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The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Im-possible Self-love

The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Im-possible Self-love

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Im-possible Self-love
    Book Description:

    This book aims to wrest the concept of narcissism from its common and pejorative meanings egoism and vanity by revealing its complexity and importance. DeArmitt undertakes the work of rehabilitating "narcissism" by patiently reexamining the terms and figures that have been associated with it, especially in the writings of Rousseau, Kristeva, and Derrida. These thinkers are known for incisively exposing a certain (traditional) narcissism that has been operative in Western thought and culture and for revealing the violence it has wrought from the dangers of amour-propre and the pathology of a collective "one's own" to the phantasm of the sovereign One. Nonetheless, each of these thinkers denounces the naive denunciation of "narcissism," as the dangers of a non-negotiation with narcissism are more perilous. By rethinking "narcissism" as a complex structure of self-relation through the Other, the book reveals the necessity of an im-possible self-love.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5447-7
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: The Right to Narcissism?
    (pp. 1-14)

    The right to narcissism?Any claim to a right to narcissism would raise more than a few eyebrows. Is not narcissism problematic enough, but to call for its legitimation, to openly declare, as Derrida does in the above epigraph, that narcissism should be “rehabilitated,” as if it has ever been neglected and fallen into disrepair?¹ Have not our contemporary philosophers, cultural theorists, theologians, and even literary scholars spilled much ink over the pervasive egoism of our time and, with it, the troubling disregard for the other—each and every other? Have not ethical discourses proliferated as correctives to this seemingly...

  2. PART I. Rousseau:: The Passions of Narcissus

      (pp. 17-22)

      In the hands of the French moralists of the seventeenth century, Ovid’s Narcissus does not appear as a hubristic and deluded figure but rather as a cunning and perverse passion that can outwit the most reasonable of men.¹ From Madame de Sablé’sMaximesto Pascal’sPensées, themot du jourof the moralists was most certainlyamour-propre, which translated the Latinamor sui. As inheritors of the texts of the Church Fathers, the moralists appropriated the Augustinian opposition betweenamor sui(amour-propre) andamor Dei(charité).² In the reflections of the moralists, especially in the writings of its most famous...

    • CHAPTER 1 Man’s Double Birth
      (pp. 23-35)

      The preceding epigraph, drawn from the second paragraph of Book IV ofEmile, marks a dramatic split and shift between two epochs of human existence—childhood and adulthood—which are so vastly distinct for Rousseau that they each require their own birth, maturation, and education.¹ One finds this double birth, to one’s species and sex, doubly inscribed in Rousseau’s work: first, in theDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality, where the development of the human race is charted from its inception (state of nature) to its demise (society), and, second, inEmile, where a more or less parallel map is...

    • CHAPTER 2 Regarding Self-Love Anew
      (pp. 36-50)

      The neat parallelism and apparent continuity between theSecond DiscourseandEmilebegins to break down if one examines these two texts more carefully. Perhaps some of the conflation of the ideas in these two works is becauseEmile, a text primarily relegated to pedagogical studies in the English-speaking world, is little or poorly read in the discipline of philosophy. Yet, the most extensive and nuanced treatment of the two forms of self-love in Rousseau’s corpus is found inEmile. One Anglophone scholar, Nicholas Dent, who has devoted serious attention to the notions ofamour de soiandamour-proprein...

  3. PART II. Kristeva:: The Rebirth of Narcissus

      (pp. 53-60)

      In the opening line of a yet to be translated text,L’amour de soi et ses avatars: Démesure et limites de la sublimation, Julia Kristeva writes: “Self-love is perhaps the most enigmatic expression, and experience, there is.”¹ One only needs to take a cursory look back at Western discourses, be they philosophical, religious, or literary, from Aristotle to Kant’s ethical treatments ofphilautia, from Plotinus to Aquinas’s more metaphysical speculations on the subject, from La Rochefoucauld to Rousseau’s moral reflections onamour de soiandamour-propre, to confirm the veracity of Kristeva’s assertion.² Considering the scope of the thinkers who...

    • CHAPTER 3 Reconceiving Freud’s Narcissus
      (pp. 61-79)

      In order to make sense of the complex relationship between Eros and Narcissus, between love of the other and love of self, we must retrace the steps in Kristeva’s return to Freud in which she unfolds and reworks his complex notion of narcissism. Kristeva’s reading reveals that, in his writings, Freud radically reconfigures the Narcissus of the tradition and “surreptitiously rehabilitate[s] narcissism” (TL 123/155). In doing so, Freud finds the face of Narcissus not only on “perverts” and “inverts” but also on “every living creature” (SE 14:74). This latter form of narcissism, which Freud dubs “primary and normal narcissism,” is...

    • CHAPTER 4 Transference, or Amorous Dynamics
      (pp. 80-88)

      Love is a necessary seeming, which is to be restored, aroused, promoted endlessly.

      Tales of Love

      After so persuasively demonstrating that self-love is not reducible to a moral value or a medical symptom but rather that it is a complex organization that enables the emerging subject to take shape and to truly live, it would only make sense that Kristeva would not portray Eros as an anti-Narcissus and depict love of the other as wholly distinct or severed from love of the self. Kristeva, like a certain Freud, resists the overly simplistic and naïve opposition that has so often been...

  4. PART III. Derrida:: The Mourning of Narcissus

      (pp. 91-100)

      It is undeniable, as Derrida himself declares in the preceding epigraph fromSpecters of Marx, that deconstruction has always been concerned with the aporetic notion of narcissism; indeed it has been and, as we will maintain in Part III “Derrida: The Mourning of Narcissus,” remains itsexplicit theme.¹ Therefore, it is necessary to turn our attention to the books and articles that Derrida devotes to the theme of narcissism. Yet, one searches in vain to find one single text—whether a book, an article, an interview or a film—that explicitly addresses the theme of narcissism.² It seems that on...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Eye of Narcissus
      (pp. 101-123)

      An allegorical metonymy […] says something other than what it says and manifests the other [allos].

      Memoires: for Paul de Man

      It was quite a scene at the grand and historic Odéon Theater in Paris on the evening of February 26, 1996. It was an event unlike any other, yet like so many before and so many after it. Derrida was invited by a group of students and professors from the University of Paris 8 (Vincennes—Saint-Denis) to attend and participate in an evening that was devoted to portraying him in sketches and in speech. Not surprisingly, the events of...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Ear of Echo
      (pp. 124-138)

      In the 1989 interview with Jean-Luc Nancy, “‘Eating Well,’ or the Calculation of the Subject,” Derrida suggests that it would be possible

      to reconstruct a discourse around a subject that would not be predeconstructive, around a subject that would no longer include a figure of mastery of self, of adequation to self, center and origin of the world […], but which would define the subject rather as a finite experience of non-identity to self, as the underivable interpellation insomuch as it comes from the other, from the trace of the other, with all the paradoxes or the aporia of being-before-the-law....

  5. Afterword. Narcissism—By What Right?
    (pp. 139-140)

    After sketching out new configurations of narcissism, which have so little in common with the numerous figures and forms of autonomy that the West has generated, one might still want to ask “By whatright?” That is to say, by what right [droit] or according to what law [droit] could one be justified in one’s narcissism? If, as Derrida so persuasively argues inRoguesand elsewhere, the Western notion of rights—first and foremost the right to regard oneself as a man—has been fundamentally bound up with the phantasm of the sovereign self and is predicated on the supposed...