Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis

Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis

Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis

Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis


In this landmark collection of original essays, outstanding feminist critics in Britain, France, and the United States present new perspectives on feminism and psychoanalysis, opening out deadlocked debates. The discussion ranges widely, with contributions from feminists identified with different, often opposed views on psychoanalytic criticism. The contributors reassess the history of Lacanian psychoanalysis and feminism, and explore the significance of its institutional context. They write against the received views on 'French feminism' and essentialism. A remarkable restatement of current positions within psychoanalysis and feminism, the volume as a whole will change the terms of existing debates, and make its arguments and concerns more generally accessible.


Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis is based on a series of fifteen seminars given at Cambridge University in King’s College and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty from January to July 1987. The series was organized in an attempt to explore the often intense debates that have arisen around psychoanalysis, especially of the Lacanian type, and feminism.

The women who presented the seminars are identified with different, sometimes opposing theoretical positions in these debates. Mainly, the debates concern essentialism, the kind of symbolic law culture requires, sexual difference, how far knowledge is inherently patriarchal, and the practical and political use of psychoanalysis for feminism. Those key debates in the series also structure this book. My first thanks go to the women, key protagonists in these debates, who came to Cambridge from India, the United States, France, and elsewhere in Britain, often interrupting their own busy schedules to do so.

In so far as debates on psychoanalysis and feminism have a common point of departure, it is feminism’s concern with social transformation: a political question, nominally appropriate to a Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. But the contributors are mainly literary theorists; only two of us, Parveen Adams and myself, have social science backgrounds. And the audience came not just from sociology and politics, but from modern and medieval languages, English, classics, and so on across the disciplinary board. The interdisciplinary compass and appeal of feminism is established; evidently, it is not limited when feminism is tied to psychoanalysis.

It is not possible to thank all the women and men who came every second week to listen, question, argue, and amplify. The following are mentioned both for their informed questions, and especially for a variety of helpful, practical acts: Malcolm Bowie, Ann Caesar, Stephen Coles, Silvana Dean, Ben K. Fred-Mensah, Helena Gaunt, Helen Gibson, Anthony Giddens, Simon Goldhill, David Good, Felicia Gordon, Sarah Greaves, Elizabeth Guild, Stephen Heath, John Henderson, Pam Hirsch, Sarah Kay, Michael Moriarty, Christopher Prendergast, Suzanne Raitt, Morag Shiach, Naomi Segal, Patricia Teuton-Victor, Janet Todd, Phyllis Tralka, Cathy Urwin, Margaret Whitford, and Alison Young. Special thanks to Elizabeth Guild, who did most of the interpreting during Luce Irigaray’s stay in Cambridge, as well as translating her paper. Cathy Urwin also presented a paper in the series. Unfortunately, it was not available for publication here.

The series was mainly supported by King’s College and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty; further assistance was provided by the French Cultural Delegation in Cambridge, and by Clare Hall. It was conceived in discussions with Jennifer Jarman and Ingrid Scheibler, who helped me to arrange it, and whose enthusiasm, labour, and skill made it an adventure and a pleasure. Without them there would have been no seminars, nor,

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