Portrait of Professor Janet Sayers

Professor Janet Sayers

Emeritus Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology


Janet is an Emeritus Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology.

Research interests

The focus of Janet's research is on psychoanalysis, gender, art, and mental health.

Her current research arises out of her recently published book, Art, Psychoanalysis, and Adrian Stokes: A Biography (Karnac Books, 2015). This includes work for several papers, including 'Carving aesthetics: Barbara Hepworth, Adrian Stokes, and psychoanalysis' and 'Chaos contained: Art, psychoanalysis, and Adrian Stokes'.

Past research has resulted in the following books:

  • Psychoanalysing Art: The Story of Adrian Stokes (2015)
  • Freud's Art: Psychoanalysis Retold (2007)
  • Divine Therapy: Love, Mysticism and Psychoanalysis (2003)
  • Kleinians: Psychoanalysis Inside Out (2000)
  • Boy Crazy: Remembering Adolescence (1998)
  • Freudian Tales (1997)
  • Mothering Psychoanalysis (1991)
  • Sexual Contradictions (1986)
  • Biological Politics (1982)


SP639 Freud and Post Freud


Recent Publications

  • Review of Sex versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein by J. Launer. Times Higher Education, 2015, 12 February, p.53.
  • Review of Creatures of a Day by Irvin Yalom, Times Higher Education, 2015, 2 April, p.55.
  • Review of Art and Analysis by Meg Harris Williams, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 2015, 31(2, May):275-278.
  • Review of The Worm at the Core by Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszcynski, Times Higher Education, 2015, 23 July, p.48.
  • Adrian Stokes and the portrait of Melanie Klein. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 2015, 96:1013–1024.
  • Review of Marion Milner: The Life by E. Letley. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2014, 95:803-7.
  • Unconscious. In T. Teo (ed.) Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology. New York: Springer, 2014, pp.2025-30.
  • Melanie Klein’s autobiography. Psychoanalysis and History, 2013,15(2):127–163 .
  • 'Dear Stokes': Letters from Melanie Klein about writing, painting and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis and History, 2012, 14(1):111-32.


  • Associate Fellow British Psychological Society (AFBPsS).
  • Associate Member, British Association of Psychotherapists.

Editorial boards

  • Feminism and Psychology
  • Changes
  • Psychoanalytic Studies
  • Journal of Eating & Weight Disorder
  • International Journal of Critical Psychology


ESRC research proposals, reports and articles for academic journals: (Feminism & Psychology; Journal of Gender Studies; Women; European Journal of Women's Studies; Journal of Clinical & Consulting Psychology; Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology; Social Science On Line), books and book proposals (for Polity, Routledge, Macmillan, Free Association Books, Oxford University Press), external QAA assessor (for UEL/Tavistock Centre).


  • 1996 – Rockefeller Foundation Research Fellowship, Bellagio, Italy.
  • 1995-1997 – UKC Social Sciences Faculty Research Awards.
  • 1999 – British Academy Conference Travel Scholarship to Sydney NSW. 
  • 2004 – British Academy Overseas Conference Grant to Gainesville Florida.
  • 2004 – Research Associateship, Five Colleges Women’s Research Center, Mt.
  • Holyoke, Massachusetts (Fall semester).

External examiner

  • Psychosocial Studies, University of East London.
  • Psychoanalytic Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Gender Studies, Middlesex University.
  • MSc Gender in Society, Southampton University.
  • University of Wales validated MA in Psychoanalytical Studies at Rome International University, Italy.
  • MSc Psychoanalysis and Child Development, University College London.
  • MA in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Tavistock Clinic/Essex University Gender Studies, University of Sydney.
  • MSc Psychoanalytic Theoretical Studies, University College London.


