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Frederick Campbell Crews (born 1933, Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker) is an award-winning Americanmarker essayist, literary critic, author, and Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeleymarker. He received popular attention for The Pooh Perplex, a book of satirical essays parodying contemporary casebooks. Initially a proponent of psychoanalytic literary criticism, Crews later moved away from, and in the early 1980s rejected psychoanalysis, going on to criticize Freud's scientific and ethical standards. Crews became a prominent critic of Freud during the "Freud wars" of the 1980s and 90s, which debated the Viennese psychoanalyst's reputation, scholarship and impact on the 20th century.

Crews has also published a variety of skeptical and rationalist essays, including book reviews and commentary for The New York Review of Books, on a variety of topics including Freud's work and recovered memory therapy, both of which were published as separate collections. Crews has also published several successful handbooks on the English language.


Crews completed his undergraduate education at Yale Universitymarker, and received his Ph.D from Princeton Universitymarker in 1958. As of 2009, Crews was a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeleymarker.



In 1963 Crews published his first bestseller The Pooh Perplex: A Student Casebook that satirized the casebooks then assigned to first-year university students in introductory courses to English literature or rhetoric. Derived in part from a play put on by Crews's English department in 1958, the book featured a fictitious set of English professors writing exegetical essays on A. A. Milne's classic character Winnie-the-Pooh, parodying Marxist, Freudian, Christian, Leavisite and Fiedlerian approaches. Though urged by readers to publish a follow-up volume, Crews delayed writing a follow-up until after his retirement in 1994, producing Postmodern Pooh in 2001. The follow-up book repeated the satire of the original with more contemporary critical perspectives such as deconstruction, radical feminism, queer theory, and recovered memory therapy, in part basing the essay authors and their approaches on actual academics and their work.

A 1968 publication by Crews entitled The Patch Commission was a satirical look at Presidential Commissions that emphasized his disapproval of American involvement in the then-ongoing Vietnam War. The book is transcription of the fictional Patch Commission, a discussion between three government commissioners attempting to save the nation from disaster caused by 'Doc Spock's overly permissive child-rearing guidelines.

Literary criticism

Much of Crews's career has been dedicated to literary criticism. Crews's first book was The Tragedy of Manners: Moral Drama in the Later Novels of Henry James, published in 1957, was based on a prize-winning essay written by Crews while an undergraduate student at Yale University, initially published as part of a series. The book discussed three late novels by Henry James: The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl, analyzing the function and tensions within a system of manners, the interaction between an individual's ethics and their reflection within the values of a community. In 1962 Crews's doctoral dissertation from Princeton University was published as E. M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism. In 1966 he published a study of Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes, which examined Hawthorne's entire literary career including unfinished novels; published as a Freudian analysis, it was re-issued in 1989 with Crews's reassessment of his initial position and how literary criticism has dealt with Hawthorne since 1966. In 1970, Crews edited Psychoanalysis and Literary Process, a collection of essays by Crews's students that analyzed a variety of authors from a psychoanalytic perspective. The collection included Crews's essay "Anaesthetic Criticism" that disparaged contemporary schools of literary criticism.

In 1986 Crews published The Critics Bear It Away, which was wholly devoted to literary criticism. The Critics Bear It Away was described as part of a Liberal revival within education after a long period of Conservatism focussing on the revision of the Western canon, and filled with an internal conflict between Crews's sympathies with and opposition to the revisionist position. The Critics Bear It Away was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and won the Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay Winners Parts of his 1975 collection Out of My System, the 1986 collection Skeptical Engagements, and the 2005 Follies of the Wise were also dedicated to literary criticism.

