Collected here are the abstracts for the conference:
Smadar Ashuach and Hana Grinberg
Unique Characteristics of the Female Therapist/Patient Dyad
In this lecture we will focus on the therapeutic relationship between the female patient and the female therapist and particularly on the place of female sexuality in this dyad. We will emphasize the uniqueness of the female dyad and what makes it different from other therapeutic dyads.
The therapeutic relationship between women is founded on “sameness”. Similarity of bodies, with their symbolic significance, and similarity of themes in the processes of female development and socialization – all these will have an impact on the particular way in which the processes in the female dyad will evolve. The female, therapeutic dyad will develop in ways that parallel developments in a mother/daughter relationship.
Recently the mother/daughter relationship has been described as a complex one, ambivalent from the very beginning, persists throughout all the cycles of life. swinging back and forth between close and distant, dependent and independent and love and hate, as the two continually return to comparisons of their physical beings, their subjective to subjective relationships and the fertilizing and nurturing of each other. The female identity of the daughter is described as developing within this relationship.
We will relate to the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. This myth symbolizes the distancing and the “refueling” of mother and daughter over the life cycle.
We will examine the place of female sexuality in the parallel dyad of female therapist and female patient, particularly at the processes of transference and countertransference. We will discuss what is the place of sexuality in such a dyad, how much does the female therapist enable the sexuality of the female patient exist and develop within the therapeutic relationship, what is the significance of the therapist’s sexuality on the therapeutic processes.
A clinical example will be given.
Smadar Ashuach, M.A.
Clinical Psychologist, psychoanalyst, group analyst.
Tel aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the Israel Goup Analysis.
Hana Grinberg, M.A.
Clinical Psychologist, psychoanalyst.
Tel Aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis.
Sheila L. Cavanagh
Tiresias and the Other Sexual Difference: Jacques Lacan and Bracha L. Ettinger
If psychoanalysis has a founding myth it is the story of Oedipus the King. As a result, we have sophisticated understandings of sexual difference within the domain of cisgender masculine identification and phantasy, but only nascent understandings of a trans sex specific difference beyond the phallus. Although Freud and Lacan give us important psychoanalytic tools to theorize subjectivity, they repeatedly fail to ascertain a space for the Feminine that is not already passive (Freud) or non-existent (Lacan). Moreover there are only rudimentary tools available to theorize transgender subjectivity outside psychosis in the Lacanian frame. Feminist psychoanalysts have been searching for alternatives to Oedipus for quite some time but without attention to Tiresian-like characters in the Greaco-Roman period. This paper focuses on Tiresias, the Greek mythological character changed into a woman by the Goddess Hera as punishment for having killed copulating snakes on mount Cyllene in Pelopennese. Tiresias is often overlooked in feminist psychoanalytic writing despite having played a pivotal role in Antigone and in Oedipus the King, both by Sophocles.
Using the theory of the matrixial borderspace developed by Bracha L. Ettinger, I contend that Tiresias possess Feminine knowledge that troubles the existing order of psychoanalytic theory. If Antigone challenges heteronormative kinship structures as Butler claims (2010) and Tiresias challenges cisgender norms of psycho-sexual development as I argue, both characters have the capacity to push psychoanalytic theorizing beyond a normalizing Oedipal frame. Oedipal dramas are not the only psychic struggles enacted on stage and the collateral damage done by the negation of the Feminine under the auspices of Oedipal psycho-sexual development is increasingly well established. It is incumbent upon psychoanalysis to invest in other non-Oedipal characters and myths, particularly those involving trans characters. As Patrixia Gherovici (2010) writes in her discussion of transsexuality and the clinic, “Psychoanalysis needs a sex change.”
Sheila L. Cavanagh is an Associate Professor at York University and Chair of the Canadian Sexuality Studies Association. Her scholarship engages gender and sexuality through queer, cultural and psychoanalytic theories. Cavanagh published Queering Bathrooms (2010); co-edited Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis (2013); and is completing a new book titled Transgender and the Other Sexual Difference.
Blood and the Real
Two women are grappling with stories and images, trying to find a bearable meaning. No theory can ever be adequate to the exigencies of history, but perhaps something of how psychoanalysis works can be told, can be presented here. In the stories the analysand tells, it seems to me that the body signifies questions about femininity and agency, questions spoken through her and by her. The not-All as silence and exclusion; the not-All as always partial, resistant subjection to a cultural superego; the not-All indicating possibilities to accede to both phallic jouissance and Other jouissance. According to Lacan, a differentiation in how we bear absence divides psychosis from neurosis and perversion. In a phallocentric culture, one of the separated part-objects, when figured as absent, as the symbolic phallus, knots the Symbolic, Imaginary, and Real, relying upon and establishing the social bonds in which this particular knot makes sense. Blood, which is lost and stains, is a far more fluid knot. In this young woman’s stories, blood has something to do with the Real, with that which cannot be imagined and symbolised. With history, that is. She’s neurotic, so she can bear to construct an ambiguous, fluid reknotting after trauma, in dreams.
Dr Laura Chernaik is a psychoanalytic trainee at the Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, London. She works in private practice and at a NHS clinic and a Psychosis Therapy Project. She has a PhD in History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz and has published a book, Social and Virtual Space, Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2005. firstname.lastname@example.org
Puncturing and wit(h)nessing: the ethical strategies of matern/ial encounters
In her notion of the semiotic chora, Julia Kristeva refers to the infantile pre-Oedipal fusion with the mother preceding signification through language. The semiotic aspect of the chora dwells in the material, prosodic properties of language (rhythms, melodies, echolalia) and fissures of language rather than in its denotative function. Constituting quite an obvious trope in the feminine reconceptualizations of Lacanian psychoanalysis, the image provokes yet another question – is there is an ethical potential to the poetic language in the sense of atunement to the (non-objectified) Other? It does, in a way, transfer the immediacy of experience into the subjective / symbolic life by the intrusions of the semiotic through the fissures and gaps in the symbolic. Art might be then a medium through which the (maternal) materiality (rhythm, tonality, colour) punctures the Symbolic in tiny, flickering instants of disruption. Those necessary infiltrations are, however, underpinned with violence: for the subject to come into being, the rhythmic agitation must be repressed and banned, or at least limited to the function of the poetic language. The poetic language, on the other hand, is only available through signification, since the two work within the (Oedipal) binary logic of language. There are only two alternatives: psychosis or matricide, melancholia or mourning resulting from the sublimation through the negation of the mother.
Bracha L. Ettinger’s theory offers a different valorisation of the pre-Symbolic materiality which functions as a trace of the transsubjective corporeal coexisting beside, or parallel to, the (symbolic) phallic logic. Implying neither fusion nor rejection (like Kristeva’s symbolic matricide does), Ettinger’s perspective invokes osmotic liminality rather than a separating discourse of piercing violations. If primary compassion can counter-balance abjection and abandonment, it is here that we can look for the ethical aspect of this potentially dangerous encounter with the traces of the Real.
