Elizabeth Lunbeck

Elizabeth Lunbeck

Chair, Department of the History of Science
Professor of the History of Science in Residence
Elizabeth Lunbeck

Areas of Research: Human Sciences, Medical Humanities, Psychology & Theories of Mind, Women & Gender Studies

Elizabeth Lunbeck is a historian of the human sciences, specializing in the history of psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and psychology.  Throughout her career, she has been interested in the conceptual foundations of these disciplines as well as in the social and cultural contexts in which they have taken shape and in the critical role they have played in the making of modernity and the modern self.  Her first book, The Psychiatric Persuasion:  Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America (1994), examines psychiatry’s transformation from a marginalized, asylum-based specialty to a thriving—if contested—discipline endowed with clinical and cultural authority over not only insanity but also normality, as focused on normal persons as on the insane.  The book was awarded several prizes, among them the John Hope Franklin Prize and Morris D. Forkosch Prize.  With Bennett Simon she published Family Romance, Family Secrets:  Case Notes from an American Psychoanalysis, 1912 (2003), a study of early analytic practice.  Her latest book, The Americanization of Narcissism (2014) offers a wide-ranging history of the concept, asking why the question of narcissism has become so urgent in our culture. It has been awarded the Courage to Dream Prize of the American Psychoanalytic Association.  Lunbeck is also the co-editor of a number of books, among them with Lorraine Daston, Histories of Scientific Observation (Chicago, 2011).  She is currently writing a book on the history of psychotherapy:  under pressure from the challenges of pandemic-era practice, demands for racial reckoning, and the development of new technologies promising cheaper means of delivery and wider access, this book poses questions about the shape of psychotherapy’s future and the fate of the human in it.  She is also working on several smaller projects on the personality disorders.  Lunbeck is an academic program graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and holds an MA in Counseling Psychology.  


Gen Ed 1179:  Psychotherapy and the Modern Self

• History of Science 178:  History of the Psychotherapies
• History of Science 179:  The Freudian Century
• History of Science 279:  Freud and His Legacies
• History of Science 274:  Topics in the History of Psychoanalysis,
• History of Science 275:  Psychoanalytic Practices from Freud to the Present
• History of Science 303b: Research Methods and Practices in the History of Science


Edited volumes

  • Histories of Scientific Observation, edited by Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck (University of Chicago, 2011).  German, Arabic and Spanish translations in preparation
  • Science without Laws:  Model Systems, Cases and Exemplary Narratives, edited by Angela Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Norton Wise (Duke University Press, 2007)
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine in the 20th Century:  The Difference Feminism Has Made, edited by Angela Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Londa Schiebinger (University of Chicago Press, 2001)
  • Proof and Persuasion:  Essays on Authority, Objectivity, and Evidence, edited by Suzanne Marchand and Elizabeth Lunbeck (Brepols Publishers, 1996)

Articles on narcissism

  • "The Allure of Trump's Narissism", Los Angeles Review of Books, August 1, 2017 
  • Freud, with Introduction by Elizabeth Lunbeck. 2017. The Herd Instinct. Aeon
  •  “Narcissism,” in Re-thinking Therapeutic Culture, ed. Timothy Aubrey and Trysh Travis (University of Chicago Press, 2015).    
  • “Heinz Kohut’s Americanization of Freud,” in After Freud Left, ed. John Burnham (University of Chicago Press, 2012), 209-31.
  • “The Narcissistic Homosexual:  Genealogy of a Myth,” in History and Psyche: Psychoanalysis and the Past. Sally Alexander and Barbara Taylor (Palgrave Macmillan, Global Intellectual Histories, 2012), 49-67.
  • “Narcissism:  Social Critique in Me-Decade America,” in Engineering Society, ed. Kerstin Brückweh, Dirk Schumann, et al. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 198-212.
  • “Empathy as a Psychoanalytic Mode of Observation:  Between Sympathy and Science,” in Histories of Scientific Observation, ed. Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck (University of Chicago Press, 2011), 255-75.
  • “Borderline Histories:  Psychoanalysis Inside and Out,” Science in Context 19 (2006): 151-73. 

Media: Interviews & Podcasts

Contact Information

p: (617) 496-5226