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Winer, J.A. Anderson, J.W. Kieffer, C.C. (2004). Introduction. Ann. Psychoanal., 32:1-5.
(2004). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 32:1-5
Jerome A. Winer, James William Anderson and Christine C. Kieffer
The theme of “Psychoanalysis and Women” encompasses four areas, which we cover in the four sections of this volume.
Starting with the case studies of women written by Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer in Studies on Hysteria, clinical accounts have provided the basic data for learning about women in treatment, and they have also been a rich source of information on the inner experiences of women throughout the life cycle. This volume begins with two studies that are predominantly clinical. Joyce McDougall talks about her work with a mortally ill woman. The essay is not, primarily, about the experience of being seriously ill but rather delves into questions of what it means for a person to exist and to dare to have a self. Lynne Layton, in examining a woman who was in treatment with her, sheds light on a larger issue, that is, how the family mediates sexist and other cultural hierarchies that influence the development of autonomy, dependence, and independence.
No aspect of psychoanalytic theory has been, since the early years of the field, more problematical than the psychology of women. Freud himself admitted that his understanding of women was limited; he once described women's sexual life as “the dark continent” (Freud, 1926, p. 212). But that did not stop him from constructing a highly specific psychology of women that has been the source of continual controversy.
In the second section, four authors engage the ongoing dialogue of how best to understand the experience and development of women. Jessica Benjamin focuses on the role of passivity, which Freud tended to equate with femininity. The central problem, she argues, is that it can be difficult for a person, while passive, to tolerate excessive tension. As a result, many men, including Freud, have fled this tension by projecting passivity onto women and by constructing femininity as being the embodiment of passivity.
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