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Clarke, J. (2019). We need to talk about Fabian: Klein’s ‘lost’ theory of projective identification and the social construction of gender/queer objects. Psychoanal. Psychother., 33(3):192-217.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 33(3):192-217

We need to talk about Fabian: Klein’s ‘lost’ theory of projective identification and the social construction of gender/queer objects

Jeremy Clarke

Melanie Klein’s seminal concept of projective identification provides an important theoretical mechanism for working through the Oedipus complex. Klein saw it as the key to achieving emotional maturity. As well as the choice of object, which decides our sexual identity, Klein sees a second choice to be made as subject, which shapes our gender. The question is not only ‘what does a woman (or man) want?’, as Freud and Jones argued, but ‘who (and how) does a woman (or man) become?’, as Simone de Beauvoir memorably asked. How is our gender acquired for us and by us? Queer theory asks us to refuse gender normativity. That is one response. But unless we arrive at our own answer to gender, says Klein, the capacities both to love and to be loved will remain elusive.

Klein invites us to leave Oedipus behind in Ancient Thebes and move the stage to Paris in 1920, the setting for a novel by Julien Green, If I Were You. Our Modern hero is a young man, Fabian Especel. This article rediscovers Fabian and adds to Klein’s theory of internal objects the role of queer objects as Weberian ‘abject types’, to update the Oedipus complex today.

[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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