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Wilson, M. (2014). Maternal Reliance: Commentary on Kristeva. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(1):101-111.

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(1):101-111

Maternal Reliance: Commentary on Kristeva

Mitchell Wilson

In “Reliance, or Maternal Eroticism,” Julia Kristeva conveys, as throughout her work on the maternal, a persistent desire to speak from a forbidden place (an “outlaw” place), at least within the context of normative psychoanalytic theory. With hints of the alchemical, she mixes a deeply scholarly sensibility with wisdom, sobriety, and passion. In my remarks I will situate her work within the basic Lacanian categories—especially the symbolic and the real—because it is within this psychoanalytic context that Kristeva's project emerges. Kristeva, with only symbolic tools at her disposal, seeks the real, which she associates with the feminine, the maternal. By way of Freud and Lacan and the specimen dream of psychoanalysis, the dream of Irma's injection, I'll consider why the real and the feminine as forbidden object are so intimately linked. Next I'll discuss (all too briefly) Kristeva's picture of maternal passion, not only in relation to the real, but also in connection with contemporary ideas about maternal capacities such as holding and containing. Maternal passion involves an ethical position, what Kristeva calls herethics. This herethical position has direct implications for the analyst as a subject of responsibility. I conclude with a postscript that is meant to be more allusive than assertive, more provocative than definitive.

For French analysts especially, and many Freudians more generally, the structuration of the mind, family, and society-writ-large rests on the father's role, on what is typically called the paternal function. The mother, as French analysts like to emphasize, already instantiates thirdness via identification with the “father of individual prehistory” (Aisenstein 2012). Thirdness evolves as the mother-infant dyad is gradually triangulated by the father. This triangulation, instituted by the prohibition of incest (the father's “no”) is, of course, the oedipal situation. Thus, the mother as primary, primitive object is forbidden. It is important to appreciate that the oedipal situation is symbolically structured.

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