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Couve, C. (1994). The Gender Conundrum. Edited and introduced by Dana Breen. Routledge. £40.00 (hardback), £15.99 (paperback). Pp. viii + 304.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 8(3):295-297.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 8(3):295-297

The Gender Conundrum. Edited and introduced by Dana Breen. Routledge. £40.00 (hardback), £15.99 (paperback). Pp. viii + 304.

Review by:
Cyril Couve

This excellent book comprises fifteen key papers already published elsewhere by French, American and British psychoanalysts. The bulk of these papers were published in the 1980s and five in the 1970s, which gives the book its contemporary character.

The virtue of the book thus does not lie in the novelty of its contents. Rather, it lies in the exhaustive, and thoughtful background research undertaken by Dana Breen. The scope of the research lays the ground for her judicious selection and imaginative organisation of contemporary psychoanalytic writings on the vast and very alive topic of the Oedipus complex and the gender conundrum.

The key to Breen's organisation of the book can be gleaned from her forty-page introduction. It is both pithy and thought-provoking. In this introductory essay Breen presents the reader, in a highly digestible and amenable form, the sheer scope of Oedipus theory, both in its vertical-historical and in its more horizontal-contemporary dimension. Freud, Klein and Lacan constitute the major theoretical triumvirate in relation to whose thought contemporary trends and controversies are situated and evaluated. I found Breen's ability to compare across these theories particularly illuminating. I also think that, in addition, she manages to desensitise the Anglo-Saxon reader to certain ‘epistemological anxieties’ with respect to the supposed opacity and impermeability of French psychoanalytic thought!

In her introduction, the editor gives an excellent summary of the major landmarks which have shaped psychoanalytical views on the controversial topic of femininity.

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