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Benton, R.J. (1988). Creativity and Perversion. Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1984, ix + 172 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(3):485-489.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(3):485-489

Creativity and Perversion. Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1984, ix + 172 pp.

Review by:
Robert J. Benton

Creativity and Perversion is a fascinating book. It is also — perhaps because it is the transcription of a series of lectures — somewhat loosely organized, attempting to cover a vast amount of territory, and for that reason it would be difficult to summarize in a short space. But there is a central thesis that links the various parts and that can be put fairly simply. The main thesis is that “perversion” (in this book perversion is usually treated as though it were a single entity) represents the wish to deny what are to the author the two fundamental facts of human reality: the difference between the sexes and the difference between the generations. Perversion is said to result from the wish of the preoedipal child (in the author's examples almost always a boy) to deny the existence of female genitals different from his own and to deny the superiority of the father's genitals to the child's in order to maintain the fantasy that he can satisfy his mother without becoming an adult. In developing this thesis, Chasseguet-Smirgel argues, further, that perversion actually aims at denying reality per se, and in fact at destroying all order and replacing it with chaos disguised as an idealized order. In addition, although she generally speaks of “perversion” as though it were monolithic, it is really fetishism that she takes as the pattern for all perversion; and she advances a theory of fetishism contrary to Freud's that sees the fetish not as a symbolic representation of the mother's imagined penis and thus as a defense against castration anxiety, but rather as a result of a regression from the genital to the anal-sadistic stage and an idealization of anal objects.

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