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Harris, A. (2018). Intersubjectivity In Psychoanalysis: By Lewis Kirshner. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. 160 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 87(3):614-619.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(3):614-619

Intersubjectivity In Psychoanalysis: By Lewis Kirshner. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. 160 pp.

Review by:
Adrienne Harris

Reading Lewis Kirshner’s new book Intersubjectivity in Psychoanalysis, and now writing this review, has been a task filled with pleasure and engagement. At the same time, the book has made demands on this reader to think hard about the issues at stake in revisiting and reviving a focus on semiotics for psychoanalysis. I read this book over about a three-month period, reading, thinking, talking with students, and being with patients, and found the issues raised by Kirshner both demanding and compelling.

Kirshner undertakes this project in a way that is deeply convincing. I think the book’s ethos is very much in the spirit of many intersubjective projects going back to the 1970s with Winnicott and Green, and going forward to the contemporary movements, which depend on thinking in a two-person situation. To move the focus into the social and cultural field that Kirshner places it, this project is connected, in particular, to the very expansive body of work that looks at forms of social, sexual, and racial identifications as these are constituted in families, in individuals, and in the world. What is to me the heart of this project is Kirshner’s determination to keep a focus on the interpersonal, socio-cultural registers, and on the unconscious. We do not lose the body or the world or the unconscious in his analytic project. I think very strongly this is a direction underway and much needed in psychoanalysis at this historical moment.

I am certainly convinced by Kirshner’s presentation that semiotics—a focus on signs, on language as culture and individual practice, and on the many projects of symbolization and representation—needs a strong and visible place among our theoretical and clinical tools. I am convinced of this even as we are, in North American psychoanalysis, I would say, just beginning to really absorb the complexity of representation.

[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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