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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 MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis 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 Arabic FreudThe 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 Late Sigmund FreudThe 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
Whose Freud?: The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture is a collection of papers from a conference held at the Whitney Humanities Center of Yale University in April 1998. The conference consisted of twenty-three papers, divided into six panels. Each panel addresses a different aspect of contemporary psychoanalysis: debates over the overall epistemological and clinical legitimacy of Freudian theory, psychoanalysis straddling of the line between therapeutic-clinical and hermeneutic-academic endeavors, the nature of analysis contributions to an understanding of human sexuality, the utility of analytic theory for socio-historical investigations, the evolving relationship between analysis and neurology, and, finally, psychoanalysis impact on philosophical conceptions of truth. The diversity of topics is equally reflected by the backgrounds of the participants; the conference included clinicians, philosophers, neurologists, historians, literary experts, and cultural theorists.
The volume nicely preserves the lively atmosphere of the conference. The papers are, for the most part, relatively brief; they generally tend to be between four to twelve pages long. The editors of the book (Peter Brooks and Alex Woloch) include, following each set of papers from each panel, the discussion that ensues between the panelists as well as some of the questions posed by audience members. Often, the most illuminating passages are to be found in these exchanges between the conference participants. Overall, the papers are of a high quality; they provide the reader with an accurate sense of the diverse fates of Freuds legacy in the intellectual status quo. However, five papers in particular merit being explicitly mentionedthe price of the book is worth it for just these pieces alone.
First, in The Vortex Beneath the Story, Juliet Mitchell returns to Freuds descriptions of infantile prematuration. In the space of a mere four pages, Mitchell convincingly demonstrates that the fundamental substratum of the unconscious (as established via primary repression, a notion left in a state of complete vagueness by Freud himself) is best conceived as constructed on the basis of defenses against the childs early state of prolonged helplessness and dependency (i.e., hallucinations of gratifying objects as well as early identifications with others). The infants body bombards it with needs, demands, and negative affects, which it itself is unable to quell, satisfy, or master on its own (as Freud, Lacan, and others observe, this passivity of the human being in the face of its corporal condition propels it into a network of social relations grounded by an original dependency on the Other). Mitchells insight into the connections between infantile prematuration, hallucinatory defense mechanisms, and primary repression permits understanding that Freuds work doesnt ultimately amount to some crude form of pan-sexualism, to the problematic, ungrounded assertion that sexuality must simply be assumed to be inherently traumatic without further theoretical justification.
Second, Toril Moi, in her paper Is Anatomy Destiny? Freud and Biological Determinism, does a fantastic job of demolishing any lingering suspicions about Freud indulging himself in a biological reductionist stance. The problems with this interpretation of Freud are well known; numerous commentators have already exhibited the serious flaws in this superficial gesture of dismissal. However, as Moi shows, critics of Freud (often operating in a feminist vein) latch onto Freuds paraphrase of Napoleons politics is destiny: Anatomy is destiny. These critics take this, if nothing else, to be clear evidence of Freuds tendency to oversimplify human nature by basing it on a matter of whether or not individuals possess a dangling little piece of flesh between their legs. Mois essay reinterprets this Freudian proclamation, carefully examining the contexts in which it appears in Freuds writings. As she shows, neither Freuds German (the full nuances of the word Schicksal are inadequately rendered by the English destiny) nor the conceptual frameworks within which the textual occurrences of this proclamation are embedded support the verdict that Freud literally reduces psychological development to anatomical fate. Furthermore, Moi uses this interpretation of Freud to challenge what she diagnoses as a recurring fallacy in feminist reasoning: the feminist critiques of Freud often speak as if the opposite of equality is differencein other words, Freud, by arguing for a fundamental psychological difference-in-kind between the sexes, undermines the socio-political cause of equality between the sexeswhen, in fact, the true opposite of equality is, simply enough, inequality. Moi is correct that equivocating between difference and inequality is frequently responsible for the misfiring of various critiques of the Freudian handling of sexual difference.
