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Mitchell, J. (2001). Reflections on Ethel Spector Person's: The Sexual Century. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(3):243-260.

(2001). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(3):243-260

Reflections on Ethel Spector Person's: The Sexual Century

Juliet Mitchell, Ph.D.

The Sexual Century (Person, 1999) is a fascinating study of its subject. It is also a book, that, I believe, will itself become an object of study; a document of its time. Person has collected essays from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that she wrote either alone or in collaboration mainly with Lionel Ovesey; she has set these in the framework of contemporary reflections on cultural attitudes at the turn of the 20th century. Person approaches her topic from two directions: that of a psychoanalyst whose methodology is to start from the psychopathologies we all share, and that of a psychologist who is investigating the normative. The conjunction proves most fruitful, giving us a phenomenology of sexual fantasies and gender positions and different perspectives from which to investigate these.

Before engaging with the rich themes of Person's book, I need to set out some of my own questions and difficulties in relation to the topic she addresses. First, the terms sex and gender.

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