Frederick Crews

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Frederick Campbell Crews
Frederick Crews.JPG
Frederick Crews
Born 1933
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Residence Berkeley, California
Nationality American
Fields English literature
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Known for

The Pooh Perplex
Criticisms of Sigmund Freud

Skeptical essays on a variety of topics

Frederick Campbell Crews[1] (born 1933) is an American essayist, literary critic, author, and Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley.[2] He received popular attention for The Pooh Perplex, a book of satirical essays parodying contemporary casebooks. Initially a proponent of psychoanalytic literary criticism, Crews later moved away from, and in the early 1980s rejected psychoanalysis, going on to criticize Sigmund Freud's scientific and ethical standards. Crews became a prominent participant in the "Freud wars" of the 1980s and 90s, which debated the reputation, scholarship and impact on the 20th century of the founder of psychoanalysis.

Crews has published a variety of skeptical and rationalist essays, including book reviews and commentary for The New York Review of Books, on a variety of topics including Freud's work and recovered memory therapy, both of which were published as separate collections. Crews has also published several successful handbooks on the English language.

Biography[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Crews was born in suburban Philadelphia in 1933.[3] Both of his parents were avid readers and were tremendously influential in his life, said Crews; “They had both been raised in considerable poverty, and books had been extremely important to them personally, in shaping them. My mother was very literary; my father was very scientific. I feel that I got a little something of both sides.”[4] In high school, Crews was co-captain of the tennis team; and he continues to be an avid skier, hiker, swimmer, motorcyclist, and runner.[3] Crews lives in Berkeley with his wife of 52 years, Elizabeth Crews, a photographer who was born and raised in Berkeley, CA.[3] They have two daughters and four grandchildren.[3]

Education[edit]

Crews completed his undergraduate education at Yale University in 1955.[5] Though his degree was in English, Crews entered the Directed Studies program during his first two years at Yale, which Crews described as his greatest experience because the program was taught by a coordinated faculty and required students to distribute their courses among sciences, social sciences, literature, and philosophy.[4] He received his Ph.D in Literature from Princeton University in 1958.[5] Crews cited Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Freud as his major influences during his time at Princeton.[4]

Career[edit]

In 1958, Crews joined the UC Berkeley English Department where he taught for 36 years before retiring as its chair in 1994.[3][6] Crews was an anti-war activist from 1965 to about 1970[4] and advocated draft resistance as co-chair of Berkeley’s Faculty Peace Committee.[3] Though he shared the widespread assumption during the mid-1960s that psychoanalytic theory was a valid account of human motivation and was one of the first academics to apply that theory systematically to the study of literature, Crews gradually came to regard psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience.[3] Crews’ change of heart about psychoanalysis convinced him that his loyalty shouldn’t belong to any theory but rather to empirical standards and the skeptical point of view. Throughout his career, Crews has brought his concern for rational discourse to the study of various issues, from the recovered memory craze, Rorschach tests, and belief in alien abductions, to theosophy, creationism, and “intelligent design,” to common standards of clear and effective writing.[3] “What interests me is general rationality,” said Crews,

General rationality requires us to observe the world carefully, to consider alternative hypotheses to our own hypotheses, to gather evidence in a responsible way, to answer objections. These are habits of mind that science shares with good history, good sociology, good political science, good economics, what have you. And I summarize all this in what I call the "empirical attitude." It's a combination of feeling responsible to the evidence that is available, feeling responsible to go out and find that evidence, including the evidence that is contrary to one's presumptions, and responsibility to be logical with one's self and others. And this is an ideal that is not so much individual as social. The rational attitude doesn't really work when simply applied to one's self. It is something that we owe to each other.[4]

Publications[edit]

Satire[edit]

In 1963, Crews published his first bestseller The Pooh Perplex: A Student Casebook that satirized the casebooks then assigned to first-year university students in introductory courses to English literature or rhetoric. Derived in part from a play put on by Crews's English department in 1958, the book featured a fictitious set of English professors writing exegetical essays on A. A. Milne's classic character Winnie-the-Pooh, parodying Marxist, Freudian, Christian, Leavisite and Fiedlerian approaches. Though urged by readers to publish a follow-up volume, Crews delayed writing a follow-up until after his retirement in 1994, producing Postmodern Pooh in 2001. While the Pooh Perplex parodies earlier trends in literary criticism, Postmodern Pooh parodies later trends in literary theory.[7] The follow-up book extends the satire of the original with more contemporary critical perspectives such as deconstruction, radical feminism, queer theory, and recovered memory therapy, in part basing the essay authors and their approaches on actual academics and their work.[5]

