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Erik Erikson (Erik Homburger Erikson) Biography

(1902–1994), (Erik Homburger Erikson), Observations on the Yurok: Childhood and World Image, Insight and Responsibility

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Englefield Green Surrey to William Faulkner Biography

American psychoanalytical author, born of Danish parents in Frankfurt, Germany. His eclectic education included a period as an art student in Munich, followed by study under Anna Freud at the Vienna Psychoanalytical Institute. In 1933 he emigrated to the USA, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1939. Despite his lack of formal qualifications he was welcomed at Harvard, where he conducted research and worked as an analyst at the university's Psychoanalytical Clinic. From 1939 to 1950 he taught at the University of California; he resigned in protest when required to swear an oath of loyalty to the USA as part of the attempted extirpation of communism in the immediate post-war period. He then spent ten years at the Austen Riggs Center in Massachusetts and became Professor of Human Development at Harvard in 1960. His works include Observations on the Yurok: Childhood and World Image (1943), which draws upon his perceptions of Native American culture; Insight and Responsibility (1964), a collection of essays; Gandhi's Truth (1969), a study of non-violent political action; and Toys and Reasons (1977), an investigation of the ritualization of experience. His biography Young Man Luther (1968) presents a sustained analysis of its subject's motivations and character in terms of critical events in his early life. Erikson, whose work is noted for its humane and imaginative character, claimed that he ‘came to psychology from art’. Largely for his insistence on the significance of social determinants in the growth of the individual psyche, Erikson is regarded as one of the chief exponents of psychoanalytic theory since Freud. His use of the terms ‘identity crisis’ and ‘life-cycle’ in exploring his central concern with the developmental stages of the ego gave them centrality to the modern vocabulary of psychoanalysis.

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