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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

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Feminism and Its DiscontentsReview - Feminism and Its Discontents
A Century of Struggle With Psychoanalysis
by Mari Jo Buhle
Harvard University Press, 1998
Review by Jonathan M. Metzl, M.D., Ph.D.
Apr 26th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 17)

Academics, like many professionals, are schooled in the business of nuanced deconstruction. In graduate school, for example, we learn theoretical tricks of the trade that later allow us to poke holes in even the most solid arguments. A, we learn to say in elaborate ways, does not adequately lead to B. Moreover, it certainly does not account for C; let alone consider the perspective effaced by D.

Every once in a while, however, a work comes along that defies the logic of criticism. These rare books anticipate questions, and fill in gaps. They bridge bodies of knowledge, and ways of thinking, through time and space. As such, they successfully challenge the ways we think about seemingly well-traveled paths of intellectual inquiry. When faced with the task of reviewing such a work, as I am in reviewing Mari Jo Bule’s incredible journey through twentieth century thought in Feminism And Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle With Psychoanalysis, it seems only prudent to momentarily drop a critical venire; and in its stead, to give an honest if not entirely skeptical-enough piece of advice: Read this book! It is an amazing work of historiography.

Buhle’s canvas is the co-development of the two great "theories of liberation" of the Twentieth Century, Feminism and Psychoanalysis. Feminism and Its Discontents charts the rise of Feminism in popular consciousness, from its first wave in 1910, through the women’s movement of the 1960’s, and into its diverse contemporary forms. At the same time, the book examines a psychoanalysis that came to America in the early twentieth century as an elitist, European import; and grew to become not only a widely practiced therapeutic modality, but also a well-worn trope of mainstream American culture. Instead of telling two separate histories, however, Buhle compellingly describes the synergy and tension between these two bodies of thought. She examines the often contrasting narratives of theory, practice, and politics; from Freud to Frederick Crews, from Susan B. Anthony to Adrienne Rich. In between, we learn not only about the formation of institutions, but also about the development of foundational ideas. Buhle ties these together by listening to the "continuous conversation" not only in academic journals, but also in the fora of popular representation. As such, Buhle successfully narrates a history—inhabited by artists, filmmakers, and politicians, as well as by academics and practitioners—in which liberation and oppression exist in symbiosis.

Buhle’s great contribution lies in the discovery of points where psychoanalysis, feminism, and popular culture came together—in films such as Ladies in the Dark, in the great orgasm debate, in the social construction of Momism. She is then able to illustrate, in compelling detail, how these two bodies of thought informed not only the public discourse, but also each other. As one example, Buhle grounds the popular appeal of Momism in the resonance between popular perception, popular views of women, and psychoanalysis. Buhle argues that Momism—the attack on the American Mom made famous by Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipersrose from Freudian origins and "its ability to tap into psychoanalysis as a popular discourse" in the 1950’s. The result was an attack on motherhood that, like many advertisements, both mirrored and helped shape popular sentiment. But Buhle compellingly argues that Momism effected psychoanalysis as well. As just one of many examples, Buhle asserts that American ego psychologists: "sought out not motherhood’s beneficent, but malignant potential. With the assistance of populists like Wily, psychoanalysis transformed mothers into the principle agents of children’s disorders, and the maladies that plagued the nation." (131)

Sure, sure—there are holes to be poked. Buhle’s reading is at times too seamless. As such, it does not allow for an explanation of several untold stories in the history of feminist thought (de Beauvoir, as one example, is mysteriously absent.) But I tell you to read this book because these small discrepancies are always and already overshadowed by the breadth, insight, and humor of the work. It is unique in both in scope, and in concept. Many recent works—by both historians of medicine, feminist theorists, and by psychoanalysts—have attempted somewhat similar projects. (Hayle’s The Rise and Crisis of Psychoanalysis in the United States, histories of psychiatry by Shorter and Healy, Mitchell and Black’s Freud and Beyond, Herman and Stewart’s Theorizing Feminism, or Donovan’s Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions of American Feminism as just a few of many examples.) Many of these works touch upon themes and ideas discussed by Professor Buhle. Few however, rival Buhle’s understanding of theoretical concepts, or of their larger, cultural implications. And none, I am sure, is as ambitious.


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