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Whitehead, C.C. (2005). Don Juan's Wager, by Francois Rachline, Other Press, New York, 2001, 254 pp. $18.00 (paper).. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 33(3):571-573.

(2005). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 33(3):571-573

Don Juan's Wager, by Francois Rachline, Other Press, New York, 2001, 254 pp. $18.00 (paper).

Review by:
Clay C. Whitehead, M.D.

Psychoanalysts have long been interested in Don Juan. Freud focused on his sexuality, Ferenczi on his psychosis, and Rank on his liberating effect on women. Now Francois Rachline brings us a postmodern view of Don Juan rendered in a seamless translation by Susan Fairfield. His perspective is that of economic epistemology which we may take as describing the derivation of meaning from the historical and philosophical context of economics. This early emphasis on hermeneutics hints at broader themes of psychoanalytic interest in Don Juan's Wager. These seductive allusions helped this reviewer to overcome the post-traumatic syndrome caused by previous encounters with the glories of Gallic hyperintellectualsm found in Sartre, Ricoeur, and Lacan. Rachline's seduction commences.

Like the Don, himself, Rachline rapidly abandons the superficial foreplay of intellectual seduction, and seeks to probe the inner core of its subject. Despite some interesting tangents, much of the book is devoted to a kind of character study of the protagonist. In the chapter “Personne” the author puns in French on his view of Don Juan: “a person and nobody; everything and nothing.” The Don is sanguine, jaded, inconstant, charming, detached, impatient, hedonistic, and passionless. Others have portrayed him as a playful lord, a damned soul, a libertine, a hero, a Renaissance man, a homosexual, a dandy, or a pervert to name only a few examples. One is struck by the enormous projections in these characterizations when one considers the biographies of their authors. Indeed, Rachline goes on to offer his view of the Don as a “conceptual figure”. He arrives at this view by a “subtractive approach” which avoids imagery, representation, and arguably, meaning. It is an essential postmodern deconstruction. We arrive at a Don who is detached, non-reciprocal, and disenchanted.


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