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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. Credit


Juliet Mitchell is a Professor of Psychoanalysis and Gender Studies at Cambridge University, where she is also a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. She is a Full Member of the British Psychoanalytic Society. Her most recent book is Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria and the Sibling Relationship for the Human Condition.

1 Of the 20 chapters, ten are solo authored; seven are written with Ovesey (to whom the book is dedicated), one is written with Susan Coates, and three are written with Nettie Terestman, Wayne A. Meyers, and Eugene L. Goldberg; of those three, one chapter is also written with Carol Salvadori and another with Michael Borenstein.

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