A 1968 publication by Crews entitled The Patch Commission was a satirical look at Presidential Commissions that emphasized his disapproval of American involvement in the then-ongoing Vietnam War.[8][9] The book is a transcription of the fictional Patch Commission, a discussion between three government commissioners attempting to save the nation from disaster caused by Doc Spock's overly permissive child-rearing guidelines.[10]

Literary criticism[edit]

Much of Crews's career has been dedicated to literary criticism. Crews's first book, The Tragedy of Manners: Moral Drama in the Later Novels of Henry James (1957), was based on a prize-winning essay written by Crews while an undergraduate student at Yale University, initially published as part of a series.[11][12] In the book, Crews discussed three late novels by Henry James: The Ambassadors (1903), The Wings of the Dove (1902), and The Golden Bowl (1904), analyzing the function and tensions within a system of manners, the interaction between an individual's ethics and their reflection within the values of a community.[11][13]

In 1962, Crews's doctoral dissertation from Princeton University was published as E. M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism.[14] In 1966, he published a study of Hawthorne, The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes, which examined Hawthorne's entire literary career including unfinished novels; it was re-issued in 1989 with Crews's reassessment of his initial position and an analysis of how literary criticism has dealt with Hawthorne since 1966.[15][16] In 1970, Crews edited Psychoanalysis and Literary Process, a collection of essays by his students that analyzed a variety of authors from a psychoanalytic perspective; a review credited the book with important accomplishments, including being "an achievement in the teaching and learning of psychoanalysis in a department of literature", which the reviewer noted was a rare occurrence.[17][18] The collection included an essay, "Anaesthetic Criticism", in which Crews disparaged contemporary schools of literary criticism.[19]

In 1986, Crews published The Critics Bear It Away, which was wholly devoted to literary criticism.[20] The work was seen as part of a liberal revival within education after a long period of conservatism focusing on the revision of the Western canon, and filled with an internal conflict between Crews's sympathies with and opposition to the revisionist position.[9] It was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction[21] and won the Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay Winners.[22]

Parts of his 1975 collection Out of My System,[23] the 1986 collection Skeptical Engagements,[24] and the 2005 Follies of the Wise[25] were also dedicated to literary criticism. Crews's repeated message to literary critics is to be critical of their own interpretation when making statements about the meaning of a work.[4] Regarding Crews's position on literary criticism, C. A. Runcie notes, “What Frederick Crews says about psychoanalysis is true for all criticism and its theorizing: 'A critic's sense of limits, like Freud's own, must come from … his awe at how little he can explain.'”[26]

Criticism of Freud and psychoanalysis[edit]

Crews began his career using psychoanalytic literary criticism but gradually rejected this approach and psychoanalysis in general. In his article "Reductionism and Its Discontents", published in Out of My System in 1975, Crews stated his belief that psychoanalysis can be usefully applied to literary criticism but expressed growing doubts about its use as a therapeutic approach, suggesting that it had a weak, sometimes comical tradition of criticism.[23] Crews rejected psychoanalysis entirely in his article "Analysis Terminable" (first published in Commentary in 1980 and reprinted in his collection Skeptical Engagements in 1986) citing what he considered its faulty methodology, its ineffectiveness as therapy, and the harm it caused to patients.[24] In 1996, Crews credited Henri F. Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) with beginning a twenty-five-year-long reevaluation of the position of psychoanalysis within the history of medicine, and acknowledged other book-length critical analyses of Freud and psychotherapy, including Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979), Adolf Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984), and Malcolm Macmillan's Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc (1991).[27]

Crews, who describes himself as "a one-time Freudian who had decided to help others resist the fallacies to which I had succumbed in the 1960s",[28] sees his criticisms of Freud as two-pronged – one aimed at Freud's ethical and scientific standards, and the other aimed at showing that psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience.[29][30] Two of his essays, "Analysis Terminable" and "The Unknown Freud", published in 1993, have been described as shots fired at the beginning of the "Freud Wars", a long-running debate over Freud's reputation, work and impact.[31][32] "The Unknown Freud" prompted an unprecedented number of letters to fill the pages of the The New York Review of Books for several issues.[28] Crews went on to criticize Freud and psychoanalysis extensively, becoming a major figure in the discussions and criticisms of Freud that occurred during the 1980s and '90s. Crews was one of a number of critics who protested an exhibit presented at the Library of Congress in 1998, as too positive and favorable to Freud; the protests delayed the exhibit's opening by almost a year, and almost cancelled it outright.[33]

