email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
The title question of this book leads one to suppose the Paul Verhaeghe will solve the oft-mentioned "problem" of Freud's theory: his sexist attitude toward women. However, Verhaeghe's book proves to be far more than an apology for Freud's sexism. Verhaeghe provides a thoughtful analysis of the role of the "Woman" in both Freud and Lacan's works, and concludes that only with a Lacanian-structuralist approach can only adequately deal with the "woman problem." This book is especially recommended to anyone conversant in Freud's theory and wishing to learn more about Lacan's, for it (unlike many Lacanian sources) demonstrates, without too many obscure "Lacanisms," how Lacan built upon Freudian texts. It is also a necessary read for Lacanian or structuralist/post-structuralist scholars, for it demonstrates that, despite the highly theoretical and philosophical nature of Lacan's work, his theories are indebted to the insights first formulated by Freud. Furthermore, Verhaeghe, as a practicing analyst, also provides some, albeit highly theoretical, insights into therapeutic practice.
One of the most criticized aspects of Freudian theory is that it demeans women by characterizing them as hysterical (and thus overly emotional, unstable, hyper-sensitive, and so on). Verhaeghe points out that the hysterics Freud analyzed often were the ones to demonstrate to him the inadequacy of his own theory. Freud was unable to classify the behavior of hysterics, and it became increasing apparent that they would fabricate traumas in order to constantly "test" his authority. Thus, the characterizations of hysterics ran between everything from frigid to sexually over-charged, passive to aggressive, etc. Freud continued to search for a real event that caused hysterical behavior, but was unable to ever locate the "source" of the trauma he supposed existed. Verhaeghe criticizes post-Freudians for continuing to think that such real events factually occurred and can be "uncovered". In order to understand hysterics, one must make the jump to Lacan's structuralist theory. Lacanian theory does not require factual events to occur for them to be traumatic to the patient. Imagined traumas plays are also intrinsic to the pathology of the analysand. Lacan immunizes himself from social-historical critiques, for his explanation doesn't presuppose that certain events had to occur. (For example, in Lacanian theory, the role the phallus plays for men and women is not dependent upon real traumatic encounters with the father's penis.) Freud paved the way for such a theory by recognizing that people often fabricated stories of childhood incest, but he failed to formalize these insights.
For Freud, sexuality had to be traced to the distinction between the sexes. Only when children recognize sexual difference can they develop a sexual identity. Hysterics, Freud concluded, failed to accept sexual difference. Women would display this rejection of sexual difference more often due to their lack of a penis (and hence Freud's theory of penis-envy). When Lacan declared, "there is no sexual relationship," it was not to indicate that intercourse did not exist, but that fundamentally no one resolves the problem of sexual difference. Of course, this still fails to explain why women are of particular interest.
Verhaeghe points out that the polymorphous sexuality one experiences as a child is due to the lack of understanding of sexual difference; it is also necessarily pre-linguistic. Once children enter into a world of signifiers, they find that no "signifier" exists for a woman's sex. Thus, the Woman does not exist. The Woman's sexuality remains in an undetermined and ambiguous state. The hysteric, male or female, is most traumatized by this inability to "place" the Woman and thus displays an eternal search, but rejection of, any offered solution. "No," is the hysterical refrain, "not that exactly
" In conclusion, the Woman does not exist because she cannot be circumscribed by our symbolic order. In Lacanian parlance, she remains "in the Real."
Verhaeghe's book does require that one acknowledge a distinction between male and female that goes beyond just bodily difference, and also that one does not demand that "everyone is fundamentally the same." (Verhaeghe pulls no punches in his criticisms of feminist and social-constructivist takes on psychoanalytic theory) It also requires some familiarity with both Freud's texts and Lacanian/structuralist theory in order to understand how terminology like "symbolic," "imaginary," "signifier," etc. operate. However, even if one accepts the tenants of psychoanalytic theory, one is left wondering if, in fact, Verhaeghe is correct in placing the role of sexual difference as the fundamental core around which the subject revolves.
The split subject, which results from this entering into the symbolic, centers around a break one must make with the "oceanic feeling" (a phrase employed with Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents)--the lack of a subject-object split. This break entails an entrance into the world of sexual difference, but also means for the subject a coming to terms with troubling and more existential crises such as one's entrapment in subjectivity, entrapment in a finite body, etc. Perhaps, sexual difference is not the only defining characteristic that creates the individual qua subject.
Talia Welsh is a Ph.D. student in Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is writing a dissertation on Merleau Ponty's psychology.