Adam Phillips

Essayist and Psychoanalyst
On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life; On Flirtation: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Uncommitted Life; The Beast in the Nursery; Monogamy; Houdini's Box: Essays on the Art of Escape; Darwin's Worms; Promises, Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature; Terrors and Experts; Equals.

The titles of these books by Adam Phillips reveal the range and curiosity of the extraordinary writer, psychoanalyst and polymath who has been called a contemporary Emerson, a Montaigne or Voltaire for our times. Internationally acclaimed as an essayist, literary critic, cultural scholar, and practicing psychoanalyst, Phillips has published over a dozen scholarly books on psychoanalysis, literature, philosophy, the history of science, sociology, politics, child psychology, and biography, was well as editions of the work of Edmund Burke, Walter Pater, Charles Lamb and John Clare. His many essays, articles and reviews appear in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, Raritan, and Salmagundi, as well as in professional psychoanalytic journals in America, Britain and France.

Reviewers call Phillips an "essayist who combines the energy of the Great Victorian polymaths like Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin with the radical belief in the indeterminacy of all truth that defines the postmodernist sensibility of Walter Benjamin or Jorge Luis Borges..." (New York Times, 12 July 2003). In Phillips's eloquent books, literal transformations occur, and topics as seemingly inconsequential as kissing, tickling, and being bored, or flirtation, or the desire to make a profession out of escape, or even the quiet but monumentally important work of earthworms, become fresh objects of large-scale philosophical and psychoanalytic reflection. With rare insight, Phillips achieves literary alchemy by seamlessly weaving his experiences as a child psychotherapist and practicing psychoanalyst into his erudite and disarmingly passionate reflections on literature, philosophy, history and psychoanalysis. Renowned for his talent for pursuing fresh and unorthodox questions, Adam Phillips provocatively challenges us to take our own flights of fancy seriously.

As one of the world's foremost experts on Freud and the history of psychoanalysis, Adam Phillips was invited by Penguin Press to serve as the General Editor of a new English edition of Freud, the first new complete works of Freud in English to be published since Strachey's standard translation. Charged with overseeing the translations and introductory essays, Phillips will re-introduce Freud to the reading public, less as the author of rigorous scientific texts than as a major literary figure in his own right. Adam Phillips's Freud will not be our grandparents' Freud. Seventeen volumes are planned, and seven have already been published.

Dr. Phillips will present two lectures: the first, on Tuesday, April 19th, is entitled "Great Expectations and First Impressions." Here he will consider the theme of first impressions that runs throughout Dickens's Great Expectations and consider how psychoanalysis has changed our idea of what first impressions are and how they determine our responses to others. Why do we tend to privilege first impressions rather than, say, second, third, or even fourth impressions? Phillips will trace the history of first impressions, from the early modern notion that the fetus could be permanently impressed or marked by the mother's visual stimuli to contemporary mass culture, in which discourse and exchange often end with first impressions. The second lecture, entitled "First Impressions and Second Thought," will focus on the work of Jane Austin, and will explore how second thoughts recalibrate and transform first impressions. If a first impression is experienced as an event, a second thought is a transformation of an event into a narrative. First we see and then we tell stories about what we see. Dr. Phillips will reflect upon the chronological order we assign to our thoughts and feelings and how that cognitive temporality helps or hinders our efforts to tell convincing stories about our lives.

Adam Phillips has a BA in English from Oxford University; he is a Member of the Association of Child Psychologists; a Member of the Guild of Psychotherapists; and an Honorary Member of the Division 39 of the American Psychological Association. Formerly Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital, London, he is currently a psychoanalyst in private practice and General Editor of The New Penguin Freud. He lives and works in London, England.

More recently, Dr. Phillips has published Going Sane: Maps of Happiness (Harper Collins 2005) and Side Effects (Harper Perennial 2007).