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Mitchell, J. (1991). Commentary on “Deconstructing Difference: Gender, Splitting, and Transitional Space”. Psychoanal. Dial., 1(3):353-357.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 1(3):353-357

Commentary on “Deconstructing Difference: Gender, Splitting, and Transitional Space” Related Papers

Juliet Mitchell

I am going to use Muriel Dimen's most interesting article to express some general concerns I have had for a long time about feminist concepts of gender within the use of psychoanalytic theory. It is somewhat unfair to treat her work thus symptomatically, but I hope my “reply” will be regarded as it is intended, as the opening of a friendly debate between co-workers in the field.

The important and interesting ideas in Dimen's article are, for me, those in which she extends Winnicott's notion of transitional space and of paradox to reconsider the relationship of dualisms, particularly of femininity and masculinity. Dimen's loose use of the concept of splitting to cover cultural dichotomies indifferently with an intrapsychic process seems to create more problems than it solves. My greatest difficulty is with her particular feminist use of the term “gender” in the context of psychoanalytic theory.

For Winnicott paradox means the holding together of two apparently opposed perspectives. His concept of transitional space is of the area where this possibility comes into being. In this space both mother and infant are engaged in separating themselves from a primary fusion; here they can move in and out of feeling themselves to be the same person and experiencing their difference from each other. It is the area where one creates the object that is already there, a lifelong place of play and rest in which there is no necessary distinction between inner and outer, subject and object.

Dimen agrees with Winnicott that the psychoanalytic session can offer the possibility of paradox. Indeed, I think it can and should.

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