Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Couching Resistance

Couching Resistance: Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry

Janet Walker
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Couching Resistance
    Book Description:

    Explores how American psychoanalytic psychiatry and Hollywood cinema between World War II and the mid-1960s negotiated women’s psychosexuality and life experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8497-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction Women and Psychiatry Reading the Cultural Texts
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    Evolved from a basic feminist goal to understand the patriarchal edifice in all its facets and incarnations—to understand it, moreover, in order to help change it—this study is concerned to show how two institutions, American psychoanalytic psychiatry and Hollywood cinema, at a certain point in history were absolutely central to the formation of feminine psychosexuality and women’s life experience. Between World War II and the mid-1960s, American psychiatry enjoyed both its greatest institutional strength and its most controversial concentration on women. It was then, too, that the largest number of Hollywood films on the subject of psychiatry and...

  5. 1 Psychiatry after World War II: The Stake in Women
    (pp. 1-22)

    As revisionist social historians have argued, the “fabulous fifties” was a mythic construction laid on a foundation of simultaneous celebration and denial: celebration of progressive prosperity for all, desirable suburbanization, and family stability; and denial of the social inequities and oppression suffered by women and minorities and of the imperialist means of securing economic prosperity.¹ When acknowledged in this ideologically myopic atmosphere, social problems had to be contained and were indeed contained by their focalization onto the site of the family.² Juvenile delinquency, crime, and the failure of American soldiers, “our boys,” to shoot to kill in battle were blamed...

  6. 2 Women and Psychiatric Technique
    (pp. 23-50)

    When individual psychiatrists, whether purposefully or inadvertently, used their treatments to adapt deviant women to traditional gender roles, they brought home to the doctor-patient relationship the institutionalized psychiatric gender-specific authoritarianism previously discussed. Conversely, when individual psychiatristsquestionedthat psychiatric prescription, whether they construed it as misapplied Freud or as being implicit to psychiatric foundations; when they abjured narrow prescriptions of appropriate femininity and supported wider notions of healthy feminine psychosexuality, they engaged in theoretical and/or practicalresistanceto adjustment therapy for women. This chapter will explore how the doctor-patient relationship, as the smallest unit of the relationship between psychiatry and...

  7. 3 Marriage and Psychiatry; or, Transference-Gountertransference as a Love Affair
    (pp. 51-87)

    With these words about cinema, Freud intimates that to treat of love is to treat of psychoanalysis. But what he might not have foreseen was the literal extent to which fictional psychoanalysts in Hollywood films would be involved as counselors or even romantic partners in the love affairs and marriages of their fictional patients. If the doctor-patient relationship is the smallest unit where therapeutic technique is realized, it is also the smallest unit where its dynamics are personified, and thus altered in the service of fiction. This chapter concentrates on films portraying a male psychiatrist and a female patient.


  8. 4 The Institutional Edifice
    (pp. 88-121)

    The apparatus of control present in classical Hollywood narrative film, and specifically represented by the institution of psychiatry in the films of this study, is overdetermined in films with mental hospital settings. These latter films translate the thematics of authority to the physical presence of the asylum, hospital, state institution, or clinic. The institution of psychiatry, in Foucault’s sense of the term “institution,” is expressed here literally as institutional psychiatry.

    The rigors of confinement are evoked by the concrete structure of the hospital building itself inBedlam, The Snake Pit, The Cobweb,andLilith,among other films that show the...

  9. 5 Psychiatry and the Working Woman
    (pp. 122-138)

    The story ofLady in the Dark(1943) concerns a single career woman who is editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine. Like its real-life counterparts, the fictionalAlluremagazine holds up to its female readership a frilly, feminine manner of dress and behavior, but its editor, Liza Elliott (Ginger Rogers), rejects this model as a personal style, opting for dark-skirted suits and a lover to whom she is not romantically attracted. As Mary Ann Doane has observed, clothing in this film is the most “explicit indication of sexual difference.”¹ But Liza is ill. She has “lost the power of making decisions”...

  10. 6 Psychiatrists and Cinema: A Correspondence
    (pp. 139-150)

    American psychiatry was well aware of its own image in relation to women, and, following World War II, organized psychiatry intervened in Hollywood film production on behalf of that image and its recipients. This chapter, as a way of consolidating and opening out questions of psychiatry, women, and cinema, presents a case study of the influence of American psychiatry on textual patterns of gendered power by investigating the epistolary and ideological correspondence between psychiatrists and the creators of three films about female mental disturbance:Shock, The Snake Pit, and Freud.

    On March 8, 1946, the American Psychiatric Association voted to...

  11. Conclusion Feminine Sexuality and the Fallible Freud
    (pp. 151-160)

    The psychiatric film texts produced between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s were forged through the cinematic reinscription and reworking of themes and images that developed out of experiences of mental disturbance, professional responses to mental disturbance, and the perceived role of gender in relation to those phenomena. Although each film enjoyed a unique relationship to the swirl of ideas around psychiatry and femininity, some general discursive through lines may be discerned. We may conclude now that the relationship between American psychiatry and women in the postwar years was characterized by fluctuations in evaluations of psychiatric expertise,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 161-190)
  13. Filmography A
    (pp. 191-193)
  14. Selected Filmography B
    (pp. 194-195)
  15. Selected Filmography C
    (pp. 196-198)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 199-204)
  17. Index
    (pp. 205-211)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)