Showing 50 of 75 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Sayers, J. (2019). Doing psychoanalytic training differently, the example of Virginia Woolf’s brother, Adrian Stephen. Psychodynamic Practice, 1-11. doi:10.1080/14753634.2019.1575503
  • Sayers, J., & Forrester, J. (2013). The Autobiography of Melanie Klein. Psychoanalysis and History, 15, 127-163. doi:10.3366/pah.2013.0130
    This document consists of the first publication of Melanie Klein's draft of her autobiography beginning with a fragment dated June 1959.
  • Sayers, J. (2013). Adrian Stokes’s Psychoanalysis and Carving Aesthetic. TATE Britain. Retrieved from http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/art-writers-britain/adrian-stokes/adrian-stokes-psychoanalysis-and-carving-aesthetic
  • Sayers, J. (2012). ‘Dear Stokes’: Letters from Melanie Klein about writing, painting and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis and History, 14, 111-132. doi:10.3366/pah.2012.0101
    In 1929 Melanie Klein (1882–1960), then relatively newly arrived from Berlin in London, began six years’ psychoanalytic treatment of the writer and painter, Adrian Stokes (1902–72). During and immediately following this treatment Stokes became critically acclaimed for his books applauding Renaissance and modern art, including the avant-garde creations of the ballets russes, for their form- rather than ideas-led inspiration and for their integration of parts as a whole in the mind of the observer. Through bringing his close friends, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, to live with him and his artist wife, Margaret Mellis, in Cornwall in 1939, Stokes became the catalyst of the subsequent transformation of St Ives into an international centre of modern art which he continued to promote after the war in books and articles in which he developed the ideas of Freud and Klein in terms of the integrating effect of art on the ego through inviting oneness with its separate otherness. (For further details about the life and work of Klein and Stokes, see Grosskurth, 1986; Sayers, 2000, 2011.)
    Unfortunately Klein retained scarcely any letters, even from her immediate family, and none from Stokes. He retained the following letters, the originals of which (as indicated in brackets after the title of each are now with Stokes’s son, Telfer, with the Tate Gallery in London or with Stokes’s widow, Ann. They begin with Klein’s response to a letter from Stokes about Telfer’s birth on 3 October 1940, written when she was staying with the family of one of her patients in Pitlochry in Scotland.

    Klein to Stokes, 21 November 1940 (Telfer)
  • Sayers, J. (2007). Beyond abjection: Art, religion, psychoanalysis. Annual of Psychoanalysis, 34/35, 165-178.
  • Sayers, J. (2007). Picasso cure: Personality, psychoanalysis, Les demoiselles d’Avignon centenary. International Journal of Art Therapy, 12, 39-48.
  • Sayers, J. (2006). Babies and Bick: Autism and adhesive identification. Boston Institute for the Development of Infants & Parents Newsletter.
  • Sayers, J. (2005). Healing aesthetics: Kristeva through Stokes. Theory & Psychology, 14, 777-795.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Transforming at-one-ment: Spielrein, Jung, Bion. Psychoanalysis and History, 6, 37-56.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Biological politics: Response and afterword. Feminism & Psychology, 14, 448-452.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Therapeutic community -- beauty or beast?. Contemporary Psychology, 49, 65-67.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Empathy, femininity, and psychotherapy. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 20, 373-378.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Therapy as research: Focusing on empathy. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 4, 86-93.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Intersubjective Winnicott. American Imago, 61, 519-525.
  • Sayers, J. (2003). Divining psychoanalysis: Melancholia, Dostoevsky, and Kristeva. Women: A Cultural Review, 14, 281-291. doi:10.1080/0957404032000140399
    Julia Kristeva has recently depicted Melanie Klein as a female genius in divining and bringing to life her analytic patients' psyche, by identifying with them and projecting her fantasies into them, as Kristeva says mothers do in transforming the proto-fantasies constituted by their infants' object-oriented bodily drives into semiotic and symbolic meaning. In explaining how Kristeva arrives at this account of psychoanalysis Sayers discusses her previous work on melancholia, and the accounts by Freud and particularly by women psychoanalysts—notably Joan Riviere, Melanie Klein and Hanna Segal—of melancholia as a defence against loss and guilt over the hateful destruction of others through thing-like self-division of hate and love. She also explores the religious and psychoanalytic theories of William James and Wilfred Bion. Most of all, however, she illustrates Kristeva's approach to melancholia, as Kristeva does herself, by using the example of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, in which Sonia identifies with the arguably melancholic Raskolnikov and thereby resurrects him to psychological life. Sonia, however, is a fiction. Kristeva, by contrast, in describing Melanie Klein as a female genius in transforming psychoanalysis into a species of divination, presents such ideals and fictions about women and femininity as fact
  • Sayers, J. (2003). Adrian Stokes’ Kleinian aesthetics?. Psychoanalysis and History, 5, 213-214. doi:10.3366/pah.2003.5.2.213
  • Sayers, J., & Avery, D. (2001). Nothingness, politics, and Psychoanalysis: Simone Weil & Marion Milner. Psychoanalytic Studies, 3, 209-221. doi:10.1080/14608950120061782
    Explores the theme of nothingness in the lives and work of two women writers, Simone Weil and Marion Milner. Ways in which Milner and Weil were able to make a contribution to philosophy and psychoanalysis by embracing nothingness; Paradox of how the writers' influence continues to grow while that of more apparently successful theorists declines.
  • Sayers, J. (2000). Teenage dreams: Feminism, psychoanalysis, and adolescence. Signs, 25, 817-839.
  • Sayers, J. (1997). Reviving compassion. Psychologist, 10, 505-505.
  • Sayers, J. (1996). Exposing fathers: What’s new?. Feminism & Psychology, 6, 286-289.
  • Sayers, J. (1996). Male consciousness raising: Family snapshots .11. Feminism & Psychology, 6, 133-135.


