G.M. Greenberg, review of Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?, p. 1556.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 24, 1996, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 12.

Civil Rights Journal, fall, 1997, Jack L. Nelson, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 60.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 3, 1988, Paul Roazen, review of Anna Freud, p. 21.

Harper's, September, 1982, Robert Asahina, review of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, p. 70.

Hypatia, winter, 2001, Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices.

Journal of the History of Ideas, January, 1992, review of Creative Characters, p. 176.

Library Journal, June 1, 1990, Janice Arenofsky, review of Freud on Women: A Reader, p. 154; November 1, 1994, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Global Cultures, p. 113; April 1, 1996, E. James Lieberman, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 104; January 2000, E. James Lieberman, review of Cherishment, p. 138; September 15, 2006, Leslie Armour, review of Why Arendt Matters, p. 63.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 30, 1982, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 10; May 29, 1983, Anne Wittels, review of Vigil, p. 4; November 6, 1988, Robert Rodman, review of Anna Freud, p. 10.

New Statesman & Society, June 7, 1996, David Herman, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 41.

Newsweek, May 3, 1982, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 75.

New York Review of Books, June 24, 1982, Alfred Kazin, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 3; November 24, 1988, Michael Ignatieff, review of Anna Freud, p. 16; October 24, 1991, Phyllis Grosskurth, review of Freud on Women, p. 25.

New York Times, February 24, 1983, "2 Awarded Book Prizes," p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, April 25, 1982, Peter L. Berger, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 1; October 16, 1988, Walter Kendrick, review of Anna Freud, p. 7; November 19, 1989, Aaron A. Rhodes, review of Mind and the Body Politic, p. 25; May 19, 1996, Paul Robinson, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices.

Publishers Weekly, November 11, 1988, Curtis Deyrup and Marta Mestrovic, "Elisabeth Young-Bruehl," p. 38; May 19, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Mind and the Body Politic, p. 77; June 1, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Freud on Women, p. 54; February 26, 1996, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 94; December 13, 1999, review of Cherishment, p. 72; September 4, 2006, review of Why Arendt Matters, p. 55.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2003, review of Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?, p. 8.

Sociological Inquiry, summer, 1997, Christine Robinson, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices.

Time, April 19, 1982, Stefan Kanfer, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 77.

Times Higher Education Supplement, October 15, 1999, Anne Sebba, review of Subject to Biography: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and Writing Women's Lives, p. 26.

Times Literary Supplement, August 6, 1982, Ernest Gellner, review of Hannah Arendt, p. 843; October 12, 1990, Claire Harman, review of Freud on Women, p. 1097; December 13, 1996, Dennis Wrong, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices, p. 28.


H-Net Reviews, (September 24, 2007), Brad Lucas, review of The Anatomy of Prejudices.

Yale University Press, (September 24, 2007), brief biography of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.