Announcing the Rapaport-Holt Letters

Robert Holt and David Rapaport, Topeka, Kansas, 1948.

Click Here for:  Chapter 1: Letters of 1948–1951

Click Here for:  Chapter 2:  Letters of 1952

Click Here for:  Chapter 3:  Letters of 1952 -1953

Click Here for:  Chapter 4:  Letters of 1954

Click Here for: Chapter 5:  Letters of 1955

I am pleased to make available an extraordinary collection of correspondence between David Rapaport and Robert Holt.

When in response to a call from me, Bob Holt told me that he had a trove of correspondence between him and his mentor, David Rapaport, I was bowled over by the discovery of this treasure. In these letters, which date from 1948 through 1960, the two colleagues both support and challenge one another during a period of remarkable intellectual activity for both of them.

I was a resident at the Menninger School of Psychiatry from 1960 to 1962, years after David had left to go to Austen Riggs, but many members of the staff who were my mentors had trained with him, and all of the residents learned about his brilliance and contributions to the basic science of psychoanalysis. His Organization and Pathology of Thought was a foundational text for us, to be read and reread. Topeka was a place which many had left by the time I arrived: Bob Knight, Roy Schafer, Margaret Brenman, Merton Gill, Lew Robbins, Ben Rubinstein, Hartvig Dahl, Sylvia Brody, and of course both David and Bob. Among those who were there during my time were Herb Schlesinger, Howard Shevrin, the Murphys, Riley Gardner, Marty Mayman, Paul Pruyser, Irv Rosen, and Karl and Will. They made the place, in my view, still one of the best residency programs in the country and a most exiting place in which to train.

After I left Topeka I became a candidate at the NY Psychoanalytic Institute. One of my fellow candidates was David Wolitzky, who was at the NYU Research Center for Mental Health with its directors Bob Holt and George Klein, and others (Leo Goldberger, et al.) who were influenced by David’s work and whose research attempted to validate or disprove his theoretical propositions. I think we can all agree that David was the one of the most important psychoanalytic theoretician of our mid-century and that his work deserves continued study. Because David and Bob shared an unusually close and candid rapport, the correspondence presented here provides the reader with a window into the minds and way of thinking of the two correspondents, and is an important contribution to the history of psychoanalysis. I am honored that can serve as the platform for this work, which will now be available to readers all over the world.

Arnold Richards


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3 Comments on “Announcing the Rapaport-Holt Letters”

  1. Paolo Migone Says:

    These are historical documents of an extraordinary interest! These letters allow us to know and understand better a piece of the history of psychoanalysis in the United States, in the daily discussions of two of the most prominent protagonists of theoretical research… Thank you Bob for all this!
    I want also to let you know that two of these letters (from Rapaport to Holt, of early Dec. 1952 and of Dec. 16, 1952, here in Chapter 3) have been already published in Italian, with permission, in the journal I edit, ‘Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane’, on pp. 94-104 of issue no. 1, 2012, vol. 46.

    Paolo Migone, M.D.
    Editor, ‘Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane’
    Via Palestro, 14
    43123 Parma PR, Italy
    Tel. +(39) 0521-960595

  2. Maimon Leavit, MD Says:

    Thank you for publishing this stimulating correspondence by two of the important thinkers- colleagues, friends and mentors- of my early years at Menninger. I was there 1945 to 1950, at the height of its psychoanalytic efflorescence, making it a veritable Olympus.l Rapaport, though not formally trained as an analyst, was regarded by many as the theoretically intellectual dean..
    His esteem was such, that at the weekly CPCs, we residents would present our case, formidable faculty would give their theoretical formulations and diagnoses, and finally David would wrap it up with his brilliant interpretations of the psychological tests. Like a pathologist’s findings, that would be generally accepted as the final authoritative word as to what was really going on.

    Maimon Leavitt,MD

  3. Daniel Holt Says:

    Thank you for your comment. You’ll be pleased to know that the remainder of the Rapaport-Holt correspondence will be posted soon.


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