Congrès des Psychanalystes de Langue Française des Pays Romans

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On July 19, 1926, Freud mailed René Laforgue a little card announcing the first in a series of meetings. It read, "Dear Master, Gathered together on the occasion of the Geneva psychiatric congress, the members of our little Paris group and our Swiss friends send you our best wishes. The beautiful countryside allows us to rest from complicated discussions concerning schizophrenia, the superego, and the id." Signatures: René Laforgue, Dr Robin, Mme Laforgue, Raymond de Saussure, Angélo Hesnard, Ariane de Saussure,Édouard Pichon, Adrien Borel.These meetings are still held regularly today; only their name has changed over the years.

The Congrès des psychanalystes de langue française des pays romans (Congress of Psychiatrists and Neurologists of France and French-Speaking Countries [also called "Congress of Alienists and Neurologists of France and French-Speaking Countries"]) was held in Geneva from August 2 to 7, 1926. The congress was organized around a paper by Henri Claude, "Dementia praecox and Schizophrenia." Claude's students came to listen to their "leader." In this very psychiatric atmosphere, without anyone being aware of the preparations for the innovation, Claude's followers, by associating with their Swiss colleaguesthen more enthusiastic than the French about psychoanalysisheld the first Conference of French-Speaking Psychoanalysts on Sunday, August 1, 1926. They also founded the Linguistic Commission for the Unification of French Psychoanalytic Vocabulary. In the morning session, presided over by Raymond de Saussure (of Geneva), René Laforgue (of Paris) presented a paper titled "Schizophrénie et schizonoïa" (Schizophrenia and schizonoia; 1926). The afternoon session, presided over by A. Hesnard, was devoted to a paper by Charles Odier (of Geneva) titled "Contributionà l'étude du surmoi et du phénomène moral" (A contribution to the study of the superego and the phenomenon of morality; 1927).

Édouard Pichon, the new secretary, stated, "It has been decided to hold the conference every year in the same city as the Congress of Psychiatrists and on the eve of the opening of that congress." This plan was followed for the second conference, held in Blois, France, on July 27, 1927. The conference focused on Charles Odier's paper "La névrose obsessionnelle" (Obsessional neurosis; 1927). And it opened up to physicians other than psychiatrists. The third meeting, now separate from the Congress of Psychiatrists, was held in Paris in July 1928 on the subject of "psychoanalytic technique." Thereafter, conferences were held in the amphitheater of the mental health clinic of Saint-Anne's Hospital, thus facilitating a mandatory show of reverence for the resident master Henri Claude.

In the conference two cliques formed. On one side were the "orthodox" Freudians, grouped around Marie Bonaparte and including Eugénie Sokolnicka, Rudolph Loewenstein, and two Swiss members, Raymond de Saussure and Charles Odier. On the other side were the partisans of a "French psychoanalysis," associated with the medical and institutional hierarchy. They had Édouard Pichon as their bellicose herald, along with Angélo Hesnard, René Allendy, Georges Parcheminey, Henri Codet, and later René Laforgue.

One of the themes of the latter group was a distinction between a suspect psychoanalytic doctrine and a method whose success was undeniable but whose mode of application needed to be adapted to French sensitivities. An example of this distinction is President René Allendy's address on the occasion of the sixth Conference of French-Speaking Psychoanalysts on October 30, 1931: "Psychoanalysis is not just some kind of a theory. It has a more precious and less debatable claim to fame: it has cured morbid states that hitherto resisted all therapeutic treatments." As a result of the distinction, later meetings saw the presentation of two distinct papers, one theoretical and one clinical. This dichotomy was maintained until 1960, when, on the occasion of the twenty-first Congress of Romance-Language Psychoanalysts in Rome, the congress bureau, encouraged by a suggestion from Nicola Perotti, decided to abolish the distinction.

The success of the conference and an abundance of contributions on the subject of "conversion hysteria" (including those by Georges Parcheminey and Blanche Jouve-Reverchon) led in 1931 to the sixth conference being held, for the first time, over a two-day period. It was also the first conference to receive a good-will telegram from Max Eitingon, president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). This custom was regularly maintained by Ernest Jones and continued after the war until it was replaced in 1974, during the presidency of Serge Lebovici, by a representative of the IPA attending the conferences.

The eighth conference, on "genetic psychology and psychoanalysis," brought Jean Piaget and Raymond de Saussure face to face in December 1933. Among the speakers we find, for the first time, the name of then thirty-two-year-old Jacques Lacan. There were no conferences in 1932 and 1934, but two were held in 1933. There followed the mystery of two "ninth" conferences, this figure being applied both to the conference held in Paris on February 2, 1935, on Paul Schiff's paper "Les paranoïas et la psychanalyse" (Paranoia and psychoanalysis; 1935), and to the conference held in Nyons on April 10 and 11, 1936.

The tenth conference, in reality the eleventh, was held in Paris on February 21 and 22, 1938. Sacha Nacht delivered a paper titled "Le masochisme:étude historique, clinique, psychogénique et thérapeutique" (Masochism: an historical, clinical, psychogenetic, prophylactic, and therapeutic study; 1938). Rudolph Loewenstein, speaking on "L'origine du masochisme et la théorie des pulsions" (The origin of masochism and the theory of the instincts; 1938), opposed his former analyst on the notion of a death instinct, which Nacht rejected. This was the last conference of French-speaking psychoanalysts before the Second World War.

