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Hughes, M.A. (1997). Personal Experiences—Professional Interests: Joan Riviere And Femininity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:899-911.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:899-911

Personal Experiences—Professional Interests: Joan Riviere And Femininity

M. Athol Hughes

The author proposes that the subject chosen for psychoanalytical investigation bears a relationship to autobiographical experiences. Aspects of the life of the British psychoanalyst, Joan Riviere (1883-1962), are examined and related to her investigation into a form of pathological femininity presented in her paper ‘Womanliness as a masquerade’. Information about her formative years is gained from a diary kept by her mother that gives details of Joan Riviere's early months and years as well as further information about her as a young adult. Riviere's own diary, which lists events and activities in which she took part throughout more than a decade before she became a psychoanalyst, gives valuable insights into her life at that time. The author examines the descriptions of the patient in Riviere's paper and relates it to many facets of the latter's life. The defensive femininity shown by her patient is characterised by appeasement and denial of intellectual and professional attributes to escape detection and the retribution feared as a consequence of having, in phantasy, stolen potency from men. It is suggested that Riviere's own life experiences, particularly in relation to men, are represented in her paper.

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