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Lupton, M.J. (1989). Claude Dagmar Daly: Notes on the Menstruation Complex. Am. Imago, 46(1):1-20.

(1989). American Imago, 46(1):1-20

Claude Dagmar Daly: Notes on the Menstruation Complex

Mary Jane Lupton, Ph.D.

In 1950 an obituary written by J. R. (John Rickman) appeared in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. The heading read “CLAUD DANGAR DALY” (1884-1950). The first and middle names in this notice of Daly's death were misspelled—as literal a denial of CLAUDE DAGMAR DALY's significance to psychoanalytic theory as one could imagine. Yet only seven years earlier the same journal had published “The Role of Menstruation in Human Phylogenesis and Ontogenesis,” a terse and brilliant essay on menstruation and psychic evolution.

My essay is itself an obituary. It is also an attempt to challenge, through an assessment of Daly's forgotten work on the menstruation complex, the persistent psychoanalytic denial of menstruation, both in theory and in practice. In traditional therapy, menstruation has been considered a “psychosomatic disorder” that must be stopped—as in Marie Cardinal's moving account of her “cure” in The Words to Say It. In the Afterword to Cardinal's autobiography, Bruno Bettel-heim comments on its menstrual theme, remarking that Cardinal had acted out her feelings of being unwanted by “developing a symptom that made her feel utterly disgusting,” but that “a few words uttered by a psychoanalyst” had ended the problem (303-05).

Claude Dagmar Daly, on the other hand, espoused an unorthodox belief in the menstrual process as a key factor in the psychosexual development of both women and men, a factor to be investigated both in analysis and in the formulation of a theory of sexuality.

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