Barry O’Donnell – Ella Freeman Sharpe – A Review of her Contribution

THE LETTER 08 (Autumn 1996) pages 104-113

Ella Sharpe  (1875-1947) came to psychoanalysis from a background in literature, particularly Shakespeare, and  teacher  training.   She  became  a student of psychoanalysis at the Medico-psychological Clinic in London in 1917 and  three  years  later  went  to Berlin for  analysis  with Hans  Sachs,  a non-medical analyst who  shared her  interest  in  literature.  (He had also written on  symbolism with  Otto  Rank  and  had   been  well  regarded  in Ernest  Jones’ seminar paper The Theory of   Symbolism) Ella  Sharpe would later say that her motivation  from the beginning of her involvement in the field of psychoanalysis was not to cure but to understand. She began  to work  in accordance  with  two articles  of faith: an absolute belief  in  psychic determinism, and   that  a  process was  set  in motion in  analysis.2  By 1923 Ella Sharpe  had returned to  London and become a Member of the  British  Psycho-Analytic Society and quickly became involved in teaching. A series  of lectures  to students entitled The Technique  of Psychoanalysis has  been  regarded  as  ‘classic’. Here and elsewhere she initiated many lines of thought  that  have since become  very much  associated with the British independents. With Ernest  Jones  and Joan  Riviere  she  supported Melanie  Klein  in  her  1926  attack on Anna Freud’s book on child analysis and while she acknowledged  Klein’s ‘special  insight into  the unconscious life’ she  remained suspicious of her ‘theoretical  formulations’.  Raynor groups Sharpe with  Joan  Riviere  and Melanie Klein as the female analysts around  Jones when he was…

Comments are closed.