Today in Yiddishkayt… June 19
Birthday of Dr. Abraham-Aaron Roback, Psychologist
Abraham Aaron Roback was born on June 19, 1890 in Poland, however he grew up primarily in Montreal. He graduated from McGill University in 1912 and then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to pursue graduate studies at Harvard. He received an M.A. from Harvard in 1913 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1917. Roback was a traveling fellow at Princeton in 1916 and held a National Research Council Fellowship at Harvard from 1923 to 1925. He taught psychology at Harvard University and a number of other American institutions, including Northeastern, Simmons, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark University, and Emerson.
His principle fields of research were psychology, graphology, and interpretation of Yiddish culture. A strong supporter of Yiddish, he personally developed a 10,000 volume Yiddish library for Harvard. In 1929, he introduced the first academic course in Yiddish literature in the United States at the Massachusetts University Extension. He wrote on Yiddish topics in literature in both English and Yiddish. In addition to belonging to many psychology and philosophy groups, he was a member of the board of Governors of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences, the academic council of YIVO, and other groups interested in Jewish literature.
Roback wrote many books and hundreds of articles on various topics in psychology and Yiddish literature. Some of his best known books include, The Story of Yiddish Literature, The Jewish Influence in Modern Thought, and The Psychology of Character. Roback also managed a publishing business known as Sci-Art Publishing Company. He occasionally published under the pseudonyms Robert J Acton, Frederick Ayers, and Anton de Borcka. Roback died on June 7, 1965 at the age of 75.
In 1951 Dr. Roback edited a book entitled The Creative Unconscious: Studies in the Psychoanalysis of Art. In appreciation of his work on the subject, here is a clip from the 1962 TV series Naked City, episode “Portrait of a Painter,” which presents art criticism as a form of psychoanalysis.