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Bratton, M. (2001). Me or Not Me: The Lost Object?. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 6(2):209-225.

(2001). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 6(2):209-225

Me or Not Me: The Lost Object?

Mary Bratton, Ph.D.

This paper outlines the work of psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, in the area of literary criticism, melancholia, and the phantom, and suggests avenues of approaching their work that might be useful for those interested in applications of a set of psychoanalytic theories that reassesses some of the fundamental concepts of Freudian theory. I am interested in applications to cultural representations of gender which have a resonance with melancholia and the phantom, particularly where this involves transgenerational effects of gender and sexuality, and their aberrant transmission in narrative. To this end I offer a gender-oriented critique of Abraham's (1988) reading of Hamlet, “The Phantom of Hamlet” or “The Sixth Act: Preceded by the Intermission of ‘Truth,’” and I find in Ophelia's suicide a key to understanding ongoing difficulties of sex—gender constructivism as exemplified by Judith Butler's theory of melancholic gender in Gender Trouble, which indeed has a brief and tantalizing reference to the collaborative work of the two psychoanalysts. I find in the work of Torok, an understanding of melancholia as an object of theory and a poetics of practice, telling the story of an object whose desires remain unrealized and which mourns ceaselessly for its subject.

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