Criticism of recovered memory therapy[edit]

In 1993 and 1994, Crews wrote a series of critical essays and reviews of books relating to repressed and recovered memories,[34] which also provoked heated debate and letters to the editors of The New York Review of Books.[28] The essays, along with critical and supporting letters and his responses, were published as The Memory Wars in 1995.[35] Crews believes the memories and fantasies of childhood seduction Freud reported were not real memories but constructs that Freud created and forced upon his patients. According to Crews, the seduction theory that Freud abandoned in the late 1890s acted as a precedent and contributing factor to the wave of false allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.[36]

Crews is a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation's advisory board[37] and has been described as "leading a backlash against recovered memory therapy."[38]

Other interests[edit]

Writing handbooks[edit]

In 1974, Crews published a best-selling college composition handbook for Random House that offered rhetorical advice for writing academic essays and reference information on correct and effective use of the English language. The book was praised for being extremely readable, helpful, and written as if Crews had enjoyed writing it[39] and was highly successful,[40] running to nine editions. Crews also co-authored three editions of The Borzoi Handbook for Writers for McGraw-Hill.[41][42][43]

The New York Review of Books[edit]

In his capacity as a reviewer for The New York Review of Books, Crews has addressed diverse topics from a rational, critical and skeptical standpoint, often using satire to make his points. In addition to his publications on Freud and recovered memory therapy, topics Crews has written on include:

Honors and awards[edit]

  • Fulbright Lectureship, Turin, Italy, 1961–62
  • Essay Prize, National Council on the Arts and Humanities, 1968
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, 1965–66
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (Literary criticism), 1970[1]
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Berkeley, 1985[50]
  • Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1991[51]
  • Faculty Research Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, 1991–92
  • Editorial Board, “Rethinking Theory” series, Northwestern University Press, 1992–present
  • Nomination for National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction (The Critics Bear It Away), 1992[21]
  • PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay (The Critics Bear It Away), 1993[22]
  • Berkeley Citation, 1994[52]
  • Inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, ed. Natalie Angier (Houghton Mifflin), 2002
  • Fellow, Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, 2003–present[53]
  • Berkeley Fellow, 2005–present
  • Inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005, ed. Jonathan Weiner (Houghton Mifflin), 2005
  • Nominated for National Book Critics Circle Award (Follies of the Wise), 2006

Bibliography[edit]

As author[edit]

As editor[edit]

