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Fisher, D.J. (1996). Remembering Robert J. Stoller (1924-1991). Psychoanal. Rev., 83(1):1-9.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(1):1-9

Remembering Robert J. Stoller (1924-1991)

David James Fisher, Ph.D.

Robert J. Stoller, M. D., evolved from having an ordinary, if distinguished, career in Psychiatry into an extraordinary, world class thinker and researcher in psychoanalysis. From 1954 until his death, he served on the academic faculty at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, where he was regarded as an outstanding teacher, sensitive supervisor, and first-rate theorist. Stoller's investigations into the areas of sexuality and gender formation sprang from a deep reservoir of intellectual and clinical curiosity, a wish to understand aspects of sexual behavior and fantasy that were insufficiently explored by traditional psychoanalytic perspectives. Stoller articulated, defined, and illustrated concepts that are now widely current. These include the concept of core gender identity; the central importance of the interplay between the mother and infant in the crystallization of gender identity; the vast spectrum of psychodynamics of transsexualism, homosexuality, and perversions; the interplay of biological determinants with very early family environment in the generation of psychological conflict; the critical importance of aggression in contributing to the excitement of sexual arousal, particularly in perverse patients, but active, in one degree or another, in all aspects of play, fantasy, and imaginative activity.

In recent years, Stoller combined his clinical skills with the research methods of anthropology and ethology. He employed these talents in endeavoring to comprehend aspects of Sambian culture in Papua, New Guinea, as well as the subcultures of sadomasochism and pornography in West Hollywood; in these studies the psychoanalytic inquiry into individual sexuality and personal history expanded into and intersected with the realm of cultural structures and social mores.

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