- Hardcover: 452 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (May 20, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674298683
- ISBN-13: 978-0674298682
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,417,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis 1st Edition
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The year is 1909. The speaker is Sigmund Freud. The woman in the front row, admiringly but insistently coaxing the master of psychoanalysis to say more about women and sexuality, is anarchist and free-love advocate Emma Goldman. This symbolic moment is the ideal place to begin describing the convoluted 90-year tango that is the history of feminism's relationship with psychoanalysis.
Mari Jo Buhle, a professor of American Civilization and History at Brown University, has written an academic study which exhibits all the virtues and some of the failings of the genre. Although long, earnest, and prone to sudden squalls of mode words like "discourse" and "heuristic," Feminism and Its Discontents is also carefully researched, cautiously neutral, and lucidly written. Informative subhistories detail how "second wave" feminism transformed Freud from icon into ogre, why key male pundits such as Laing, Lasch, and the Frankfurt Schoolers were so influential, and how Nancy Chodorow and others partially rehabilitated Freud's reputation.
One depressing feature of this material--which comes out starkly but in a way that makes you wonder if the deadpan author is being deliberately ironic--is the relentless egotism, narcissism, and sanctimoniousness of most players on both sides. Buhle's own intellectual standards throw into sharp relief the taste for rhetoric and special pleading of so many of the figures for whom she accounts.
In recent years, the Freudian psychoanalytic tradition has had to work overtime just to preserve some vestiges of intellectual respectability, having been attacked from a variety of critical vantage points (see, for example, Frederick Crews's searing indictment in The Memory Wars). Since we owe the very idea of "moving beyond Freud" largely to feminist writers, Buhle's history is especially timely. --Richard Farr
From Publishers Weekly
Psychoanalysts have made many attempts to modify the central importance Freud initially attributed to the concept of penis envy in female psychological development. According to Buhle, professor of history at Brown University, the transformations of psychoanalytic understandings of women can be seen, to a large extent, as responses to feminist criticisms. Although it's unquestionable that feminism has influenced psychoanalysts' revisions of Freud's theories about women, this history of the relationship between psychoanalysis and feminism fails to clarify how the most significant modern psychoanalytic theories of female psychology differ from Freud's and, consequently, what feminism's role has been in influencing these changes. Nowhere does the author discuss the real conceptual differences between recent psychoanalytic theories of women's psychological development and Freud. Rather than addressing the substance of post-Freudian theories, this book simply describes them. For example, Margaret Mahler's account of the early interactions between mother and infant is presented schematically and as a counterpoint to Freud's "masculine bias." Remaining unexplored, therefore, is the extent to which modern psychoanalytic theories preserve, rather than destroy or overturn, the core of Freud's views on women in the light of feminist criticism.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.