Criticisms of Freud and psychoanalysis

Crews began his career using a psychoanalytic literary criticism position but gradually rejected this approach and psychoanalysis in general. In his article "Reductionism and Its Discontents", published in Out of My System in 1975, Crews stated his belief that psychoanalysis can be usefully applied to literary criticism but expressed growing doubts about its use as a therepeutic approach, suggesting that it had a weak, sometimes comical tradition of criticism. Crews rejected psychoanalysis entirely in his article "Analysis Terminable" (first published in Commentary in 1980 and reprinted in his collection Skeptical Engagements in 1986) citing what he considered its faulty methodology, its ineffectiveness as therapy, and the harm it caused to parents. Describing himself as "a one-time Freudian who had decided to help others resist the fallacies to which I had succumbed in the 1960s", his position was summarized in as "psychoanalysis is a spurious, ineffective pseudoscience, based on the fudged data of an unscrupulous and calculating founder and perpetuated by followers who mimic his craftiness in a 'shell game whereby critics of Freudianism are always told that new breakthroughs render their strictures obsolete,'" supporting his objections to Freud's personal qualities and theories empirically with "extensive and meticulous research".

Crews describes his criticisms of Freud as two-pronged - one aimed at Freud's ethical and scientific standards, and the other aimed at showing that psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience. Two of his essays, "Analysis Terminable" and "The Unknown Freud", published in 1993, have been described as shots fired at the beginning of the "Freud Wars," a long-running debate over Sigmund Freud's reputation, work and impact. "The Unknown Freud" prompted an unprecedented number of letters to fill the pages of the The New York Review of Books for several issues. Crews went on to criticize Freud and psychoanalysis extensively, becoming a major figure in the discussions and criticisms of Freud that occurred during the 1980s and '90s. In 1996 Crews credited Henri F. Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious with beginning a twenty five year long reevaluation of the position of psychoanalysis within the history of medicine. Crews was one of a number of critics who protested an exhibit presented at the Library of Congressmarker in 1998, as too positive and favorable to Freud; the protests delayed the exhibit's opening by almost a year, and almost cancelled it outright.

Criticisms of recovered memory therapy

In 1993 and 1994 Crews wrote a series of critical essays and reviews of books relating to repressed and recovered memories, which also provoked heated debate and letters to the editors of The New York Review of Books. The essays, along with critical and supporting letters and his responses, were published as The Memory Wars in 1995 and Crews's articles alone were republished as Follies of the Wise in 2006. Crews believes the memories and fantasies of childhood seduction reported by Freud were not real memories but were constructs created by him and forced upon his patients. The seduction theory that Freud abandoned in the late 1890s is seen by Crews as a precedent and contributing factor to the wave of false allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.

Crews is a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation's advisory board and has been described as "leading a backlash against recovered memory therapy."

Other interests

Writing handbooks

In 1974 Crews published a handbook for Random House on the proper uses of the English language. The book was praised for being extremely readable, helpful, and written as if Crews enjoyed writing it and was highly successful, running to nine editions. Crews also produced The Borzoi handbook for writers for McGraw-Hill as well as a variety of supplementary workbooks.

The New York Review of Books

In his capacity as a reviewer for The New York Review of Books, Crews has used a rational, critical and skeptical position to address diverse topics, often using satire to make his points. In addition to his publications on Freud and recovered memory therapy, topics Crews has written on include:

Honors and awards

  • Fulbright Lectureship, Turin, Italy, 1961-62
  • Essay Prize, National Council on the Arts and Humanities, 1968
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, 1965-66
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (Literary criticism), 1970
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Berkeley, 1985
  • Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , 1991
  • Faculty Research Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, 1991-92
  • Editorial Board, “Rethinking Theory” series, Northwestern University Press, 1992–present
  • Nomination for National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction (The Critics Bear It Away), 1992
  • Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay Winners (The Critics Bear It Away), 1993
  • Berkeley Citation, 1994
  • Inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, ed. Natalie Angier (Houghton Mifflin), 2002
  • Fellow, Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, 2003-present
  • Berkeley Fellow, 2005–present
  • Inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005, ed. Jonathan Weiner (Houghton Mifflin), 2005
  • Nominated for National Book Critics Circle Award (Follies of the Wise), 2006


As author

As editor


  1. ASIN B001SUMQ08
  2. (subscription requried)
  3. (subscription required)

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