The conferences, which were just as political as they were theoretical or clinical, were not held for the duration of the war. Their resumption after ten years marked the renewal of psychoanalysis in both France and Europe. This eleventh conference, held in Brussels between May 14 and 17, 1948, was organized around Sacha Nacht's paper "Les manifestations cliniques de l'agressivité et leur rôle dans le traitement psychanalytique" (Clinical manifestations of aggression and their role in psycho-analytic treatment; 1948) and Jacques Lacan's paper "L'agressivité en psychanalyse" (Aggression in psychoanalysis; 1948). The following year, at the twelfth conference held in Paris, John Leuba and H. G. Van des Walls dealt with narcissism. This conference was distinguished most of all by the presence of Melanie Klein, who, however, failed to make converts among French psychoanalysts. Relations with neighboring countries improved, and on October 16, 1951, the conference changed its name to the Conference of Romance-Language Psychoanalysts, an extension attributed to Jacques Lacan. The conference thus made official its increasingly close collaboration with Belgian, Spanish, Italian, and Swiss societies of psychoanalysis.

In 1953 a sixteenth special conference was held in Rome. The division of the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society) (SPP) in June divided the conference into two parts. In one, the members of the society listened to Emilio Servadio, Francis Pasche, René Spitz (who came from New York), Serge Lebovici, and René Diatkine. They then departed, and members of the new Société française de psychanalyse (French Society of Psychoanalysis) entered to listen to Jacques Lacan's paper "Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse" (The function and field of language in psychoanalysis). Jealously simmering in the Paris Psychoanalytic Society tore the two rival societies apart for more than a decade, and the following conferences of French-speaking psychoanalysts fit into the general strategy of the two societies' struggle for influence.

Yet the conferences were also the scene of original theoretical elaborations marking the evolution and deepening of the psychoanalytic thinking of members of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society. This can be seen from a sample of papers presented at the conferences: Sacha Nacht and Serge Lebovici, "Indications et contre-indications de la psychanalyse chez l'adulte" (Indications and contraindications for psychoanalysis for adults; 1954); René Diatkine and Jean Favreau, "Le caractère névrotique" (The neurotic character; 1956); Francis Pasche, "Le génie de Freud" (The genius of Freud; 1957); Béla Grunberger, "Essai sur la situation analytique et le processus de guérison" (The analytic situation and the process of healing; 1956); Sacha Nacht and Paul-Claude Racamier, "La théorie psychanalytique du délire" (The psychoanalytic theory of delusions; 1958); Maurice Bouvet, "Dépersonnalisation et relations d'objet" (Depersonalization and object relations; 1960); P. Bofill and P. Folch-Mateu, "Problèmes cliniques et techniques du contre-transfert" (Clinical and technical problems with counter-transference; 1963); Michel Fain and Christian David, "Aspects fonctionnels de la vie onirique" (Functional aspects of dream life; 1962); Angel Garma, "L'intégration psychosomatique dans le traitement psychanalytique des maladies organiques" (Psychosomatic integration in the psychoanalytic treatment of organic illnesses); Michel Gressot, "Psychanalyse et psychothérapie: leur commensalisme" (Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy: their compatibility; 1963); René Held, "Rapport clinique sur les psychothérapies d'inspiration psychanalytique freudienne" (Clinical report on psychotherapies inspired by Freudian psychoanalysis; 1963); Franco Fornari, "La psychanalyse de la guerre" (The psychoanalysis of war; 1964); Evelyne Kestemberg and Jean Kestemberg, "Contributionà la perspective génétique en psychanalyse" (Contribution to the genetic perspective in psychoanalysis; 1965); Rudolph Loewenstein, "Rapports sur la psychologie psychanalytique de H. Hartman, E. Kris, et Rudolf Loewenstein" (Report on the psychoanalytic psychology of H. Hartmann, E. Kris and Rudolf Loewenstein; 1965); Olivier Flournoy, "Du symptôme au discours" (From symptom to discourse; 1967); André Green, "L'affect" (The affects; 1970); and to end this list, Didier Anzieu (of the Association psychanalytique de France [French Psychoanalytic Association]), the first such contributor since the split in 1953), "Eléments d'une théorie de l'interprétation" (Elements of a theory of interpretation; 1970).

In 1955 the conferences became known as congresses. In 1956 Pierre Luquet was appointed permanent secretary for the congresses, a position he occupied for thirty-three years until 1989, when he was replaced by Augustin Jeanneau, assisted by Pearl Lombard. He handled the arrival and departure of societies from neighboring countries, administrative matters concerning their participation, relations with the French Psychoanalytic Association, and relations with the European Federation for Psychoanalysis, created in 1966. In addition, he negotiated publication of the first large annual volumes of congress proceedings.

The locale of the congresses alternated between Paris and a neighboring country. This international character is reflected in its changes of name to Congress of French-Speaking psychoanalysts from Romance-language countries and then to French-speaking psychoanalysts. The days of didactic reports gave way to much more audacious presentations of clinical and theoretical research, as shown by the few examples mentioned. Moreover, the choice of subjects and contributors traces the history of psychoanalysis in France, including the tensions and alliances that characterized the division of the French psychoanalytic movement in relation to the International Psychoanalytical Association.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Belgium; France; Revue française de psychanalyse ; Société psychanalytique de Paris and Institut de psychanalyse de Paris.


Mijolla, Alain de. (1991). Le congrès des psychanalystes de langue française des pays romans: quelqueséléments d'histoire. Revue française de psychanalyse, 55 (1), 7-36.

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Congrès des Psychanalystes de Langue Française des Pays Romans

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