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Colman, L. (1988). The place of the parents in psychoanalytic theory. Free Associations, 1(12):92-125.

(1988). Free Associations, 1(12):92-125

The place of the parents in psychoanalytic theory

Linda Colman

In this essay I juxtapose leinian conceptions — especially those of Wilfred Bion — to those of a leading Freudian psychoanalyst, Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. I do so by reflecting upon a recent book of her essays gathered under the title Sexuality and Mind: The Role of the Father and the Mother in the Psyche (New York University Press, 1986, 159 pages, plus index).

In her essay ‘The paradox of the Freudian method: from the abolishment of otherness to the universal law’, Chasseguet-Smirgel shows how comprehensively an Enlightenment metaphor for thinking has contributed to Freud's ideas about the mind. As well as placing Freud in a cultural historical context itself characterized by opposition and dichotomy (German Romanticism and Judaism), Chasseguet-Smirgel demonstrates that much of psychoanalytic thinking, including her own theory of the archaic matrix of the Oedipus complex, is still very much an expression of this Enlightenment understanding of how the mind works. Throughout her book Sexuality and Mind, Chasseguet-Smirgel discloses the important role of the father as the signifier of separation and division (the father separates the infant from the mother by means of his embodiment of the incest barrier and his unique ability to satisfy and procreate with the mother) and argues that the father is identified in the psyche with thought and ultimately with reality itself.

Chasseguet-Smirgel quotes a letter from Arnold Zweig to Sigmund Freud at the beginning of her chapter on the Freudian method, a chapter in which she makes explicit the cultural derivatives of Freudian metapsychology. In his letter Zweig defines Freud's work as ‘Apollonian accounts of what is taking place in the primitive abyss of Dionysos’.

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