The third noteworthy essay is Kaja Silvermans The Language of Care. Silverman contends that the Oedipus complex, as scaffolding for the structuration of the subjects libidinal life, is far from being a model in which mother and father could be simply said, in any straightforward sense, to be the ultimate reference points of desire. Silverman explains how the family unit itself is a point of convergence for a diverse series of symbolic trajectories, a microcosm that reflects more than the positions of its members alone (with the desiring subject of psychoanalysis, one could say that, for example, mother is never simply motherin Lacanese, the parental figures come to contain something in them more than themselves). Furthermore, she argues that the intrinsic flexibility in a psychoanalytic account for the understanding of amorous histories (especially as refined vis-à-vis the structuralist recasting of Freud) permits ascertaining the idiosyncratic vicissitudes of the subjects constantly evolving libidinal economy, rather than obscuring the particularities of the individual beneath the sweeping generalizations of theory.
Fourth, Dominick LaCapras Reflections on Trauma, Absence, and Loss provides contemporary trauma theory (and debates tangentially related to this area) with a much-needed distinction. LaCapra differentiates between absence and loss. The former refers to a constitutive, inherent impasse or deadlock that forms a necessary background for the historico-contingent dimensions of subjectivity (i.e., a transcendental trauma, along the lines of the Lacanian Real); the latter, on the other hand, is a traumatic occurrence arising as a contingency within the field of the subjects history. Loss, unlike absence, isnt necessary, constitutive, or transcendental. LaCapra accuses many contemporary theorists of blurring this difference between absence and loss. The usual mistake, as he sees it, is to treat properly historical traumas (i.e., losses) as if they were indicative of a structural, trans-historical trauma (i.e., an absence). LaCapras intervention offers a possible means of reconciling the disputes between those who place an emphasis on certain inherent features of subjectivity and those who wish to stress the historicity of the psychoanalytic subject, a reconciliation that doesnt force an undesirable all-or-nothing choice between these two levels.
The fifth and final remarkable piece in this collection is Truth in Psychoanalysis by Jonathan Lear. Taking examples from his own clinical practice, Lear shows how analysands, trapped by their own unconscious cunning of psychical reason (to borrow and modify a phrase from Hegel), can transform the analysts search for historical truth into an accomplice of neurotic defense tactics. One of his most striking illustrations of this phenomenon is the case of a homosexual man in his late twenties. This patient finally came to analysis after struggling with his long-denied homosexuality. His own goal in the therapy was to uncover a traumatic memory of what he was convinced had to have been an actual childhood seduction scenario. Lear grants that such an event may well have occurred (although theres little evidence for it in the case description). But, as he aptly notes, this isnt so much what is at issue. Lear insists that the analyst misses something if he/she fails to ask, Why does this patient desire to uncover this particular truth? Lear maintains that, in the example of this male analysand, he wanted to be personally absolved of his homosexuality; he sought after an external historical cause for his sexual orientation that would relieve him of his guilt for being gay. For this patient, such a factual truth would permit him to continue to maintain a sort of detached distance from his sexuality (although Lear doesnt mention this, one hears echoes of Lacans notion of lying in the guise of truth).
Apart from the above-mentioned individual papers, the panel on psychoanalysis and neurology is quite fascinating. The participants thoroughly debunk a false impressionthis erroneous assumption is held by both those working in the natural sciences as well as those in the humanities and various branches of psychologythat the Freudian and neurological models of mind are mutually exclusive. In fact, there are calls for an explicit alliance between these two fields: neurology is capable of providing analysis with the empirical research tools for testing competing theoretical models, while psychoanalysis often offers neurologists a conceptual template permitting the organization and interpretation of neurological evidence that otherwise risks remaining poorly understood. Both disciplines promise to be transformed by such cooperation. Sadly, as is pointed out, few specialists in either neurology or analysis have yet appeared who would be both willing and able to work at the crossroads between these approaches; this panel is a call to arms, so to speak. For anyone fascinated by Freuds continued relevance to contemporary investigations into human nature, Whose Freud? is a written record of a timely conference, an event not to be missed.
Adrian Johnston recently completed a Ph.D. in Philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook. His dissertation was Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive.