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Fair Sex, Savage Dreams: Race, Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference Paperback – February 16, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

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“In this groundbreaking book Jean Walton subjects psychoanalysis to a sustained and highly illuminating ethnographic critique. She has isolated a period—the 1920s and 1930s, the era of the great debates about femininity—in which there is a critical confrontation between questions of gender/sexuality and questions of race. Her incisive analyses of five women writers of this period are often fascinating, always provocative, and she demonstrates persuasively the inextricability of sexuality and race in their attempts to negotiate a ‘speaking position’ for themselves within a masculine domain.”—Mary Anne Doane, author of Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis


“This intelligent and clear-thinking book provides a fascinating look into the racial fantasies of five modernist women. Focussing our attention on the evasions and displacements of both psychoanalysis and feminism, Walton demonstrates that race is never very far from twentieth-century culture’s founding narratives of sexual difference. A welcome and important investigation of white women’s racial imaginaries, a study as intellectually subtle as it is boldly original.”—Diana Fuss, author of Identification Papers

From the Back Cover

"In this groundbreaking book Jean Walton subjects psychoanalysis to a sustained and highly illuminating ethnographic critique. She has isolated a period--the 1920s and 1930s, the era of the great debates about femininity--in which there is a critical confrontation between questions of gender/sexuality and questions of race. Her incisive analyses of five women writers of this period are often fascinating, always provocative, and she demonstrates persuasively the inextricability of sexuality and race in their attempts to negotiate a 'speaking position' for themselves within a masculine domain."--Mary Anne Doane, author of "Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (February 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822326116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822326113
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,029,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on January 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The aim of this book is to explore and criticize the racialized constructions of subjectivity, an area which before very recently has not been seriously considered within psychoanalysis - with the exception of the work of Frantz Fanon in the 1950s. Psychoanalysis, according to Walton, has focused too narrowly on the white (masculine) subjectivity, while it could have functioned as a counter-discourse to racist psychological accounts of human diversity. The reason for this lies in the way psychoanalysis has understood the relation between the 'social' and the 'symbolic': psychoanalysis (especially Lacanian) is marked by 'heterosexual pathos' because of its premise that the gender/race structure is somehow prior to any social organization. As a result, the model of sexual subjectivity is presented as universal, when, in fact, it is an implicitly racial model. Walton's aim is to recognize this discursive power of psychoanalysis, and to bring psychoanalytic to terms with race and the processes of differentiation that are bound up with compulsory systems that require the subject to respond to being interpellated as black and white. The object of study in the book is the racial fantasies of five white women - Joan Riviere, Melanie Klein, H.D., Marie Bonaparte, and Margaret Mead - working within psychoanalysis in the 1920s and 1930s, the period that produced the debates around sexuality, but that was also informed by implicit assumptions about racial difference. Even though Walton might be criticized of contributing to an Althusserian model, where the subject has merely a passive relation to the symbolic, her book is an important one in theorizing a racial domain within psychoanalysis.
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