An Interview with Dawn Skorczewski on ArtsFuse

“An Accident of Hope” is a fascinating read for anyone interested in writers, writing, psychotherapy, women, medical ethics and American society just before the great upheaval of the 1960s.” –Arts Fuse


Excerpt from the Interview…


“AF: When did you get interested in psychoanalysis?


Skorczewski: In the mid-nineties, when a close friend described its benefits for her. It had changed her life to be in analysis, and she told me because I was looking to change mine. I ended up starting a 12-year analysis with a wonderful woman who helped me address my basic lack of self worth. But she also indirectly stimulated an interest in learning more about contemporary relational analytic theory and infant research. I learned that contemporary theory had moved far beyond the model of analysis that is still deeply entrenched in our cultural myths about the process. In fact, contemporary analysis, with its feminist, post-structuralist tenets, is much more complementary to my thinking about life and literature than I might have imagined when I was working on Sexton and psychiatry way back in 1991. I was an Affiliate Scholar at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute for three years and especially enjoyed the clinical classes, in which I learned to think about the clinical situation from a less literary perspective.


AF: After the Middlebrook biography was published and both the literary and therapy communities condemned Orne (see Michiko Kakutani’s review in the Times), did you have any second thoughts about using them?


Skorczewski: None whatsoever. I am confident that Sexton wanted to help people by sharing her struggles to get well. I heard her say so on the tapes.


AF: How did you gain access to them?


Skorczewski: I wrote to Linda Gray Sexton in 2004 asking if I might have access to the collection in the Schlesinger library. Sexton immediately gave me permission. I listened to the first tape in 2004 and the last ones, in Austin, in 2011.


It took me many years to find a way to make an argument about the tapes, which are difficult to listen to from start to finish because they are so painful. Sexton was a very sick woman when she started with Orne. By the time eight years had passed, she was an accomplished poet and much less depressed. But she was hardly cured.” You can find more info at

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