First Advisor

Michael Reardon

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), Psychoanalysis -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (113 p.)


The thesis is an attempt to reconcile contradictions and devise historical meaning from a problematic text. The book is Wilhelm Reich's Character Analysis, first published in 1933. This influential psychoanalytic work embodies both a radical social theory and disturbing authoritarian attitudes. The thesis uses a variety of methodologies, in particular Roland Barthes' techniques for ascribing historical meaning to certain formal qualities of writing. The thesis proceeds from a summary of methodological studies in intellectual history and criticism, including those of I. A. Richards, R. G. Collingwood, and Dominick LaCapra, as well as Barthes, to a description of Character Analysis and its various historical contexts - biographical, social, and intellectual. The thesis relies on the authoritative biography of Reich, by Myron Scharaf, on autobiographical accounts by Reich's wife and son, on other texts in psychoanalytic social theory by Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Georges Bataille, and Max Horkheimer, and on secondary scholarship on the origins of National Socialist ideology. The thesis argues that despite the influence of reactionary tendencies in Reich's personality and cultural and social milieu, Character Analysis remains a valuable work in the development of a convincing theory of liberation.


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