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Moss, D. (1989). On Situating the Object: Thoughts on the Maternal Function, Modernism and Post-Modernism. Am. Imago, 46(4):353-369.

(1989). American Imago, 46(4):353-369

On Situating the Object: Thoughts on the Maternal Function, Modernism and Post-Modernism

Donald Moss, M.D.

In clinical psychoanalysis, just as in the wider culture, much contemporary argument focuses on the “original” object. Its privileged, mythic, status is bluntly challenged by widespread post-modern strategies of quotation, mimicry and duplication. And in psychoanalysis, particularly in work spawned by Lacan, its empirical weight, its “thingness,” is challenged by way of a semiotic strategy—the object, no matter how primal, invariably will be revealed to be constructed by signifiers. And these signifiers, no matter how weighted, can be replaced, displaced, by other signifiers. If revealed as structurally unstable, the “original” object can no longer stake firm claim to occupy the commanding progenitive place of the “original.”

In this paper, I want to address some of the questions which seem to arise as the “original” object's original status is challenged.

What holds the object in place? What determines its erotic and historical valences? What are the structures through which it simultaneously sustains a relation to its own predecessors and spawns its own descendants?

Regardless of one's particular responses to these questions, one implication of simply posing them is that the object here is not being theorized as autonomous. Rather, its qualities and functions are being thought of as contingent, and therefore as historical and local. The object so theorized is placed within a determining network of other objects.

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