The Past as Presence: A Novelist and Psychoanalyst Compare Notes

Presenters: Elizabeth Graver and Ruth Graver MD
Moderator: Lisa Gornick PhD

Tuesday, June 4, 2024 at 8 PM

Location: Columbia University Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive
(enter via 116th St. click here for directions)
or via Zoom

Writers of historical fiction create a conversation between history and interiority in imagining their characters’ lives, much like psychoanalysts work to understand patients. The intersections between the psychoanalytic process and fiction writing are all the greater when the novelist draws on her own family history. In her novel, Kantika (“song” in Ladino), novelist Elizabeth Graver creates a duet between the actual migration story of her Sephardic Turkish maternal grandmother, Rebecca, and invented scenes and inner lives. Her sister, Ruth Graver, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, has a particular interest in cultural formulation, as well as attachment theory. Moderated by novelist and psychoanalyst Lisa Gornick, the Graver sisters will explore how fictional transformations echo psychoanalytic ones.

Elizabeth Graver’s fifth novel, Kantika, was awarded a National Jewish Book Award and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award and chosen as a Best Historical Novel of 2023 by the New York Times. Her fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction. Her other novels are Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays. She teaches at Boston College.

Ruth Graver, MD, is on the faculty of the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center, where she teaches, supervises, and currently co-chairs the CAPE program for Analyzing and Supervising Candidates. Her publications explore psychoanalysis and attachment theory and the professional development of psychoanalysts. She was a co-author of the book Psychodynamic Formulation: An Expanded Approach (2022), which developed sociocultural themes in psychodynamic formulation. She received the 2016 Howard Klar Teaching Award and the 2022 George S. Goldman Award for Achievement for Clinical Psychoanalysis and/or Psychoanalytic Education.

Lisa Gornick, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and graduate of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, where she is on the voluntary faculty. No longer in practice, she is the author of five works of fiction: Ana Turns (Keylight Books); The Peacock Feast, Tinderbox, and Louisa Meets Bear (all jointly published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Picador); and A Private Sorcery, (Algonquin). Her stories and essays have appeared widely, including in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Salon, Slate, Real Simple, and The Wall Street Journal.

This evening is chiefly an in-person event, though there will also be a hybrid component.

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SANDOR RADO LECTURE-The Unknown, the Unmet, and the Unlived: Strangers and Strangeness Within Us

the sixty-sixth annual

Salman Akhtar, MD

The Unknown, the Unmet, and the Unlived: Strangers and Strangeness Within Us


Presentation of the
George E. Daniels Merit Award

presented by Eric Marcus, MD
Ellen Rees, MD

Tuesday, May 7, 2024
8:00 PM

Columbia University Butler Library, Room 203
535 West 114th Street
or via Zoom

This presentation will elucidate the contents of the dynamic unconscious. Starting from Freud’s 1915 triad of (i) the repressed (primarily or defensively), (ii) the primal phantasies, and (iii) the instinctual representatives, through later added unconscious elements of structural model (including the ego-spun fantasies) to the more modern subterranean receptive functions of the mind, the contents of the dynamic unconscious will be termed as THE UKNOWN. To this agreed-upon category, two new groupings shall be added, which will be designated as THE UNMET and THE UNLIVED, respectively. The nature of these will be elucidated, and the subtle technical differences in the handling of these three aspects of the dynamic unconscious will be touched upon.

Salman Akhtar, MD, is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, a psychiatrist at Jefferson University Hospital, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. He has served on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Salman Akhtar has authored, edited, or co-edited more than 300 publications, including 100 academic books. He received the Sigourney Award in 2012.

An internationally recognized psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, writer, and poet, he authored such notable works as Immigration and Identity (1999), Freud along the Ganges (2005), and Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (2009). He has published seven volumes of poetry and serves as the scholar in residence at the InterAct Theatre Company. He maintains a clinical practice in Philadelphia.

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Returning to the Diary of Anne Frank in 2024

Returning to the Diary of Anne Frank in 2024

Presenter: Katherine Dalsimer PhD
Discussant: Susan Scheftel PhD

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 at 8 PM

Location: Columbia University Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive
(enter via 116th St. click here for directions)
or via Zoom

Anne Frank was given her now-famous diary as a 13th birthday present on June 12, 1942, and she wrote her last entry on August 1, 1944, shortly before the Secret Annex was raided by the Nazis and the eight occupants were sent to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived.

