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Reynoso, J.S. (2016). The Writer Within: The Artist as Celebrity Object. Am. Imago, 73(2):181-199.

(2016). American Imago, 73(2):181-199

The Writer Within: The Artist as Celebrity Object

Joseph S. Reynoso, Ph.D.


In previous work (2012, 2013), I introduced my ideas on the various psychic functions the fantasied relation between an individual and a famous cultural figure serves. Making observations from clinical work with children and adults, I claimed that the attachment a person forms to a celebrity (broadly conceived) may highlight object relational dynamics that are less apparent in the patient's transference patterns and interpersonal relationships. I have come to think that there are certain qualities of celebrity objects—representations of relatively famous persons not directly known to the individual—that distinguish them from the kind of object ties a person can form to someone personally knowable to them.

First, the psychological distance the celebrity has from the individual allows for an extended range of freedom of conscious and unconscious thoughts, feelings and mental actions within an internalized self-object dyad (Kernberg, 1975, 1984). With a celebrity that one has little or no direct access to, a person may more easily be able to acknowledge consciously the intense wishes involving aggression and love that are unknowingly derived from relationships with primary figures in the person's life. Second, in an imaginary relation to a famous figure, the individual experiences increased ability to manipulate and control this object representation. With some basic limitations, such as making the celebrity figure appear in physical form, a person is able to practice forms of omnipotent control in an imaginary relationship to an illustrious other.

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