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Burke, N. (1997). InVisible Worlds: On Women and Solitude. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(3):327-341.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(3):327-341

InVisible Worlds: On Women and Solitude

Nancy Burke, Ph.D.

Current feminist psychoanalytic theory offers a way of conceptualizing the influence of gender on the struggle to develop a capacity for solitude, and thus a way to account for the sorts of gender patterns that can be seen in our cultural iconographies of solitary men and women. Specifically, Chodorow's ideas, when taken as the basis for an inquiry into the gender-distinctive aspects of Winnicott's account of the development of a capacity for solitude, possess a potent if circumscribed power to illuminate the discomfort with women's solitude felt by individuals of both sexes. In women, the mark of this discomfort can be seen in the character of those pathologies with which they are currently most closely associated, namely, borderline personality disorder and eating disorders, while in men, its mark can be seen in a variety of relational disturbances, and may even go some way to explaining the forms that women's solitude tend to take in literature as in life. Yet the writings of other feminist psychoanalytic thinkers, and of Chodorow herself in other contexts, have likewise highlighted those aspects of female development that might render the solitude of women as particularly rich, fertile, and potentially therapeutic. Thus, it should not be surprising that more recently, as women's writing has made a self-conscious and deliberate effort to find its voice, publications have appeared, by women, which portray women's solitude in far different terms than does the received literary canon.

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