Erikson retired from the Harvard teaching faculty in 1970, but he hardly retired from writing. Although he did not complete any more long psychobiographies along the lines of the Luther and Gandhi books, he wrote thoughtful shorter works on Thomas Jefferson and on Jesus. With the full participation of his wife Joan, he continued to write about the later stages of the life cycle. Perhaps his most interesting treatment of the final stage, dealing with the crisis he called “ego integrity versus despair,” was a paper he had originally developed for his Harvard undergraduate course as a commentary on the Ingmar Bergman film Wild Strawberries. The film depicts an elderly Scandinavian professor’s review of his entire life cycle on the day he is to receive an honorary degree for his life’s work—no doubt a personally resonant film for Erikson, but also an excellent medium for him to communicate to young people what it means to look back on one’s life at its end and to assess whether it has been emotionally and morally rewarding or deeply disappointing.
Personality development, in Erik H. Erikson’s view, occurs through a series of identity crises that occur in stages that must be overcome and internalized. Erikson is best known for identifying eight stages of psychosocial development in the human life cycle and for his concept of the identity crisis. He expanded psychoanalytic theory to include the influence of cultural variations on individual ego development, and showed how personality development in certain key individuals can induce widespread cultural changes. For his book Gandhi’s Truth, he won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. By improving Sigmund Freud’s case-history research methods and extending their application beyond childhood to the entire life span, Erikson became the father of contemporary psychobiographical research.
“Erikson, Erik Homburger.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved June 19, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830905654.html