Sharpe, Ella Freeman (1875-1947)

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British teacher and psychoanalyst, Ella Freeman Sharpe was born in Haverhill, Suffolk, England, on February 22, 1875, and died in London on June 1, 1947.

Ella Sharpe was the eldest of three daughters. Her father, who read Shakespeare to her as a child, died when she was in her teens, and she took over responsibility for the family. She studied English at Nottingham University, but turned down a position at Oxford University in order to take a teaching job to support her family. She was then co-head and English mistress of Hucknall Pupil Teachers Training Centre for boy and girls from 1904-1916.

Ella Sharpe became depressed at the death of friends and pupils during the First World War and suffered anxiety attacks. She went to the Medico-Psychological Clinic in Brunswick Square, London, was treated successfully by Jesse Murray and James Glover, and became interested in Psychoanalysis. In 1917 she gave up teaching to study psychoanalysis at the clinic.

In 1920 she went to Berlin to be analyzed by Hanns Sachs, who shared her interest in art and literature. On October 13, 1921. she was elected an Associate Member of the British Psycho-analytical Society and a Full Member two years later, in 1923.

She took an active role in the administration of the Society and Institute, and was elected to the Board and Council a number of times, being a director of the Institute when war broke out. She was first elected a member of the Training Committee in 1930, and served on it for many years. She was soon involved in teaching analytic technique, and her experience as a teacher enabled her to present her material in a lively and clear way. She was one of the first British Analysts to work with children, and she supervised both child and adult patients.

She read her first paper to the Society in 1923 on the work of Francis Thompson. At the Oxford Congress in 1929, she read a paper on sublimation and delusion, and at the Lucerne Congress in 1934, she read a paper on sublimations underlying pure art and pure science (Sharpe, 1935), using ideas from Klein's work. She was particularly interested in those artists, including Shakespeare, who used words to express themselves. Her paper on her examination of metaphor and poetic diction shows her own rich understanding of words and the link between metaphor and instinctual tension (Sharpe, 1940).

Her lectures on technique (Sharpe, E., 1930/1931) were published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (vols. 11 and 12) and later in book form together with her other papers (Sharpe, 1950). Her lectures on dreams were also published as a book (Sharpe, 1937).

Ella Sharpe's main impact was that she could apply Freud's technical concepts to her clinical experience and communicate it to others, and she alerted readers to the importance of understanding, more deeply, the language of patients.

Pearl H.M. King

See also: Controversial Discussions; Great Britain; Hamlet and Oedipus .


Sharpe, Ella F. (1930). The technique of psycho-analysis. Seven lectures. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11, 251-277; 12, 24-60.

. (1935). Similar and divergent unconscious deteminants underlying the sublimations of pure art and pure science. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16, 180-202.

. (1937). Dream analysis: A practical handbook for psychoanalysts. London: Hogarth and the Institute for Psycho-Analysis.

. (1940). Psycho-physical problems revealed in language: An examination of metaphor. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21, 201-213.

. (1950). Collected papers on psycho-analysis. (M. Brierley, Ed.) International Psycho-Analytical Library, vol. 29. London: Hogarth and the Institute for Psycho-Analysis,