As contributor[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation list of All Fellows". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  2. ^ "Frederick C. Crews, Emeritus - Staff page at UC, Berkeley". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Fuchs, J. (28 Mar 2006). “Books: Crews skewers Follies of the Wise in new collection.” The Berkeley Daily Planet. [1]
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kreisler, H. (Interviewer) & Crews, F. (Interviewee). (1999). "Criticism and the Empirical Attitude: Conversation with Frederick Crews" [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley Web site.
  5. ^ a b c Marcus, D (2002-01-30). "Lit crit Frederick Crews *58, author of The Pooh Perplex, pokes the Academy once more with his new book, Postmodern Pooh". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  6. ^ "Details for: Frederick C. Crews". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  7. ^ Giffin, M. (2012). "Literary academics are full of pooh." Quadrant, LVI(1-2), 25-29.
  8. ^ Crews, FC (1968). The Patch Commission. E. P. Dutton.  ASIN B001SUMQ08
  9. ^ a b Erickson, P (1993). "The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy - book reviews". Criticism. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  10. ^ Anti-Youth Movements. Time. 1968-08-02. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  11. ^ a b Carlson SJ (1985). Women of grace: James's plays and the comedy of manners. Ann Arbor, Mich: UMI Research Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-8357-1617-1. 
  12. ^ Crews, FC (1958). "The Tragedy of Manners: Moral Drama in the Later Novels of Henry James". Yale University. Undergraduate prize essays (Yale University Press) 10. 
  13. ^ Simon L (2007). The Critical Reception of Henry James: Creating a Master (Literary Criticism in Perspective) (Literary Criticism in Perspective). Columbia, SC, USA: Camden House. pp. 78. ISBN 1-57113-319-4. 
  14. ^ Crews, FC (1962). E. M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism. Princeton University Press. pp. vii. ISBN 0-7581-5768-1. 
  15. ^ Crews, Frederick C. (1989 (re-issue)). The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06817-3. 
  16. ^ "Frederick Crews - The Sins of the Fathers". University of California Press. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  17. ^ Tompkins, Jane P. (1980). Reader-response criticism: from formalism to post-structuralism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-2401-X. 
  18. ^ Barchilon, J (1973). "Book Review: Psychoanalysis and Literary Process: Edited by Frederick Crews". The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 42: 644–51. 
  19. ^ Stern, HR (1973). "Book Review: Psychoanalysis and Literary Process. Frederick Crews (Ed.).". The Psychoanalytic Review 60: 304–5. 
  20. ^ Crews, FC (1992). The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy. Random House. ISBN 0-679-40413-9. 
  21. ^ a b "Critics nominate best books of '92". The Hartford Courant. 1993-01-19. pp. C.6. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  22. ^ a b "Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay Winners". Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  23. ^ a b Crews, FC (1975). Out of My System: Psychoanalysis, Ideology, and Critical Method. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-501947-4. 
  24. ^ a b Crews, FC (1986). Skeptical Engagements. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503950-5. 
  25. ^ Crews, FC (2005). Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays. Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 1-59376-101-5. 
  26. ^ Runcie, C. A. (1990). "Dignifying Signifying: A Meditation on Interpretation." The Journal of the Sydney University Arts Association, 15, 71-86.
  27. ^ Crews, FC (1996). "The Verdict on Freud". Psychological Science 7 (2): 63–8. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1996.tb00331.x. 
  28. ^ a b c Miller, L (1995-12-02). "Freudian Flame Wars - The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute". Salon.com. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  29. ^ Wade, C., Tavris, C. (2011). Psychology (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-205-71146-8
  30. ^ Crews, FC (1995-03-03). "Cheerful assassin defies analysis". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  31. ^ Merkin, D (2003-07-13). "The Literary Freud". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  (subscription required)
  32. ^ Gellner, Ernest (2003). The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Pub. pp. xxii. ISBN 0-631-23413-6. 
  33. ^ Lehrer, J (1999-01-06). "A News Hour with Jim Lehrer - Sigmund Freud". PBS.com. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  34. ^ Crews, FC; Erdelyi M. "Freud and Memory: An Exchange". The New York Review of Books. 
  35. ^ Crews, F. (1997). The Memory Wars. New York: The New York Review of Books. p. 71. ISBN 0-940322-04-8. 
  36. ^ Boxer, S (1997-08-10). "Floggin Freud". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  (subscription required)
  37. ^ C. Crews "The FMSF Scientific and Professional Advisory Board - Profiles: Frederick C. Crews". False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  38. ^ Goodman, W (1995-04-04). "Television Review; A Growth Industry: Helping Recall Sexual Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  39. ^ Douglas, GH (1974). "Book Review - The Random House Handbook". Journal of Business Communication 11 (3): 57. doi:10.1177/002194367401100311. 
  40. ^ Trombley, W (1982-01-10). "College Text 'Dumbing' Aids Sales". Los Angeles Times. pp. A1. 
  41. ^ Crews, FC; Schor S & Hennessy M (1993). The Borzoi Handbook for Writers (3rd ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-911401-6. 
  42. ^ Crews, FC; Buscemi SV & Schor S. Exercises for the Borzoi Handbook for Writers. Alfred A. Knopf. 
  43. ^ Crews, FC; Hennessy M (1993). The Borzoi Practice Book for Writers. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-013651-3. 
  44. ^ Kramer, M. (2001). "Imagining Authorship in America: "Whose American Renaissance?" Revisited." American Literary History, 13 (1), 108-125.
  45. ^ Crews, FC (1998). "The Mindsnatchers". The New York Review of Books 45 (11). Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  46. ^ Crews, FC; Dumm TL; Hopkins B; Jacobs DM & Maier DF (1998). "'When Words Collide': An Exchange". The New York Review of Books 45 (15). Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  47. ^ Crews, FC (2001). "Saving us from Darwin". The New York Review of Books 48 (15). Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  48. ^ Crews, FC; Gross C; Kissin B; Plantinga A & Shattuck R (2001). "'Saving us from Darwin': An Exchange". The New York Review of Books 48 (19). Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  49. ^ Crews, FC (2007). "Talking Back to Prozac". The New York Review of Books 54 (19). Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  50. ^ "Frederick Crews - Distinguished Teaching Award: 1985, English". 1985. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  51. ^ "Alphabetical Index of Active Members" (pdf). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  52. ^ "University of California, Berkeley - Berkely Citation: Historical list of recipients as of 12/16/2008" (pdf). 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  53. ^ "The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health: Coordinating Committee & Fellows". Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 

External links[edit]

Interviews[edit]