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Soler, C. Holland, J. (2005). New Figures of Women. Psychoanal. Rev., 92(4):581-593.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Review, 92(4):581-593

New Figures of Women

Colette Soler and John Holland

In 1832, Balzac wrote a novel titled A Woman of Thirty (1832, 1897). In 1932, curiously, Freud ends his lecture on femininity with some considerations on the thirty-year-old woman. Balzac and Freud were writing a century apart, in two different languages, were living in two countries, and although they were both Europeans, operated within two different discourses.

The title Lacan gives to his seminar, L'envers de la psychanalyse (1991), is an allusion to another title by Balzac, The Reverse of Contemporary Life (L'envers de la vie contemporaine) (1903).1 Balzac, obviously, writes from the point of view of the reverse (envers). As for Freud, in 1932, when he gives his final assessment of his analytic experience of women, his message is radically opposed to Balzac's.

The implicit message of Balzac's novel, seen from a contemporary viewpoint, is one of progress, which anticipates something of the evolution of women's conditions. Balzac writes to say that at the age of thirty, his heroine, despite her misfortunes, has her life in front of her. In this case, the future means love, and also the possibility of determining her own life. As the jacket of my copy of the novel says, “She is not forbidden from becoming a human being.”


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