Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, philosopher, psychoanalyst and public intellectual, died suddenly on Dec. 1 at the age of 65. She served on the Wesleyan faculty for nearly two decades, joining the College of Letters in 1974, after earning her Ph.D. in Philosophy at the New School, where she studied closely with Hannah Arendt.
In 1982, Young-Bruehl published what is still considered the definitive biography of Arendt, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (Yale University Press, 1982; Second Edition, 2004), a text for which she received the Harcourt Literary Prize in Biography and Memoirs. Six years later, in 1988, she published an intellectual biography of Anna Freud, work that led Young-Bruehl herself toward psychoanalysis and gradually out of academia. She did her initial psychoanalytic training nearby, in New Haven, Conn. while continuing to teach at Wesleyan, before moving to Philadelphia in the early 1990s, where she taught part-time at Haverford College and continued her psychoanalytic training at the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis. Eventually, she left academia altogether and went into private practice as a therapist, first in Philadelphia, then in New York and finally in Toronto.
She continued to write and publish actively upon leaving Wesleyan. Harvard University Press published Young-Bruehl’s 1996 book, The Anatomy of Prejudices, in which she eschewed sociological approaches to the study of prejudice in favor of a psychoanalytic approach instead. In 2006, on the 100th anniversary of Arendt’s birth, Yale published Young-Bruehl’s Why Arendt Matters. Her most recent book, titled Childism, addresses American prejudice against children. Yale University Press has slated it for release early next year. Young-Bruehl also occasionally discussed her ideas in broader public forums, such as on NPR and in the pages of The Guardian (UK), and regularly in her blog, Who’s Afraid of Social Democracy?
Young-Bruehl is survived by Christine Dunbar, her spouse since 2008, as well as two siblings, a stepdaughter, and two step-grandchildren.
(Information provided by Rob Rosenthal, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology.)