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Brusset, B. (2019). Œdipe médecin (séparation, dépression, sublimation): [Oedipus as therapist (separation, depression, sublimation)], by Paul Denis, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2017, 237 pp., €24. ISBN: 9782130797982. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(4):805-811.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(4):805-811

Œdipe médecin (séparation, dépression, sublimation): [Oedipus as therapist (separation, depression, sublimation)], by Paul Denis, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2017, 237 pp., €24. ISBN: 9782130797982

Review by:
Bernard Brusset

The style of this book is enjoyable and straightforward, free from jargon and neologisms; it is nourished by the author’s intimate knowledge of the classics of French literature. The title requires an explanation. The reference to Oedipus is not a reference to the unconscious complex involving incestuous desire and the wish for the death of the rival, the complex at the origin of the neuroses. It designates the therapeutic elaboration of that complex in an analytical setting, in particular as it applies to cases of mourning, trauma and “sexual madness”. The oedipal structuring of desires and identifications that is integral to sexual and generational differentiation and psychical bisexuality is what enables the overcoming and regulation of conflict, as does the institution of a protective superego.

The author’s many original developments are all rooted in his clinical experiences as an analyst, his understanding of the characters of literature and his own theses, which he has defended and exemplified for 20 years (Emprise et satisfaction. Les deux formants de la pulsion [Mastery and Satisfaction. The Two Formative Components of the Drive], Paris PUF, 1998). Since the book reviewed here contains many references to this earlier work, it is necessary to start by outlining its main ideas. Like Jones, Laplanche and many others, the author rejects the notion of the death drive and only retains some aspects of Freud’s second topographical model. He does not replace the death drive with the drive for mastery but proposes a new theoretical model of the drive in which he foregrounds the conjunction and disjunction of two formative components of the drive, both libidinal: a force that cathects satisfaction and another current of cathexis that is in the “mode of mastery”.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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