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October 1967

The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967;17(4):510-512. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730280126018

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In this impressive and easily readable book, Bruno Bettelheim describes what he considers to have been over the many years of his clinical work, an experiment in the treatment of autistic children. The dramatic title and subtitle he gives to his report The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, is, in many Ways. misleading; first because Bettelheim never truly clarifies whether he is discussing early infantile autism (Kanner's syndrome, also defined Nas primary autism), or various forms of childhood schizophrenia or atypicalities (known as secondary autism); and, second, because his major point is that the "empty fortress" he talks about is not empty!"

The misleading aspect of the book's title appears, to me, to be a central characteristic of the entire literary effort Bettelheim makes here. I speak of literary effort in contrast to the clinical and scientific substance of the report; this substance carries

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