Sigurd Næsgaard (1883-1956) began his work as Denmark’s first psychoanalyst in 1928. By this time, he was already a well-known figure in the academic landscape with a comprehensive catalogue of psychological and pedagogical work behind him. As a frontrunner of the newer modern trends and directions in pedagogy and through his psychoanalytic work, he came to have an important influence on cultural life. Many later well-known personalities, such as the writer Leif Panduro and the painter Asger Jorn, were directly inspired by his world of thought.
The first part of the book describes the path travelled by Sigurd Næsgaard on his journey towards the new world of psychoanalysis. The reader will meet, along the way, a large number of the original - and often somewhat eccentric - personalities who made their impact on his early personal development, and to whom he would remain grateful for the rest of his life. The second part of the book gives a general introduction to his writings and, in chronological order, to the four productive periods and thematic focus areas of his life and work. The third part covers his work as a psychoanalyst and looks at the particular interest he took in the creative side of human nature as expressed through painting, literature and other art forms. It also describes the resistance he encountered along the way, even from some of his own professional colleagues.
Sigurd Næsgaard - the man who broke down the barriers to psychoanalysis in Denmark is, of course, addressed to readers with an interest in the history of psychoanalysis and modern psychotherapy, and in the key actors who brought psychoanalysis into the spotlight on the various national stages and platforms. However, the book is also addressed to any reader interested in cultural and social history in a broader perspective. Much thought and effort has gone into making this portrait of Sigurd Næsgaard exciting and generally accessible to a wide range of readers, both mental health professionals and members of the public with an interest in the dynamic transformation of Denmark, in less than a century, from a conventional rural to a modern liberal democracy.
The book includes a brief overview of the most important newspapers and magazines in which Sigurd Næsgaard’s articles appeared, a chronological bibliography of published books, articles, chronicles and other works by Sigurd Næsgaard, and a thorough overview of the secondary literature used. It is translated from Danish, language edited and reviewed by Charles Woollen.
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”Stig Dankert Hjort har begået en velskrevet, veloplagt, velresearchet bog […]. Da jeg ikke ved meget andet om perioden, er det yderst interessant at få et blik ind i et liv, der bragte psykoanalysen - og dermed også den psykoterapeutiske praksis – til Danmark for et århundrede siden.” (Tidsskrift for Psykotetapi, nr.1, feb.2021)
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Stig Dankert Hjort is in top form with his latest book, which is well written, carefully researched and fluently translated into English. For me, the book first and foremost provides a fascinating insight into the life of the man who brought psychoanalysis - and thus the practice of psychotherapy - to Denmark about a century ago. But, one may ask, why should I, as an expat in Denmark, learn about Denmark's first psychoanalyst? One of the most important reasons is that this book also, through Sigurd Næsgaard's and his contemporaries 'work, gives the reader an unusual biographical introduction to the Danes' way of thinking, written especially for English speakers. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that the book gives the reader an easy-to-read privileged insight into how Sigurd Næsgaard formed or supported a significant number of the avant-garde figures (painters, writers, theorists) whose thoughts and theories of culture and psychotherapy remained central right up to 1980s, more than half a century later. A really good book
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