Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

In a lively, often surprising history, Buhle reveals that the 20th century's two great theories of liberation--psychoanalysis and feminism--actually have a great deal to tell each other. Ambitious and highly engaging, "Feminism and Its Discontents" brings together far-flung intellectual tendencies rarely seen in intimate relation to each other--and shows readers a new way of seeing both.

Excerpt

In 1909, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, Sigmund Freud joined other renowned scholars and delivered a series of lectures on psychoanalysis. The attentive audience comprised mainly professors and physicians, with one notable exception. Seated conspicuously in the front row, "chastely garbed in white" and with a rose pinned to her waist, according to a newspaper account, was Emma Goldman. The notorious anarchist and free lover had heard Freud speak in Vienna fifteen years earlier, and she continued to count herself among his most ardent admirers. Gladly, she interrupted her own lecture tour to be present at this historic event, Freud's only appearance in the United States.

Goldman undoubtedly hoped Freud would speak on some aspect of sexuality. His colleague Ernest Jones remembered a "lady"--perhaps Goldman herself--passing him a note asking the founder of psychoanalysis to address explicitly the question of sex. Upon hearing this request, Freud allegedly replied that he could no more "be driven to the subject than away from it." Soon, however, he fulfilled Goldman's expectations. Although Freud began cautiously by providing a simple outline of his theories, he wrapped up the series of lectures in a dauntless manner. "We ought not to exalt ourselves so high as com-

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