  • Sayers, J. (2010). Case Study: Dora - The Girl Who Walked Out on Freud. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tjf56
  • Sayers, J. (2010). Case Study, Freud’s Dora, interview with Claudia Hammond.
  • Sayers, J. (2009). Woman’s Hour discussion with the director, Thea Sharrock, of Mrs Klein.


  • Sayers, J. (2007). Freud’s Art: Psychoanalysis Retold. London & New York: Routledge.
  • Sayers, J. (2003). Divine Therapy: Love, Mysticism and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Many debate whether religion is good for our health. Starting with this question, Janet Sayers, author of Mothering Psychoanalysis and Freudian Tales, provides a fascinating account of today's psychotherapy. Divine Therapy is told through love stories. They highlight the risks and healing transformations of what some call 'at-one-ment' with another in love, mysticism, art and psychoanalysis. Sayers movingly explores this by drawing on the philosophical and psychological writings of William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sabina Spielrein, Simone Weil, Erich Fromm, Paul Tillich, Viktor Frankl, Melanie Klein, Adrian Stokes, Marion Milner and Donald Winnicott. She ends with one of the major figures of current psychoanalysis, Wilfred Bion, and with the insights of his followers, notably Christopher Bollas, Neville Symington and Julia Kristeva. Illustrated with love letters, pictures, biographical details and case histories, Divine Therapy tells an intriguing chronicle of science, religion and therapy that also constitutes an engaging overview for students, specialists and general readers alike.
  • Sayers, J. (2000). Kleinians: Psychoanalysis Inside Out. Wiley. Retrieved from http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745621236.html
    Kleinians is a compelling account of the extraordinary revolution in psychology pioneered by the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein and nine of her colleagues and followers, including Susan Isaacs, Joan Riviere, Wilfred Bion, Frances Tustin and Hanna Segal.

    Drawing on her experience as a professor, writer and therapist, Janet Sayers tells the story of this revolution through an account of the personal and public lives of its main architects, their families and patients. The result is a lively mixture of biography, psychoanalytic theory and individual case studies. The author begins with Klein's pioneering extension of Freud's theories to the analysis of very young children. This led to her claim that from birth onwards children internalize figures from their outer world, resulting in an interaction of inner and outer factors which then govern our psychology. Sayers shows how, sometimes with bitter controversy, this radical insight was variously developed, and is still being developed by Klein's followers, thereby enormously enhancing our understanding of the creative and destructive factors shaping our everyday lives.

    Kleinians continues the engaging biographical approach of Sayers's previous successful collections, Mothering Psychoanalysis and Freudian Tales, and will be appealing and informative to all those interested in psychology -- to students and specialists (in psychiatry, psychotherapy, counselling and social work), and to general readers alike.
  • Sayers, J. (1998). Boy Crazy: Remembering Adolescence. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415190855/
    In answering these questions, Janet Sayers highlights the revolution wrought in both sexes' psychology by adolescence, particularly by its fantasies of divided selves and loves and of 'boy crazy' grandiosity and romance.

    Illustrated throughout with fascinating examples from a groundbreaking study of adolescent memories and dreams, Boy Crazy presents an engaging account of this little-researched period of human development. Sayers also draws on her own work as a therapist, and weaves in vignettes from fiction and film, to demonstrate the significance we attach in adulthood to our experiences as adolescents. She suggests that men and women respond differently to the sexual awakening that takes place during their teens, and to their own memories of that part of their life. In relating the findings of her research the author also explores to what extent the theories of Freud, Jung and feminism shape our understanding of the formative effect of adolescent experiences and emotions.

    Boy Crazy provides a fascinating insight into the repercussions of adolescence on our adult lives and loves and will appeal to the general and specialist reader alike.

