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Whitebook, J. (1991). Perversion: Destruction and Reparation: On the Contributions of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel and Joyce McDougal. Am. Imago, 48(3):329-350.

(1991). American Imago, 48(3):329-350

Perversion: Destruction and Reparation: On the Contributions of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel and Joyce McDougal

Joel Whitebook


Now that it is approaching its hundredth birthday, psychoanalysis, like many of the major sciences, is acquiring an increasing sense of its own historicity, which is attested to by, among other things, the staggering number of works on the history of psychoanalysis that have proliferated in recent years. Therefore, before turning to the theories at hand, I would like to say a word about the historical context in which they were formulated. Just as the sexual repressiveness of Victorian culture provided the backdrop for Freud's original investigations of hysteria and obsessive-compulsive neurosis, I believe the cultural transformations of the Sixties and Seventies have provided part of the historical context for the remarkable body of literature that Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel and Joyce McDougall have produced over the last several decades. Their work represents, in part, an attempt to respond from within the classical Freudian paradigm to the questions raised for psychoanalysis by the Sexual Revolution, Feminism and Gay Liberation. Although it is more explicit in the works of Chasseguet-Smirgel, these movements, I am suggesting, provided a stimulus for both authors to take up the question of the perversions, which has been central to psychoanalysis since its inception, and to rework it once again. Furthermore, in contrast to Freud's original investigation of the subject, all the knowledge that had been acquired about pre-oedipal development since the Second World War was at their disposal for this reworking of the theory of perversions.


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