Frederick C. Crews, PhD

Founding Fellow

Berkeley, California, USA

Frederick C. Crews, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and a prominent critic of Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis and “recovered memory therapy.” He was a leading voice for reason during the “Freud Wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, publishing a number of compelling critiques in The New York Review of Books that exposed the self-validating character of Freud’s intellectual system. He is an advisory board member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Dr Crews received his undergraduate education at Yale University and his PhD from Princeton University in 1958.  He is an award-winning literary critic, well known for such works as The Pooh Perplex: A Freshman Casebook, Postmodern Pooh, and The Critics Bear it Away: American Fiction and the Academy. His reviews of books on evolution and creationism in The New York Review of Books are much esteemed (“Saving us from Darwin,” q.v.).

Selected Books

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Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006). This collection features essays on Freudian psychoanalysis and the “recovered memory” movement. Crews also tackles UFO abduction reports, American Buddhism, contemporary literary criticism, and theosophy. A single theme animates these discussions: the temptation to reach for facile wisdom.

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Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend, editor (Viking, 1998). Here are 20 rigorous essays, all of which have been previously published, mainly in academic books and periodicals, that mount a critique of mainstream Freudian theory, practice, and Freud’s major cases. Whereas Freud fostered the idea of solitary, heroic discovery through his self-analysis, in reality, the authors contend, he taught his followers to replace the empirical attitude with blind loyalty and censorship, instilling in them a negative, quasi-paranoid view of rival theorists and clinicians. The contributors – American and European scholars in fields ranging from philosophy to neuroscience – present compelling evidence that Freud habitually and greatly exaggerated his therapeutic successes.

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The Memory Wars: Freud’s Legacy in Dispute (New York Review of Books, 1995). This volume collects Dr Crews’s two controversial essays from The New York Review of Books, “The Unknown Freud” (q.v.) and “The Revenge of the Repressed” (q.v.) as well as some of the critical letters provoked by their original publication. In both these essays, Dr Crews elaborates upon his belief that “the relatively patent and vulgar pseudoscience of recovered memory rests in appreciable measure on the respectable and entrenched pseudoscience of psychoanalysis.”

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Skeptical Engagements (Oxford University Press, 1986; Cybereditions, 2002). This book takes aim at Freudianism and at a whole host of “self-validating” theories. From deconstructive “freeplay” to poststructuralist Marxism, Dr Crews applies his skeptical eye to a range of authors, critics, and theorists, including Joseph Conrad, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Philip Rahv, and Leslie Fiedler.

Selected Papers:

    In the news:


    • “Conversations with history: Frederick Crews,” Criticism and Empirical Attitude, series host Harry Kreisler, Institute of International Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 1999.  [Notes]

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    Freud’s legacy: interview with Frederick Crews,” News Hour, PBS, 1999 Jan 6.

    Selected Honors:

    • Nominated for National Book Critics Circle Award (for Follies of the Wise, q.v.), 2006.
    • Fellow, Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, 2003-present.
    • Editorial Board, “Rethinking Theory” series, Northwestern University Press, 1992-present.
    • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Berkeley, 1985.
    • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, 1965-1966.

    The Online Frederick Crews:

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