Book section

  • Sayers, J. (2012). Mind-Building, Adrian Stokes, Scale and Psychoanalysis. In G. Adler, T. Brittain-Catlin, & G. Fontana-Giusti (Eds.), Scale: Imagination, Perception and Practice in Architecture. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415687126/
    Scale is a word which underlies much of architectural and urban design practice, its history and theory, and its technology. Its connotations have traditionally been linked with the humanities, in the sense of relating to human societies and to human form. ‘To build in scale’ is an aspiration that is usually taken for granted by most of those involved in architectural production, as well as by members of the public; yet in a world where value systems of all kinds are being questioned, the term has come under renewed scrutiny. The older, more particular, meanings in the humanities, pertaining to classical Western culture, are where the sense of scale often resides in cultural production.

    Scale may be traced back, ultimately, to the discovery of musical harmonies, and in the arithmetic proportional relationship of the building to its parts. One might question the continued relevance of this understanding of scale in the global world of today. What, in other words, is culturally specific about scale? And what does scale mean in a world where an intuitive, visual understanding is often undermined or superseded by other senses, or by hyper-reality? Structured thematically in three parts, this book addresses various issues of scale. The book includes an introduction which sets the scene in terms of current architectural discourse and also contains a visual essay in each section. It is of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students, academics and practitioners in architecture and architectural theory as well as to students in a range of other disciplines including art history and theory, geography, anthropology and landscape architecture.
  • Sayers, J. (2012). Giotto’s Joy. In G. F. Pooke & D. M. Newall (Eds.), Fifty Key Texts in Art History. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415497701/
    Fifty Key Texts in Art History is an anthology of critical commentaries selected from the classical period to the late modern. It explores some of the central and emerging themes, issues and debates within Art History as an increasingly expansive and globalised discipline. It features an international range of contributors , including art historians, artists, curators and gallerists.

    Arranged chronologically, each entry includes a bibliography for further reading and a key word index for easy reference. Text selections range across issues including artistic value, cultural identity, modernism, gender, psychoanalysis, photographic theory, poststructuralism and postcolonialism.

    •Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock Old Mistresses, Women, Art & Ideology (1981)

    •Victor Burgin’s The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (1986)

    •Homi Bhabha The Location of Culture: Hybridity, Liminal Spaces and Borders (1994)

    •Geeta Kapur When was Modernism in Indian Art? (1995)

    •Judith Butler's Gender Trouble (1999)

    •Georges Didi Huberman Confronting Images. Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art (2004)
  • Sayers, J. (2011). Introduction. In M. Milner (Ed.), On not being able to paint (pp. 23-52). Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415550789/
    Milner’s great study, first published in 1950, discusses the nature of creativity and those forces which prevent its expression. In focusing on her own beginner’s efforts to draw and paint, she analyses not the mysterious and elusive ability of the genius but – as the title suggests – the all too common and distressing situation of ‘not being able’ to create.

    With a new introduction by Janet Sayers, this edition of On Not Being Able to Paint brings the text to the present generation of readers in the fields of psychoanalysis, education and all those, specialist and general audiences alike, with an interest or involvement in the creative process and those impulses impeding it in many fields.
  • Sayers, J. (2010). Bion’s Transformations: Art & Psychoanalysis. In C. Mawson (Ed.), Bion Today. Routledge.
  • Sayers, J. (2009). Psy-art: Re-imagining identity. In A. Elliott & P. Du Gay (Eds.), Identity in Question (pp. 198-215). Sage.
  • Sayers, J. (2009). Feeding the Body. In H. Malson & M. Burns (Eds.), Critical Feminist Approaches to Eating Dis/Orders. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415418102/
    Over the past decade there have been significant shifts both in feminist approaches to the field of eating disorders and in the ways in which gender, bodies, body weight, body management and food are understood, represented and regulated within the dominant cultural milieus of the early twenty-first century.

    Critical Feminist Approaches to Eating Dis/Orders addresses these developments, exploring how eating disordered subjectivities, experiences and body management practices are theorised and researched within postmodern and post-structuralist feminist frameworks.

    Bringing together an international range of cutting-edge, contemporary feminist research and theory on eating disorders, this book explores how anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and obesity cannot be adequately understood in terms of individual mental illness and deviation from the norm but are instead continuous with the dominant cultural ideas and values of contemporary cultures.

