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Vaughan, S. (2017). In the Night Kitchen: What Are the Ingredients of Infantile Sexuality?. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(3):344-348.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(3):344-348

In the Night Kitchen: What Are the Ingredients of Infantile Sexuality?

Susan C. Vaughan, M.D.

Building upon Frances Thomson-Salo and Campbell Paul’s own reference to the image from Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott-winning 1970 book In the Night Kitchen, Vaughan argues that the “joyful erotism” of Sendak’s “naked baby tumbling through the night” is central to the main point of the paper, namely, that sexuality is inseparable from other essential elements of vitality such as intensely pleasurable excited gratification, physical embodiment, and embeddedness in the motherfatherchild relational matrix. She suggests that attempts at parsing and separating these inseparable ingredients of early eroticism from one another is as futile as trying to decide whether the egg, the flour, or the milk are the most important ingredient in making a cake. Instead, with this aside, Thomson-Salo and Paul demonstrate that vitality in all its forms is created in the joyful eroticism of early life experience in which sexuality, sensuality, emotionality, and connectedness meet. By understanding and celebrating the charged connection between parent and infant, the authors help the parents they work with to enjoy, stretch, and kindle the joyful excitement of early infancy that must always contain sexuality at its core. By creating in their infants the “quality of intensely pleasurable excited gratification,” parents help create new ways of being together and sharing the contours and shapes of an experience that are crucial to early development.

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