The aim of my paper is to speculate if actual performance art practice might be read in terms of these two provisional modes (the intrusion of an abject piece of art and the com-passion / fascinance / self-fragilisation of a time-based performance piece) in order to explore the ethical potential of such (semiotic) encounters. To initiate this speculation, I will refer to the works of two Irish performance artists: Áine Phillips and Alastair MacLennan.
Ania Chromik is a lecturer in cultural and literary theory at the Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia, Poland. Her research focuses on the discourses of corporeality, body boundaries, fluidity, and movement, especially in relation to the critique of Cartesian subjectivity. Recent publications include: “Tender Fluid Machines,” in: Bodily Fluids. InterAlia. A Journal of Queer Studies #9 (2014) guest-edited by Kamillea Aghtan, Michael O’Rourke and Karin Sellberg, entries for the Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Gothic (ed. David Punter, William Hughes, Andrew Smith, 2013) and a book Disruptive Fluidity: The Poetics of the Pop-Cogito (2012).
Mythologizing women in psychoanalysis: great mothers, femme fatales and victims.
The basic assumption of the presentation is that psychoanalysis if founded in mythology and all discourses around psychoanalysis were driven by mythological thinking as well. I will focus on ways of presenting the women in psychoanalysis: both real persons from the world of psychoanalysis and feminity in general as it was constructed in the psychoanalytic theories. The paper aims at indicating the dominant mythologizing features of these presentations. By mythologizing I also mean unconscious archetypal patterns that influence or even possess perceptions and narratives. I will describe especially the myth of the great mother constantly reappearing in the history of psychoanalysis. The figure of the mother, although neglected in the early Freudian psychoanalysis, dominated the post-psychoanalytic thought (Neumann, Klein, Winnicott or Jung). The mother-infant relation became all-decisive factor for understanding the human psyche and overbalanced all other possible influences. I claim that psychoanalysis is dominated by the motherhood myth and unrealistic image of it that is very often based on a very simplified model. Another image reappearing in the history of psychoanalysis is the one of a femme fatale. The dangerous, seducing and uncontrollable woman is a psychoanalytic favourite fantasy with a central myth of Medusa (Freud) or devouring mother (Neumann, Jung). The narrative about “Charcote’s hysterical women” stem from this image just as discoursive ways of presenting women of psychoanalysis (such as S. Spielrein or L. Andreas-Salome). The image of a femme fatale in psychoanalysis is usually mixed with an archetypal image of a victim. This is well visible in a way figures of women are constructed in the pop-culture , for instance in the “Dangerous Method” by Cronenberg. My conclusion is that as much as psychoanalysis was caging women in constructed images, it was also possessed itself by these fixed images of womanhood.
Martyna Chrześcijańska_ _– _a student of Refugee Care at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex (UK) and a PhD candidate at the Institute of Polish Culture at the University of Warsaw. Graduated from Philosophy, University of Warsaw. A member-candidate of PAJA/PTPJ (Polish Association for Jungian Analysis/Polskie Towarzystwo Psychoanalizy Jungowskiej).
Nava Dushi & Igor Rodin
Self-Recreation through the Uncanny Encounter: Reading the Feminine Close-up in Cinema
In the proposed presentation, we will examine the phenomenon of the feminine close-up in cinema with the aims of theorizing its relation to the female body as a manifestation of the feminine Real (jouissance). Starting with and against the background of what we call the ‘Garbo close-up’ (made-to-be-fetishized close-up) and proceeding to other forms of feminine close-ups and their textual horizons, our discursive itinerary circles around the varying levels of potentiality for the phallic or matrixial (Bracha L. Ettinger) reading of the image.
As opposed to the Freudian vision of the uncanny as a phantasmatic atrocity to be escaped from (disturbing images are to be repressed), the matrixial paradigm provides a pathway to a traumaticity/disturbance as that which opens up a space for one’s self-recreation through identification with the invisible and the unspoken. Within the cinematic context, the maternal connotations of a feminine image inscribed in the materiality of the feminine close-up render the encounter with a disturbing proximity to gestures, holes and textures of the female body insistently uncanny. This kind of traumatic-and-too-intimate encounter with the feminine image, we argue, opens up a space for transformative and creative reading, as it brings about the undermining of one’s symbolic, in this case, not least one’s imaginary tenets.
Levinas’ concept of the infinity and the face adds another layer to our discussion speaking of the face in terms of Real, not Imaginary, i.e. in terms of sensibility as opposed to objecthood, which means that a close-up of a feminine neck or hands is no less relevant or inferior in relation to the close-up of a face. In this respect, the feminine close-up represents a site of latent or manifest contingency (hysteria) and continuity (maternity), thus calling for a reading that can contain the fact that “it cannot be comprehended, that is, encompassed” (Levinas).
Keywords: feminine close-up, uncanny, infinity and the face
Igor Rodin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University. His research is located at the intersection of film theory, the Lacanian/post-Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and ecosophy. His Ph.D. thesis entitled “The Econtology of Cinema: Seeing as Reading, and Reading as Writing. From Matter to Sinthomaton via Lars von Trier’s Antichrist” deals with the ontology of cinema via the work of theoreticians such as Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Bracha L. Ettinger and Timothy Morton.
Nava Dushi is an assistant professor of film and media studies at Lynn University’s College of International Communication where she teaches film history, film theory, and international film. She earned her BFA in film and television from Tel Aviv University where she recently completed the writing of her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “The Minor Turn: The Global Emergence of Minor National Films. Sections from her work were published in the 2011 anthologies “Films with Legs: Crossing Borders with Foreign Language Films” and “Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion.”
Carla Ambrósio Garcia
A Bionian Approach to the Feminine in Cammell and Roeg’s Performance
Wilfred Bion’s theory of container and contained is a later stage of his theory of thinking that is based on Melanie Klein’s notion of projective identification, but is developed to explore the different levels of capacity of the individual and the group to be receptive, and thus to be transformed, by new ideas and emotions. Bion writes that his choice of the female and male symbols (♀♂) to represent, respectively, container and contained, is deliberate, while cautioning against reducing the relationship to its sexual implications. Bion also noted the interchangeability of the relationship, i.e. that the container and contained perform the functions of container and contained vis-à-vis each other: for example, the infant contains the mother’s breast, but the breast also contains the infant’s projections. If Bion’s deliberate choice of the female and male symbols is not bound up with sex, how might it be related to gender? My paper will explore this question through an examination of Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s film Performance (1970), in that its protagonist’s growing capacity to symbolize and assimilate his emotional experiences is enabled by a female character in the film with particular feminine qualities, a character who performs a containing and assimilating function (in Bion’s term, an alpha-function). From a more extended analysis of objects, spaces, bodies, dialogue, sound and performance in the film, the idea of the container function as feminine emerges with particular force. In my reading, the relationship between the two aforementioned characters is emblematic of the film, which sustains the idea of the feminine as a prerogative of the female, even when the film is known to deconstruct dominant notions of sexual identity.
Carla Ambrósio Garcia completed her PhD in Film Studies (funded by Fundação Ciência e Tecnologia in Portugal) at King’s College London in 2013, where she is currently a teaching assistant. She has published articles on film and psychoanalysis in two edited collections, and the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Her monograph entitled Bion in Film Theory and Analysis: The Retreat in Film is forthcoming with Routledge. She is also an artist filmmaker, working primarily with 16mm film.
Revisioning Lack: Psychoanalysis, and Feminist Science Fictions
My discussion will be underpinned by the fundamental affinity between psychoanalysis and feminism in challenging conservatism of psychic life, articulating the relentless antagonisms between subjects and the symbolic structures that produce them, and radically transforming the turgidity of language in conceptualizing subjectivity.
Flourishing technologies of gender, sexuality and material (re)production have not only exposed the fictions of heteronormativity, but produced visions of both sexual dystopias and futuristic queer world-making. Although ‘(m)Other’ and ‘Father’ are spectral authorities and primordial voids, ‘man’ and ‘Woman’ pure fantasy, and we all know that the phallus is not the physical organ, questions of representation persist for contemporary subjects, artists and philosophers.
Revalorizing resistance, flux and multiplicity of psychic life, the queerness Freud imbued in the dysfunctionality of the drives norms, and possibilities for another kind of jouissance achieving new forms of enjoyment, gestured to by Lacan in his seminar of 1972-3, has been the preoccupation of psychoanalytic feminisms, from Cixouian écriture feminine to Haraway’s cyborgs.
I would like to explore the proliferation of thrilling and experimental languages of identity and sexuality in feminist science fiction, including that of Margaret Atwood, Ellen Ullman, and P. D James, where phantom phalluses are revisioned as organic dildos, bleeding wounds as computer viruses, and wombs as alien vessels. I will embed these explorations in the context of of contemporary encounters with the internet, prosthesis, and virtual realities that expose and displace the unarticulated sexual codes operating at the boundaries of consciousness. Considering the secret lives of (cyber)girls, womb envy in a technological world, and biological maleness as one of the names-of-the-Mother, my aim in reaffirming the way that feminism and psychoanalysis have enriched one another’s vocabularies is also an urgency to delineate precisely the practical value and vital role of their convergence in establishing new possibilities for representation in the technological age.
Kate Goss is currently taking an MA in Critical Methodologies at Kings College University of London. Her main research interests consist of feminisms and queer theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis, postmodern women’s short fiction, and écriture feminine. She previously studied English Literature at Queen Mary University of London.
Adopted Women, The Ideal Object And The Absent Father: When A Mother’s Love Is Not Enough
This paper takes as its focus the personal narrative of a female adoptee’s experience of attempting to find her biological father in an attempt to dissect the ways in which we think about the gendered dynamics of adoptive kinship and subjectivity through an oedipal lens. For the most part, adoption and ‘reunion’ discourses draw attention to the ‘birth mother’ as a figure of wholeness, symbolising traumatic separation and the desire to return to origins. Adoptee subjectivity is then understood through the lens of the ‘primal wound’, a meta-theoretical model that positions adoptees as victims and ‘reunion’ as a pathway to ‘healing.’ Opening a space for theorising the role of the discursively neglected biological father, this research exposes the enigmatic dimensions of this figure and how telling the relational story of ‘reconciliation’ might be used to complicate wider categories of subjective completeness, belonging and truth.
Commenting on the words of Stjerna, ‘there is no such thing as a motherless child’, Yngvesson (2010) argues that the biological mother symbolises in powerful ways the site to which the adoptee might ‘return to the imagined “before” of abandonment, where “real” belongings can be found’(Yngvesson, 2010, p. 8). The concept of the trauma of infant maternal separation and ‘adoption healing,’ are prevalent in both psychoanalytically informed discourse and related post-adoption practices. As Pivnick comments, ‘Adopted children are variously viewed as having sustained multiple losses,’ disruptions and attachment problems. ‘Therefore, it is thought they are in need of grief work. Since mourning requires remembering, adopted children are in insoluble trouble. How can they remember what they have never known?’ (Pivnick, 2009, p.4). In this paper, the prevailing origins narrative and interconnected notion of maternal ‘reunion’ as event are dismantled, revealing just how varied and complex female adoptee’s object relations and gendered fantasies can be.
A FAMILY STORY
The desire to live comes from the woman, the mother.
She makes it possible.
I will illustrate this with a case story.
Y’a pleine de l’Une
Y’a pleine de l’Une
n’a su prendre son symptôme son désire ni rien
dans une troulogie du Réel
où y’a que de l’Un
It is given by the woman. Life. Not only life but also the permission, the occasion the opportunity the possibility to live it. The mother gives the child this when he/she comes into the world.
Lacan talks about phallus – yes, a rather masculine term, but not in the sense that it belongs to the man. More in the sense that it belongs to the one who takes it, has it, uses it – the one who swings it – like a sword. This can be a woman, this can be a man – it has nothing to do with gender but with you.
Woman is – we are the phallus – men (when they do) have it. There is a fundamental difference between having and being – women are – men have.
I want to talk about the feminine constituent power, force – the bringing into the world the human being as a desirous body. The woman by desiring her baby, allows her child, on their terms, to desire.
The Matrixical space makes life as we know it possible – only within or from this space can desire arise.
For Ana the Aïon of time has stopped – like a broken record – halted when her father committed suicide – stopped by the gaze of the mother who keeps everyone frozen – the cycle is to be discontinued – no one is allowed to move – No desire is allowed to be savored. The brother could only marry and have a child because he paid – by clamming he did not understand, not understand at all and he paid in the currency of schizophrenia.
“Dying on a Bed of Vanilla Ice Cream”: Precarious Pleasures in Judy Grahn’s “The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke” and Frank Bidart’s “Ellen West”
This essay focuses on two poems published in the 1970s by queer American poets Judy Grahn and Frank Bidart that reflect not only the 1970’s critique of psychiatry by gay and lesbian activists, but also these poets’ deep exploration of the effects of psychoanalytical and hetero-normative discourse on the lesbian mind and body. Both Grahn and Bidart’s poems explore the 1970s confrontation between the clinical establishment and sexual revolutionaries by exploring how queer subjectivity is discursively constructed within relationships of power where medical discourses make abject the realm of gender deviance. Using what Jack Halberstam calls a “perverse presentism model” of historical and literary analysis, this essay applies theoretical insights from Halberstam, Judith Butler, and Elizabeth Freeman to show how psychoanalysis pathologizes lesbianism and feminine variants. Grahn’s poem explores how the language of lesbian pleasure interrupts the disciplinary discourse of psychoanalysis, while Bidart’s poem shows the limitations of psychoanalysis by suggesting its inability to locate and treat lesbian gender variance in its language of the psyche. Consequently, in both poems, each gender queer speaker’s dis-identification with gender conformity and chrono-normative rituals creates what Elizabeth Freeman calls an “erotohistoriography” that exposes both the precarity of pleasure as well as the [opposing] conditions of subordination that simultaneously implicate subjects in what they are trying to oppose.
Dr. Cathy Irwin is an Associate Professor of English at the University of La Verne and the author of Twice Orphaned: Voices from the Children’s Village of Manzanar. A former editor of the literary magazine Prism Review, she has published poems and essays in Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies, Mixing It Up: Multiracial Subjects, Embodying Asian American Sexualities, Completely Mixed Up: Mixed Heritage Asian North American Writing and Art, and Pacific Coast Philology. She received her B.A. in English from UC Berkeley and Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California.
Mother’s Anxiety, the Question of Authority and Political Subjection
In my presentation I intend to present the question of the structure of the phantasm of maternity in psychoanalysis and its role within the contemporary society, as we are facing the rising convergence of the roles of the mothers and fathers within contemporary families, and new forms of mothering. It is an important question, because we are witnessing the decline of the »father figure« in psychoanalysis with its traditional authoritarian role in families and the society, and parallel the increase of the number of men taking on the role of the primary caregivers in heterosexual and homosexual families (the role which was traditionally ascribed to biological mothers). This will also lead us to the question of the possibility of the link of mother’s anxiety (guilt) with the structure of indebtedness as contemporary form of political subjection and late capitalism.
We shall study the question of maternity in psychoanalysis through the work of Colette Soler, in relation to the Lacanian structure of feminine, the logic of not-all and the question of the castration complex. The importance of its link to corporeal residual (biology) and ontology in Alenka Zupančič. And the question of debt (indebtedness and its relation to the question of guilt) in the work on biopolitics of Michel Foucault and Maurizzio Lazzarato.
Katja Kolšek is currently employed as a scientific researcher in Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana. She got her Phd in Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana in 2007. She was the fellow at the Institute of Philosophy SRC SASA in Ljubljana, lectured on Philosophy and Theory of Ideology at the Faculty of Humanities in Koper (Slovenija) and was a research fellow at the Theory department of the Jan van Eyck Academie-The post-academic institute for research and production in the fields of fine art, design, and theory in Maastricht, Netherlands. She has published a monography The Other of Democracy. The Concepts of Immanence and Otherness in Contemporary Theories of Democracy (Annales, Koper 2010), “The Shift of the Gaze in Žižek’s Philosophical Writing” in: Repeating Žižek, Agon Hamza (ed.), Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2015, »The Repetition of the Void and the Materialistic Dialectic« in: DOLAR, Mladen (ed..), et al. in: The Structure of the Void, (Filozofski vestnik. Vol. 34, No. 2, Ljubljana) and »The Parallax Object of Althusser’s Materialist Philosophy« in: Encountering Althusser. Politics and Materialism in Contemporary Radical Thought (Bloomsberry Publishing, London, New Delhi, New York, Sidney 2012). She is also translates the modern and contemporary Chinese poetry and fiction into Slovene language.
Adult erotic tenderness
In her article Reliance or the maternal erotic1 Kristeva urges Psychoanalysis to focus on the maternal as erotic: only attention for this “specific economy of the libido”, with it’s vacillation between the falling apart of the Ego in “a state of emergency” and the successive binding of the Ego trough “actions of care”, she claims, will make it possible to come closer to an accurate understanding of female sexuality, which is pivotal to establish a “her-‐ethics”, enabling women to be truly free2.
Through a close analysis of Freud’s earliest work on sexuality, I want to argue that this emphasis on the maternal as erotic is not that new. In 1905 Freud already provocatively claimed that maternal caretaking is sexual, which he called Zärtlichkeit3 or maternal Tenderness4. It is however true that Freud left this phenomenon completely untouched, and Kristeva’s work on Reliance is therefore a most important first exploration of the particular elements and characteristics of this specific economy of the libido5.
I will add, however, that this emphasis on maternal tenderness is only the first step towards a more accurate and full understanding of female sexuality. Both Freud and Kristeva limit tenderness to either the infantile or the maternal. But in doing so, they deny that it is (or can be) a dimension of adult sexuality too. This limiting of tenderness to merely the maternal or the infantile is especially problematic for the understanding of female sexuality. Not, I want to claim, because tenderness is essentially feminine, but for two other reasons: firstly, because Freud understood this “need for adult tenderness” merely as a pathological hysterical symptom, a typically female regression to infancy6; and secondly because Freud implicitly claimed that “civilized” men are unable to be sexually tender and sensual with their loved ones, but Freud does not pay attention to the repercussions of this lack of tenderness for the “debased” women7.
I will hence argue that to establish a genuine “her-‐ethics”, psychoanalysis has to focus on adult erotic tenderness as part of the adult sexual apparatus, with its specific economy of the libido8, different from the sexual economy of sensuality. To then understand why this tenderness is so hard to achieve, especially in patriarchy.
According to Freud this universal inability of most men to be sexually tender has everything to do with the incest taboo. But through Kristeva’s analysis of Reliance, I will hypothesize that erotic adult tenderness is so rare because something far more dangerous and threatening is at stake: tenderness entails an intimacy which threatens to scatter the integrated Ego or ‘Self’. With Kristeva, I want to urge Psychoanalysis to “go back, through incest, to the mirror stage itself“9 in order to understand the specificities but also treats of tenderness. However, unlike Kristeva I will add that it is not only time to focus on maternal tenderness, but especially on tenderness between adult lovers, and the lack thereof in patriarchy. Here, I believe, lays the key for psychoanalysis to set straight it’s misogynistic past and to come closer to a genuine understanding of female sexuality.
1 Kristeva, Julia (2014). “Reliance, or Maternal Eroticism” in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 62:1, February 2014.
2 “ “The free woman is just being born,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949, p. 723). There
will not be a free woman as long as we lack an ethics of the maternal. But this ethics is just being born; it will be a herethics of reliance” (Kristeva p 82-‐3).
3 Stretchey translated Zärtlichkeit with “affection”, but a more accurate translation is “tenderness”.
4 “The person in charge of him [the baby], who, after all, is as a rule his mother, herself regards him with feelings that are derived from her own sexual life: she strokes him, kisses him, rocks him and quite clearly treats him as a substitute for a complete sexual object. A mother would probably be horrified if she were made aware that all her marks of affection were rousing her child’s sexual instinct and preparing for its later intensity. She regards what she does as asexual, ‘pure’ love […] What we call affection [Zärtlichkeit=Tenderness] will unfailingly show its effects one day on the genital zones as well. (Freud, Sigmund (1905). “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”. Standard Edition VII. p.223)
5 For example it’s relation to Kristeva’s unsettling “ abject” and “Khora” .
6 Freud claims that it’s usually hysteric girls who’s infantile tenderness stays fixated on their caretakers.
And he believes that this will have negative repercussions on the sexual aspects of their relationship with their later sexual object. These women will often turn out to be “sexually anaesthetic” or even psychoneurotic. Their libido, stayed fixated on the objects of their incestuous phantasies. This sexuality can therefore not be given to partners, and they become frigid wives. They are however not without sexuality, but this sexuality is lived unconsciously, in their incestuous phantasies (Freud (1905). “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”. Standard Edition VII p. 227-‐8.
7 “There are only very few educated people in whom the two currents of affection and sensuality have become properly fused; the man almost always feels his respect for the woman acting as a restriction on his sexual activity, and only develops full potency when he is with a debased sexual object […]He is assured of complete sexual pleasure only when he can devote himself unreservedly to obtaining satisfaction, which with his well-‐brought-‐up wife, for instance, he does not dare to do. This is the source of his need for a debased sexual object, a woman who is ethically inferior, to whom he need attribute no aesthetic scruples, who does not know him in his other social relations and cannot judge him in them. It is to such a woman that he prefers to devote his sexual potency, even when the whole of his affection belongs to a woman of a higher kind”. (Freud 1912, On the Universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love p. 184).
8 Sexual tenderness as an autonomous element of the adult sexual apparatus, different from sensuality, and therefore not merely for-‐pleasure towards sensual end-‐pleasure , but tenderness as pleasurable on it’s own. Trough examples from literature and film (for ex. Haneke’s Amour, 2012) will I picture how such adult erotic tenderness looks like.
9 a p.80.
Stephanie Koziej is a second-year Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Graduate student and pursuing a certificate in Psychoanalysis at the Psychoanalytic Study Program at Emory University. She received a Bachelor, Master and Mphil degree in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven where she specialised in Continental Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. She is interested in topics like sexuality (and especially female sexuality ), love, tenderness and hysteria. She studied Freud closely, and is interested in how other fields like Feminist Psychoanalysis (esp. Kristeva and Irigaray), Women Studies, Philosophy, Post-colonial studies and Queer Studies can challenge and enrich traditional psychoanalytic perspectives.
Too much? Affective accounts of sexual experiences in bisexual women’s relationship talk
My psychosocial research draws on a longitudinal set of interviews conducted in 2005 and 2014-2015 with bisexual women and their partners of various genders. In the follow-up interviews with the bisexual women, the topic of sexuality and sexual experimentation emerged spontaneously as a central theme. This differed widely from the 2005 couple interviews, in which the discourse of romantic love dominated. Detailed and affective descriptions of sexual experiences were often not located in the bisexual women’s (current or past) long-term relationships, but rather on the border of or in between those relationships. In this way sexual experimentation formed a kind of counterpoint to the discourse of enduring, exclusive relationships, which was also very important to the interviewees.
In my psychosocial analysis of bisexual women’s constructions, I pay attention to the discourses and powerful social norms that seem to suggest that bisexual women’s sexual experiences are “too much” in terms of the norms that dictate that women should be sexual in couple relationships, but not too sexual or sexual in a wrong way (Harvey & Gill 2011). By now the concept of femininity has come across in my analysis mainly as cultural construct that reproduces and constrains (bisexual) women’s sexual expression and experiences. In this presentation I will use the opportunity to look if psychoanalytic theories could offer alternative viewpoints that could open up these narrow cultural constructs. To understand the excessive character of bisexual women’s sexual experiences more fully, it is necessary to take into account that they are not only constrained and made through discursive regulation, but are also shaped by affective, irrational and unspoken dimensions of relating (Hollway and Jefferson, 2000; Johnson, 2015; Roseneil, 2006). I will thus enrich my analysis by incorporating contemporary psychoanalytic ideas of sexuality as excess (e.g. Stein, 2008).
Annukka Lahti is a Doctoral Student at the Faculty of Social Sciences in University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. Her psychosocial research focuses on relationship discourses used by bisexual women and their variously gendered (ex-)partners and affective tensions within these discourses. Her research interests include continuities and changes in contemporary intimate relationships, bisexuality and affect.
The riddle of femininity has proven hard to solve throughout the history of psychoanalysis ever since Freud articulated the famous question ”what does woman want?”. Even though Freud as well as other psychoanalytic theorists remain ambivalent and cautious regarding the idea of anatomy as destiny, there is often a confusion between the feminine and the womanly. The unsufficient differentiation between these two concepts has been further elaborated on by Teresa Brennan (1992), who argues that the real riddle of femininity is in fact about men. According to her, femininity can best be described as a form of pathology involving excessive repression, which affects both sexes but which is also a means through which womanhood is achieved. Drawing on her work, which combines Lacanian and Kleinian psychoanalysis, I will examine the constitution of the gendered subject through projections and psychical fantasies of woman as other in the cultural climate of the ego’s era.
The psychical fantasy of woman and the related association between femininity, masochism and madness is further examined through the myth of Electra. In the psychoanalytic literature, the Electra complex illustrates the girls’ idealization of the father and aggression towards the mother. However, invoking the work of Jacobs (2007) I will argue that the relation between Orestes and Electra is fundamental for understanding femininity. Electra, positioned as a carrier of fixation and memory, enables Orestes’ rationality and conquest. Hence, as carrier of femininity, woman becomes the Imaginary anchor of the Symbolic. This holding of woman as hostage in the aggressive expansion of the masculine is further analyzed through Lars von Triers film Antichrist (2009). I will elaborate on Buch-Hansens (2011) reading of the film as a critique of docetic masculinity by further analyzing the construction of gender binarity in the film as a violent struggle to fixate the abjected feminine.
Charlotta Lund, born in 1985, graduated as Master of Arts (psychology) fron University of Eastern Finland in december 2015. She previously holds a masters degree in engineering. In 2014 she completed a bachelors degree in social psychology at the Helsinki University Swedish School of Social Sciences. The title of her bachelor thesis was ”Positioning of Woman as Other through Projective Identification” and the title of her master’s thesis was ”Childhood discourses, coherence and discontinuity in biographical interviews with men and women in their 40s”.
River‘s Edge: The Ebb and Flow of Feminine Ex-sistence
River is a six-part television series which was shown on the British Broadcasting Corporation between 13 October and 17 November 2015. Scripted by Abi Morgan, the series centres upon the titular character John River’s (Stellan Skarsgård) investigation to discover the murderer of his police colleague Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson (Nicola Walker).
Throughout the series River is ‘haunted’ by dead figures, which he refers to as ‘manifests’, and who are both visible to him alone and with whom he enters into dialogue. Forced to attend sessions with the police psychiatrist and therapist Rosa Fallows (Georgina Rich) to discuss his mental health issues, River seeks to resist her interventions and to rely upon his interactions with his ‘manifests’ to help solve the case(s).
In one sense, the style and structure of the series acts in a manner akin to the displacement and condensation of dreams. Several reviews of the series referred to its art film-like qualities. Reviewers also remarked upon the ways in which aspects of ‘Nordic noir’ infuse the series, particularly in the character of John River, together with his Scandinavian styled flat .
In telling remarks, Stellan Skarsgård commented that:
Abi Morgan’s writing is about a human being, it doesn’t matter if they have a penis or not. Male characters are usually written with a sort of contained emotional life, while actresses always get the opportunity to tell all their feelings all the time. So for the first time in my career I got the opportunity to be as an actress is, and show everything. And I really enjoyed that.
Raising important Lacanian issues of sexuation, knowledge and jouissance, this paper will investigate how feminine structure is put to work in the series, and how the feminine ex-sists within River.
Allister Mactaggart is a lecturer in the Directorate of Academic and Creative Studies at Chesterfield College, UK, where he teaches art history, film studies and media studies. He has published widely on the various artistic endeavours of David Lynch, including the monograph The Film Paintings of David Lynch: Challenging Film Theory (Intellect, 2010). His work is primarily centred around the dialectical relationship between the psyche and the social as it manifests itself in culture, society and politics.
Co-naissance: Maternal Corporeality and the Question of Ethics with-in the Matrixial
The feminine body appears to be treated as a dangerous territory: approaches that address it tend to fall into either essentialism or biological determinism. Due to such a threatening possibility, the body becomes a hiatus, whose potential is not fully explored. While in psychoanalysis the male corporeality has been utilised as an all-embracing model of difference, womanhood – including motherhood – remains in the shadow: an unintelligible “Dark Continent,” as Cixous names it. Bracha L. Ettinger’s proposition seems to break this impasse. Without being anti-Oedipal, she scrutinises notions of Lacanian psychoanalysis with regard to their phallic, binary structure and rethinks the space for femininity in such a system; namely, she expands the Symbolic by means of conceptualising the matrixial and the non-phallic difference, and proposing the between / and logic instead of the either / or paradigm. Her matrixial theory provides the underpinnings for foregrounding the body, understood in a non-political and non-determinist sense. The female corporeality, if freed from these burdens, can let us transcend the limiting frame of psychoanalysis and determine new academic directions.
The aim of this paper is to follow one of such directions. I intend to explore and collate chosen tropes connected to the motherly body – the matrix / womb structure of relations, co-naissance, severality and subjectivity-as-encounter – in order to examine the (proto-)ethics of the matrixial. To be more specific, I wish to prove that the maternal corporeal attributes can be read as both the inspiration and the potentiality of matrixial ethics. Even though this issue is often hinted at by Ettinger and Ettingerian scholars, it is not analysed sufficiently, which is why research in this field is more than advised. As it will be argued, emphasising the motherly as a basis for the reconsideration of subjectivity, difference and ethics can produce path-breaking and deeply humanising results.
Anna Maraś is a PhD student in Literary Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice. She holds an MA degree in English Studies based on her dissertation entitled Tangible Trauma: Tropes of Gesture in the Context of Psychoanalytically Grounded Theories (2015) and a BA degree based on her thesis devoted to the motif of intimacy in the self-portraiture of Francesca Woodman with reference to Ettinger’s thought (2013). Her academic research revolves around – but is not limited to – the matrixial psychoanalysis of Bracha L. Ettinger; her other interests include trauma studies, photography theory, and body and femininity in the visual arts and poetry. Currently she is working on her PhD project concerning the notion of the body in Ettinger’s theory and art. She is an active member of Gender Studies Centre, University of Silesia.
Does Feminine mean being in Your Right Mind?
At the most fundamental level, the Feminine has the connotation of organic growth while the Masculine involves conscious activity. By Classical times, a powerful valency had already developed: the Apollonian (Masculine) involved that which was lofty, cerebral and pure, while the Feminine was equated with the Dionysian – frenzy, drunkenness and madness. Western philosophy since Descartes came to see feeling as the enemy of reason. The triumph of scientific discovery over superstition and magic further contributed to the tendency to see the Feminine (in the form of emotion and feeling) as characterised by dangerous irrationality. The most obvious manifestation of this polarisation is Misogyny but is it the chicken or the egg? Or is it a symptom of something deeper?
Recent advances in neuropsychology have increasingly found indications that a subtle take-over has been going on since perhaps before the Enlightenment of the left brain over the right brain. While the two brain hemispheres can absolutely not be correlated with masculine and feminine functioning in general, there is no doubt that the left hemisphere caters for the stereotypically, masculine tasks of concrete reality. In contrast, without the right hemisphere there can be little or no good judgement or understanding of context or fitness, functions which could be characterised as feminine.
Psychoanalysis is increasingly confronted with patients whose problems can be traced to an extreme tendency to try and function in a purely cerebral (masculine) way, problems which can only be resolved if a successful, internal “marriage” is achieved between the thinking and feeling capacity within the individual. This work is probably one of the most fruitful sources of insight into understanding what the Feminine essentially is and why it continues to constitute such a problem.
The masculine commitment to the feminine soul: psychological life of Russian-American Poet Joseph Brodsky – Jungian and Post-Jungian Perspectives.
This paper considers the role of the feminine archetype as a multicultural phenomenon in the psychological development of the individual. Both Jung and Brodsky present us with what we might call an inner psychological awakening that can emerge in conjunction with the process of individuation. They both sought, not so much the perfection of society, but individual self-development within society. Being passionately devoted to Russian and Polish language, Brodsky – by means of his poetry, both consciously and unconsciously – was able to open a dialogue between the conscious and unconscious and explore what was unknown and uncertain and hence liberates his creative potential. Throughout poetry, Brodsky partly experiences the wholeness of personality and creates the Self. I show the crucial role of the feminine archetype in this process and discuss how the inner figure of woman held by Brodsky appears in his poetry and influences Brodsky’s psychological development.
Following my education in law I earned a candidate of science degree and an associate professor certificate in Russia. This qualification allowed me to teach in various Moscow’s universities (2001 – 2009). I also worked as a research fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C. and then at American University (Washington College of Law, Washington D.C. (visiting scholar, 2006-2007). My deep interest in the interplay between the human subjectivity, literature and depth psychology led me to study at Birkbeck, University of London (MA Psychosocial Studies, School of Social Science, History and Philosophy, 2012-2013). Currently I am a PhD student, Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, UK.
THE SUITCASE – a short film about power and loss.
“There is no sexual relation”
Dr Piotrowska will present her 11 minute short shot in Zimbabwe accompanied by a short paper and discussion of Lacanian views on feminine desire and ethics, as enunciated in Seminar VII and reformulated in in Seminar XX.
The film shows Stella, a woman in a beautiful African home, waiting for her partner. She receives an image on her phone and appears to go completely mad. She packs a suitcase and when her man arrives back in the morning, she tells him she is leaving him and why. In a conversation that follows, we learn that Stella has been desperately in love with her partner/husband Mark for years but that somehow their love has got corrupted. We also learn gradually that Mark was in fact married with the kids and that Stella had the money – in the short there is a power reversal and it it in the end Mark who has to leave. The story inspired by women’s tales in Harare, in the context of Zimbabwean patriarchal relationships, need additional re-thinking and re-positioning.
Agnieszka Piotrowska is an award winning documentary filmmaker and Reader in Film Practice and Theory at the University of Bedfordshire, UK. Her current work focuses on post-colonial relationships in Zimbabwe. She is the author of Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film and Black and White: Cinema, Politics and the Arts in Zimbabwe (forthcoming), the editor of Embodied Encounters: New Approaches to Psychoanalysis and Cinema, and co-editor of Psychoanalysis and the Unrepresentable: from Culture to the Clinic all published by Routledge.
Natural Mothering Reanalysed: Philosophical and Neurobiological perspectives
Feminist psychoanalysis coined the terms womb envy as counter to penis envy, derived from Freudian theory of psychosexual development. Vagina envy denote the envy men feel towards a woman’s primary role in nurturing and sustaining life. The concept of womb envy was a powerful emancipatory tool of deconstruction of the sexist theoretical framework within which women were understood as naturally inferior to the man. But isn’t the next step of emancipation the deconstruction of the concept of womb envy itself?
The theoretical ground for such deconstruction can be found in Bracha L. Ettinger’s interpretation of motherhood. Her concept of matrix designates a metaphorical reference to the womb (also it refers to the feminine it is not reduced to the biological womb). According to Ettinger the matrix is at the service of both sexes, it is oriented towards the feminine in men and women.
Another possible source of inspiration is philosophy of Judith Butler, who, along with theorising gender as performative, rather than biological phenomenon, speculates about maternal performativity, understanding mothering as an active sociosymbolic practice.
Although I aim to deconstruct the concept of mothering, understood as a biological phenomenon, paradoxically, the basis for such deconstruction can be found in the very biology of motherhood. NeuroBiological process underlying maternal caregiving is mainly associated with upregulation of oxytocin receptor expression in the brain and oxytocin, released during parturition and lactation. However, this process is only one manifestation of the general mechanism underlying occurrence of caring behaviour (in both men and women, including women without children). Oxytocin is an overall trigger for social sentiments, it released naturally not only during childbirth, but also, for example, when engaging in sexual relations.
Julie Reshe is presently Director of the Institute of Psychoanalysis and Neurophilosophy (The Global Center for Advanced Studies). Drawing from philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience and art, her multidisciplinary approach is focused on issues of cultural posthumanism. Articulating the nonhuman, the transsubjective and the modifiable, her critique disputes traditional ways of life. Her research interests also include evolution of language and culture, education, childhood studies, mothering studies, gender and sexuality. Reshe publishes regularly in both mainstream magazines and refereed academic journals. She holds M.A. degree in Philosophy from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Reshe also studied cultural theory in National University of KievMohyla Academy. She received her doctoral degree in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis in Slovenia, where she studied under supervision of Alenka Zupančič at the Institute of Philosophy of the of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Liquid Manifestations of the Death Drive: On Womb Fantasies and the “Oceanic Feeling”
In place of Freud’s bioanalytic understanding of the death drive as an instinct to return to a condition of non- existence, I propose a more dynamic understanding of the death drive as the dialectical counterpart to primary narcissism. After conceptualizing the death drive as a force which, compelled by a suspicion of the ego’s unreality or a dissatisfaction with its perceived limits, seeks to restore the condition of primal unity which precedes the formation of the ego, I argue that the ghostly trace of the death drive can be discerned in the “oceanic feeling” of undifferentiated unboundedness that Freud associates with religious thinking, as well as in the “narcissistic crisis” posed by the maternal body as object of abjection par excellence as theorized by Kristeva. I then intend to draw out this correlation in juxtaposition with Ferenczi’s Thalassa, in which he theorizes the original condition of “deathlike repose” as a primordial “ocean” akin to that experienced in the intrauterine stages of development. By creating a dialogue between these theories, I hope to accomplish a two-fold aim: 1) show that the maternal body is a key trope and necessary image in the theory of the death drive, and 2) investigate the role of the womb fantasy in relation to the pursuit of the “oceanic feeling” that appears to govern religious tendencies. Doing so, I believe, will reveal religious thinking and womb fantasies to be similar, even comparable, manifestations of the death drive, both characterized by the desire to restore the primal “oneness” that precedes and threatens the both the narcissistic ego and the signifying logic of the phallus. The psychoanalysis of religion, therefore, if it is to exist, would necessitate an alternate signifying system, radically feminine, which gravitates around the abject and, in particular, the maternal body.
I am currently a first-year PhD candidate at Center for Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex, where I am investigating how the work of Lacan, Kristeva, and Bataille overlap over the representation of the body in pain in early Christianity to give a more inclusive understanding of the death drive as a fundamentally erotic force. Prior to relocating to London from my native New York in order to pursue this research, I attended The New School for Social Research and NYU, where I studied Cultural Anthropology and Semiotics, respectively. Both my graduate and undergraduate work has been driven by a suspicion of the categories that structure our relation to the external world and to each other, and by a desire to think beyond those categories, in the domain of the unrepresentable, the abject, and the impossible.
REPRESENTING MATERNAL SEXUALITY
According to Sigmund Freud (1931), mature and normal female desire is a wish for a baby to replace the penis a woman has enviously and vainly longed for. Sexual desire is eclipsed by care for her child. This split between maternity and sexuality has barred the representation of the mother as a sexual subject. Maternity is understood, “to be the end-product, not the site of sexuality” (Parker 1995, 260). Having surrendered “the autonomy of her body in childbirth and lactation, to live for another,” (Benjamin 1988, 88-89), the mother’s body has become the background to her child’s needs and life, and the identification of female sexual aim with reproduction has erased maternity as a site of sexuality.
I discuss three ways in which maternal sexuality has been erased: 1. by the collapse of female desire into the equation penis=child, 2. by the collapse of mother and child into a psychic dead zone of “being-for-an-other” (Sheehy 2012, 27), and 3. by the equation of mother to both a powerful object of identification and a dreaded, engulfing object of desire, a Medusa. (Benjamin 1995, 105).
My project then is to restore sexual passion and pleasure to conceptions of maternal sexuality.
Luce Irigaray has long insisted that we do not have to give up being women to be mothers (Irigaray 1993). “Our task is to give life back to [the] mother….We must refuse to allow her desire to be swallowed up in the law of the father” (Irigaray 1993, 18). By using Irigaray’s tactic of “female mimicry” (1985, 76), I interpret an image of the artist Louise Bourgeois, claiming that she enacts the representation of the desexualized mother as she undermines it.
Julia Kristeva (2014) declares that it is wrong to assign sexuality to the lover and object relations to the mother. The lover’s libido does not disappear in the mother. Kristeva uses the word reliance, (to link, to belong, to assemble together) to suggest a logic of maternal reliance to go beyond castration, lack and capturing the father’s penis.
To deepen the texture of Kristeva’s account I turn to Bracha Ettinger’s matrixial model for a relational dimension of subjectivity-as-encounter. Through a logic of linking, rather than the phallic logic of lack and substitution, maternal desire and sexuality continue through psychic borderlinking, as the mother repeats, in a different register, her own becoming a sexual subject.
It is then only through frameworks grounded in the female body that we might re-map the representational terrain of maternal sexuality.
Benjamin, J. (1988). The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination. New York: Pantheon Books.
—–. (1995). Like Subjects, Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ettinger, B. (2006). The Matrixial Borderspace. New Haven: Yale UP
Freud, S. (1931). Female Sexuality. SE:21:223-243.
Irigaray, L. (1985). This Sex Which Is Not One. Tr. C. Porter. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
—–. (1993). Sexes and Genealogies. Tr. G. Gill. New York: Columbia University Press.
Kristeva, J. (2014). Reliance, or Maternal Erotism. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Vol. 62, No. 1, 69-85.
Parker, R. (1995). Mother Love/Mother Hate: The Power of Maternal Ambivalence. New York: Basic Books.
Sheehy, M. (2012). The Maternal Postmodern: Commentary on Rozmarin’s “Maternal Silence.” Studies in Gender and Sexuality, Vol.13, No. 1:24-28.
Britt-Marie Schiller, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy at Webster University in Saint Louis. She is also the Dean and on the Faculty of the Saint Louis Psychoanalytic Institute. Her research is in the intersection of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and gender, having been importantly informed by the work of Luce Irigaray.
Mis(s)-Interpretation: Complications of Sexual Difference and Feminism in Gone Girl
Approaching the fundamentals of psychoanalysis from a film-scholarship perspective, this essays attempts to look at how contemporary Hollywood classifies a film text or character as ‘feminist’ at its core and how those classifications may be misleading. These complications are explored in David Fincher’s 2015 film, Gone Girl, which was quick to place its female protagonist atop a feminist pedestal. With complications of defining equity or difference as sexually autonomous, I use Slavoj Žižek’s interpretations of Lacan and the basic elements of ‘the woman does not exist’ and feminine jouissance to explore the intersection of psychoanalysis to feminism. The first portion of the work presents the central canonizing point made in the film – the ‘cool girl’ narrative that is most celebrated by feminist readings of both Gillian Flynn’s novel and David Fincher’s film. Transitioning into an emphasis of the difference at play within the film content of the Lacanian definitions of masculine and feminine jouissance, this essay further identifies an irrational jouissance of the psychotic and how that blurs clarity in feminist readings. The rest of the work revolves around an explanation of how the ‘cool girl’ doesn’t exist and how the feminist subject in the film possesses a complex guise of autonomy. Finally, the larger ideological factors at play within sexual desire and jouissance are revealed to present in a psychoanalytic reading of the final minutes of the film as explained through Luce Irigaray critique of Lacan and Žižek’s interpretation of ‘femininity in masquerade’.
Steve Swetich is a Master’s student at King’s College London in Film and Philosophy. His primary research interests revolve around the intersections of contemporary Hollywood cinema and philosophy as it pertains to constructions of identity. Most recently he presented an essay on V.N Volosinov and stand-up comedy at the Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Receiving a BA from the Honors College at Oakland University (Rochester, MI) in 2014, Steve is from the Detroit area and plans to pursue a career as a film scholar.
On Black Swan, the Body and Not-All Feminine Jouissance
As a film thoroughly concerned with enjoyment and the body, Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010) presents an opportunity to consider questions of psychoanalysis and embodiment in the cinema. This paper aims to pursue such a possibility by exploring both Aronofsky’s film and Lacan’s later work in terms of the concept of jouissance. Focusing particularly on the right hand side of Lacan’s “Graph of Sexuation” and thus the question of feminine jouissance specifically, my goal is to develop a logic proper to the feminine as it is suggested by Nina’s dance and by Colette Soler’s theory of the body in extremis. Reading Black Swan, like reading Lacan’s Encore, must be pursued very carefully in order to avoid falling into the trap of relegating the feminine (in both instances) to absolute unknowability; instead, I argue that feminine structure should be understood – like masculine structure, but in an asymmetrical way – as a response to the unknowable that we might otherwise recognise as the sublime. To this end, I will read Nina’s dance as an embodied experience of an “immanent sublime”: the sheer (feminine) jouissance of the body.
Dr Ben Tyrer teaches Film Studies at King’s College London. His research interests include film theory and film-philosophy, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and European cinema. He is the author of Out of the Past: Lacan and Film Noir (Palgrave, 2016), and co-editor of the collection Psychoanalysis and the Unrepresentable: from Culture to the Clinic (Routledge, 2016). He has also published work in Film-Philosophy and Studies in French Cinema, as well as several collections on psychoanalysis and culture. He is co-coordinator of the Psychoanalysis in Our Time international research network, supported by the Nordic Summer University.
Feminine sexuality: Between
Luce Irigaray defines a between, a relationality of creation that belongs to neither one nor the other. It is that between that I wish to explore by moving to and beyond the mythical figure of Aphrodite, signalled by Irigaray. That the figure of Aphrodite was imported into Greece from other Mediterranean cultures, is not in doubt. Indeed, there are a number of esoteric traditions that claim this figure builds on others, including Isis, Magdalene and a number of other fertility goddesses. What is important about this is not a return to a goddess, but the recognition, developed by Irigaray, that it is what is created in between, in relation, that is so significant for understanding femininity (and masculinity).
A number of esoteric traditions have posited physical and spiritual practices that aimed to amplify the power and creativity of the between. Those practices, from a diverse number of sources, aimed to harness this energy for spiritual development. As far as I understand them, these practices do not posit an essential difference between the male and female body but rather use the notion of difference to create energetic pathways to harness the creativity of the between. Today, they are best known in the West through the name of ‘tantra’.
While one can credit Lacan with the vision to explore that ‘other jouissance’ open to women through mystical union with the divine, and although he does make some reference to Taoist and Tantric practices, I suggest that he misunderstands them and the usually secret tradition of material and spiritual practices which aimed to amplify spiritual power through the harnessing of the between.
This paper explores the development of a sacred sexuality that creates a notion of femininity that does not split the figure of the virgin/mother from that of the whore. But posits the centrality of ‘feminine energies’ in the practices of the between through which relationality is accomplished, creating a mode of knowing that transcends dualism.
Valerie Walkerdine is Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. She is also an artist, specialising in installation and performance. Her current work builds on her research as Leverhulme Major Research Fellow and explores issues of intergenerational transmission, in which femininity is a key theme.
Sexual difference as temporal difference: Reinterpreting the Oedipus complex based on a Lacanian temporal logic
In the charmed circle of postmodern intellectuals today, the Oedipus complex in Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis has remained as a disturbing topic. Despite that Lacanism promotes a destructive, decentred and desire-driven subject, its insistence of the phallic signifier makes itself fall prey to critiques of the so-called ‘sexual difference fundamentalism’ supported by the heteronormative and phallocentric logic. In this paper, I provide a reinterpretation of the Oedipus complex by reconfiguring its underlying temporal logic. Two different temporal models have been suggested to support Freud and Lacan’s Oedipal theory: One is the “linear-progressive model”, which structures the Oedipal narrative as an irreversible and teleologically determined process towards two completed forms of sexual maturation; the other is the “structural-timeless model”, which specifically applies to Lacan’s theory. It situates sexual difference defined by the phallus at an ahistorical position, immune to hegemonic struggles in the cultural domain for spatio-temporally flexible meaning. However, I argue that both models are problematic because they presume that one singular and unified temporal logic leads to sexual difference without considering the possibility that time itself may have already been differentiated erotically. Through a close reading of the “three times of the Oedipus complex” in Seminar V and the theory of sexuation in Seminar XX, I examines how the sexed subject goes through the Oedipal phases following different sequences of registers, and present sexual difference as a temporal embodiment in a state of becoming between not-yet and always-already.
My name is Chenyang Wang. I’m a PhD Candidate in the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, London. I received my Master’s degree in psychoanalysis from the University of Essex. My doctoral thesis is concerned with the notion of time in Lacan’s work. I have written and presented works related to psychoanalysis, postmodern philosophy and queer theory, including the paper “Anti-melancholia: the failure of melancholy gender and its alternative” in Psychoanalysis: Philosophy, Art and Clinic, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015.