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Kaplan, E.A. (1996). Monster or Genius? Medea or Madame Curie? The Dilemma of the Menopausal Female Intellectual: A Review of Nicholas Wright's Mrs. Klein.. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(5):787-792.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(5):787-792

Monster or Genius? Medea or Madame Curie? The Dilemma of the Menopausal Female Intellectual: A Review of Nicholas Wright's Mrs. Klein.

E. Ann Kaplan

Jacqueline Rose has pinpointed a problematic choice that is particularly significant for intellectual women: namely, that between risking “corruption” by “the world of logical necessity” or being assigned to exclusion if they remain outside the law of logic, intellect, and (it is implied) within a world of emotion.1 In the context of Nicholas Wright's play Mrs. Klein, I focus on the problem as it intersects with myths of motherhood, aging, and especially with the dilemma of the menopausal intellectual woman.

Within Western culture's gender discourses, the intellectual woman is by definition a hybrid creature, a cross between “masculine” (located as reason, intellect) and “feminine” (sexuality, emotion, reproduction). In nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Euro-American cultures, mothers become “monstrous” only too easily:2 How far does Wright avoid pervasive cultural stereotypes and fears of the “monstrous mother” which make representing any historical intellectual mother all but impossible other than as a stereotype? Does the play reduce Klein's intellect to her emotional life, locating intellect as a defense against overpowering emotions, as Klein herself and other analysts following Freud tended to do?

Set in 1934 London, Wright's play dramatizes a specific moment in Melanie Klein's menopausal life, when, aged 52, she learns of the sudden death of her son, Hans.3 The intersection of intellect and emotion is particularly fascinating in Klein's case because her intellectual life and her career are involved in the theory and practice of a cure for emotional ills via a psychoanalyst/patient relationship.

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