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Phillips, A. (1995). Keeping It Moving: Commentary on Judith Butler's “Melancholy Gender—Refused Identification”. Psychoanal. Dial., 5(2):181-188.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 5(2):181-188

Keeping It Moving: Commentary on Judith Butler's “Melancholy Gender—Refused Identification” Related Papers

Adam Phillips

Ends of sentences and other pauses only come when we run out of time or hope.

Carolyn Creedon, The Best American Poetry

If, as Freud (1923) suggests, character is constituted by identification—the ego likening itself to what it once loved—then character is close to caricature, an imitation of an imitation. Like the artists Plato wanted to ban, we are making copies of copies, but unlike Plato's artists we have no original, only an infinite succession of likenesses to someone who, to all intents and purposes, does not exist. Freud's notion of character is a parody of a Platonic work of art; his theory of character formation through identification makes a mockery of character as in any way substantive. The ego is always dressing up for somewhere to go. Insofar as being is being like, there can be no place for True selves or core gender identities. After all, my sense of authenticity can come only from the senses of authenticity in my culture. In this context, my True Self is more accurately described as my Preferred Self (or Selves). I am the performer of my conscious and unconscious preferences.

Lacan's mirror-stage is a testament to the havoc wreaked by mimetic forms of development; and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen (1993) and Leo Bersani (1986, 1990) in particular have exposed the violence and tautology of Freud's theory of identification, the mutual implication and complicity involved in being like.

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