Compromise Formations: Current Directions in Psychoanalytic Criticism

By Vera J. Camden | Go to book overview

Anais Nin's Mothering Metaphor:
Toward a Lacanian Theory of
Feminine Creativity

Diane Richard-Allerdyce

Anaïs Nin, still known to many chiefly as a writer of erotica or as "Henry Miller's friend," has offered the readers of her diary an unprecedented portrait of what one might call a "feminine" perspective. Otto Rank, Nin's analyst during her twenties, acclaims her diary as, in Nin's words, "invaluable as a study of a woman's point of view ... a document by a woman who thinks like a woman, not like a man" (Diary 2:24). It is the difference between feminine and masculine thought and experience with which much of the nearly lifelong diary deals, and although Nin is not primarily a theorist, I see a theory of feminine creativity emerging throughout her work which may be illuminated by a Lacanian view of gender difference.

Despite his admiration for Nin's perspective, Rank initially encourages her to give up the diary, believing that it keeps her subjugated to an ideal ego. By keeping a writer's sketchbook instead, he suggests, she might create artistic works for herself, apart from a need to fulfill her father's expectations (Diary 2:277-81). The conflict comes in his dismissing or not considering the possibility that the diary might be seen as a work of art in itself (2:25). After struggling with this issue for many months, Nin eventually rejects his advice and continues the work whose literary form might be considered to have boundaries as fluid as the feminine identity she describes.

By the time Rank changes his mind about the diary and admits that his theories were based on masculine models (2:24), Nin has already begun to formulate a concept of feminine identity. She combines her

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