In describing her approach to this presentation, Dr. Dalsimer writes:

I will discuss three readings of The Diary of Anne Frank at three different points in time. Most people have read her diary at some time; I first read it myself when I was about the same age that Anne was when she wrote it. On that reading, knowing of her death at the age of 15 in Bergen Belsen darkened every page. When I returned to her diary as an adult, it was to write about it in my book Female Adolescence: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Literature, which was published in 1986. Having been haunted by her death on my earlier reading, I was surprised to find how much of life there was in her diary: I saw in Anne a model of not just normal but healthy female development—even as she lived under the most harrowing and terrifying of circumstances. Anne Frank cannot change, but history changes and as individuals we change, and we return to texts altered. I conclude this paper with a third reading, looking at The Diary of Anne Frank in our present historical moment.

Katherine Dalsimer, PhD, is a member of the faculty of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and the director of its Affiliate Scholars’ Program. She is a Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She is the author of Female Adolescence: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Literature and Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer, both published by Yale University Press. Most recently she contributed a chapter to The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge University Press), a volume which won the American Psychoanalytic Association prize for best book of 2024.

Susan Scheftel, PhD, is a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Training and Research and is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology in Psychiatry. She has been the Program Chair of the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine since 2020.

This evening is chiefly an in person event though there will also be a hybrid option.

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The Analyst’s Vulnerability: Personal, Clinical, Ethical

The Analyst’s Vulnerability: Personal, Clinical, Ethical

Presenter: Ellen Pinsky, PsyD
Discussant: Lisa Carbone, MD

Tuesday, February 6, 2024 at 8 PM

Location: Columbia University Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive
(enter via 116th St. click here for directions)
or via Zoom

This presentation will address our speaker’s personal experience of the sudden death of her analyst. Dr. Ellen Pinsky links that stunning loss to a subject long neglected—a striking fact that led her to wonder why the analyst’s mortality is so particularly avoided in our profession. In her words:

“I found it challenging to answer the questions: What, or whom, exactly, had I lost? What had I been given? Central to those questions on a more theoretical level has been the double meaning of “mortal”: The analyst is vulnerable (he or she can die) and also fallible (he or she can err). The analyst’s mortality underlies the work, at every moment—a robot or angel can’t do it. That same human nature, therapeutically powerful, also carries the potential for destruction. Thus, I was led to consider the issue of unethical behavior across a range, from mis-steps, to crimes.”

Ellen Pinsky, PsyD, is the author of Death and Fallibility in the Psychoanalytic Encounter: Mortal Gifts (Routledge, 2017). Dr. Pinsky came to psychoanalysis as a second profession following 25 years as a middle school English teacher. She is on the faculty at Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Her articles and reviews have appeared in a variety of journals including The Psychoanalytic QuarterlyJAPA and American Imago. In 2014 she was awarded BPSI’s Deutsch Prize for her essay “The Olympian Delusion.”

Lisa Carbone, MD, is the Director of the Cancer Wellness Psychiatry Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She is also an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Member at Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

This evening is chiefly an in person event though there will also be a hybrid option.

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Reverberations of the Long-Term Fate of Early Aggression in Mental Representations: Integrating Separation-Individuation and Attachment Theory

Reverberations of the Long-Term Fate of Early Aggression in Mental Representations:
Integrating Separation-Individuation and Attachment Theory

Presenter: Wendy Olesker, PhD
Discussant: Inga Blom, PhD, PMH-C

Tuesday, January 2, 2024 at 8 PM

Location: Register via the button below to receive the Zoom link

Margaret Mahler, a pioneering psychoanalyst, began her ground-breaking Separation-Individuation Study in the late 50s. She was one of the first to look naturalistically and theoretically at early development refracted through the lens of the mother-child dyad. Mahler designed this study as an indoor playground, with bifocal focus on both mother and child and their actual interaction patterns. Mahler had already been immersed in studying and treating what was then seen as psychosis in children. Her goal in the nursery was to study how the emerging sense of self and other came about in normal children. Over a number of years, 38 children from birth to age three and 29 mothers attended the nursery, and extensive follow-up data (including voluminous observational notes) on each member of the dyad, as well as the dyad itself, was collected. Retrospective analysis of the notes and early films of the pairs in the nursery, as well as longitudinal interviews and ongoing meetings with some of the original participants, has been going on for decades and continues into the present. Using this rich trove of clinical and psychoanalytic data, this presentation aims to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of internalizing processes.

The role of aggression in facilitating or interfering with the evolution of coherence, integration, and complexity in mental representations will be illustrated through following the developmental trajectories of two of the original nursery subjects for over 60 years. In one, there was calcification and rigidity, while in the other, flexibility prevailed; complex factors leading to those outcomes will be examined. In addition, consideration of the value of various data collection methods will be discussed. Looking closely through the data reveals significant differences over time between surface presentation and underlying personality structure.