    This book will be essential reading for academic, graduate and post-graduate researchers with an interest in eating disorders and critical feminist scholarship, across a range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, cultural studies and gender studies as well as clinicians interested in exploring innovative theory and practice in this field.
  • Sayers, J. (2007). Liquid love, psychoanalysing mania. In A. Elliott (Ed.), The Contemporary Bauman (pp. 154-167). London: Routledge.
  • Sayers, J. (2007). Thinking art and psychoanalysis. In C. Bainbridge, S. Radstone, M. Rustin, & C. Yates (Eds.), Culture and the Unconscious (pp. 74-87). Palgrave MacMillan. Retrieved from http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=274999
    Psychoanalysis has always wandered outside the consulting room. Freud and his followers wrote on art, creativity, politics and war. This collection returns to those themes and sheds light on how cultural questions can be addressed by a closer dialogue between the clinical and academic psychoanalytic traditions. Culture and the Unconsciousis a major contribution to the development of these debates, bringing together internationally known analysts and academic researchers in a single volume to produce innovative explorations of creativity, culture and the unconscious. The contributors draw on perspectives from a wide range of psychoanalytic theories and traditions to explore an array of classical and popular cultural forms, from literature to opera, drama, music and cinema. Together with the scene-setting introductions, the chapters open up fascinating conversations between art, academia and psychoanalysis, revealing the distinctive approaches of each and emphasising points of commonality and divergence.

Conference or workshop item

  • Sayers, J. (2011). Rethinking fantasy, misogyny & psychoanalysis. In . Anna Freud Centre, University College London.
  • Sayers, J. (2010). Mind-building scale, psychoanalysis & Adrian Stokes. In 7th AHRA International Conference. University of Kent. Retrieved from http://www.ahra-architecture.org/events/details/scale/
  • Sayers, J. (2010). Margalida Comas Camps (1892-1972): Scientist & pedagogue. In . Instituto Cervantes, London.
  • Sayers, J. (2009). Squiggling, art & psychoanalysis: Marion Milner & Adrian Stokes. In Squiggle Foundation. London.

Edited book

  • Sayers, J. (2011). On not Being able to Paint. (J. V. Sayers, Ed.). Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415550789/
    Milner’s great study, first published in 1950, discusses the nature of creativity and those forces which prevent its expression. In focusing on her own beginner’s efforts to draw and paint, she analyses not the mysterious and elusive ability of the genius but – as the title suggests – the all too common and distressing situation of ‘not being able’ to create.

    With a new introduction by Janet Sayers, this edition of On Not Being Able to Paint brings the text to the present generation of readers in the fields of psychoanalysis, education and all those, specialist and general audiences alike, with an interest or involvement in the creative process and those impulses impeding it in many fields.


  • Sayers, J., & Teo, T. (2013). Unconscious. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/SpringerReference_304972 2012-12-14
    Many critical psychologists take issue with the exclusion of Freudian theories about the unconscious from mainstream psychology. The history of the unconscious predates Freud. It also includes Freud’s changing theories about the unconscious before, during, and after the First World War. Freud’s theories have in turn led to debates about the unconscious within psychology and psychoanalysis and within social and political theory. The unconscious is also relevant to international and practice issues including mental health.


  • Sayers, J. (2007). The poetics of psychoanalysis: In the wake of Klein. Comparative Literature. University of Oregon.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Book Review: Building on Bion: Branches. Group Analysis. Institute of Group Analysis.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). Face to Face with Children: The Life and Work of Clare Winnicott, Joel Kanter (ed.). British Journal of Social Work. Oxford University Press.
  • Sayers, J. (2004). The Essential Difference by Simon Baron-Cohen. Feminism & Psychology. Sage. doi:10.1177/0959353504044653
    Recent evidence suggests that we empathize with others, in the sense of spontane-
    ously imitating them, from birth. Feminist psychologists and others have also
    pointed out how men, as boys, might be socialized into defending against such
    fellow-feeling, whilst women, as girls, are socialized into negating themselves in
    empathizing with others as daughters, lovers, and mothers.
  • Sayers, J. (2003). Levinas, the Frankfurt School and Psychoanalysis by C. Fred Alford. British Journal of Psychotherapy. British Journal of Psychotherapy. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0118.2003.tb00123.x
  • Sayers, J. (2001). Jung on Mythology. Psychodynamic Counselling. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group Ltd. doi:10.1080/13533330010018513
  • Sayers, J. (1999). Interpreting Kristeva. Theory & Psychology. doi:10.1177/0959354399094009
  • Sayers, J. (1998). Misogyny, Feminist Gothic and Difference: Ann Oakley and Juliet Mitchell (eds) Who’s afraid of feminism? Seeing through the backlash. (A. Oakley & J. Mitchell, Eds.)European Journal of Women’s Studies. Sage. doi:10.1177/135050689800500213
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