Wendy Olesker, PhD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and on the Faculty at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. She is Senior Editor of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. She is Director of the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. For the past ten years she has been Director of the Follow-up Study of the Margaret Mahler Foundation.

Inga Blom, PhD, PMH-C, is currently the Director of Reproductive Mental Health and Director of Externship Training at Lenox Hill Hospital/Northwell Health in New York City, a part-time Assistant Professor at The New School and in private practice. Fifteen years ago, she completed her dissertation at The New School for Social Research with Miriam Steele and Anni Bergman, entitled “A Longitudinal Study Evaluating Infant Observations and Representations of Relationships: Separation-Individuation Theory and Attachment Theory in a Combined Approach,” and she has been involved in follow-up research with the original separation-individual theory subjects ever since.

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No November APM

MARCH 5, 2024.

Thank you to all who registered! You will remain registered for the new date. The Zoom link and registration form remain the same if you want to save the date and reserve your seat.

Location: Columbia University Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive
(enter via 116th St. click here for directions)
or via Zoom

Drs. Adele Tutter and Jay Crosby will introduce our two newest faculty members and will invite them to speak about their academic backgrounds and their paths to becoming clinical psychoanalysts. The four of them will then engage in a broader conversation on the relationship between theory and practice in psychoanalysis, the humanities and academia. They will reflect upon the recent surge of interest in our field in cultural history, critical theory and queer theory, and discuss what this says about the horizons and limits of current psychoanalytic thinking in relation to the clinical phenomena we encounter daily.

Featured Faculty Members:

Gila Ashtor, PhD, LP,
 is an Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychoanalysis at Columbia University and a new faculty member at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. This semester, she will be teaching a course called “Radical Psychoanalysis” on the interventions of Jean Laplanche, which will introduce candidates to the work of Laplanche alongside contemporary work in queer and critical theory. She specializes in queer theory, gender and sexuality, affect studies, and disorders of selfhood. She completed her psychoanalytic training at IPTAR in New York City, where she is currently on the Faculty, teaching Freud. She is also on the faculty at NYU’s Postdoc program where she will launch a new course called “The Queer Self” as part of the Contemporary Freudian track this upcoming spring. In addition to teaching psychoanalysis and critical theory, she also teaches in Columbia’s MFA program, where she works with nonfiction writers to develop their stories by integrating psychoanalytic thought.

Dr. Ashtor completed her BA in English Literature and Political Science at Brandeis, her Masters in Philosophy at the University of Chicago, her PhD in Literature and Queer Theory at Tufts and an MFA at Columbia University. She is the author of three books, Homo Psyche: On Queer Theory and Erotophobia; Exigent Psychoanalysis: The Interventions of Jean Laplanche; and Aural History. She is currently at work on two new projects – one, on the clinical uses and relevance of masochism and two, on the history of “self-disorders” in Anglo-American psychoanalysis.

Ben Kafka, PhD, LP, is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Greenwich Village. He received his B.A. from Brown and his Ph.D. in European intellectual and cultural history from Stanford. After graduate school he spent time at Princeton as a postdoctoral fellow in the humanities before moving, in 2007, to NYU, where he was tenured faculty in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, with cross-appointments in History and Comparative Literature.

Dr. Kafka’s psychoanalytic training began in 2010, when, several years into his analysis, and with guidance from the late Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, he applied to IPTAR’s Respecialization Program for scholars, writers, artists, and others from outside the mental health professions. He worked at the George Jackson Academy in the East Village and the IPTAR Clinical Center before receiving his NYS License in Psychoanalysis in 2015 and graduating from the institute in 2021. He received additional training and supervision in those years as a Rita Frankiel Memorial Fellow of the Melanie Klein Trust. In 2022 he moved into full-time practice. He will be joining the Center this spring as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychoanalysis; he is also on faculty at the DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell, where he codirects the working group on the history of the mind sciences.

Over the years Dr. Kafka has been affiliated with several other institutions, including the New York Institute for the Humanities and the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study. He has lectured at NYPSI and BPSI and been visiting faculty at the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis. He is the author of The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork and co-editor of William Pietz’s The Problem of the Fetish. He has also published several dozen articles, essays, and reviews. Three of his graduate students went on to teach (Harvard, the New School, and UC Berkeley); two went on to train as psychoanalysts.


Adele Tutter, MD, PhD, is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Faculty, the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research; and Director, the Psychoanalytic Studies Program of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Jay Crosby, PhD, is a recent graduate of the adult psychoanalytic training program at Columbia as well as a new faculty member at the Center. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and is in full time private practice in New York.

This evening is chiefly an in person event though there will also be a hybrid component.

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Levy-Gottlieb Lecture

Details coming soon