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Like Subjects, Love Objects

Like Subjects, Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference

Jessica Benjamin
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 246
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bj4z
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  • Book Info
    Like Subjects, Love Objects
    Book Description:

    In this important book, the author ofThe Bonds of Lovediscusses gender issues from the perspective of developmental psychoanalysis. Jessica Benjamin, a well-known psychoanalyst and feminist, makes a case for what she calls "gender heterodoxy"-a highly original view of the similarities and differences between the sexes-and in the process she illuminates aspects of love, sexuality, aggression, and pornography.Benjamin elaborates and develops the psychoanalytic theory of intersubjectivity, taking up the question: What difference does it make when I consider the Other to be not merely an object of my mind but a subject in his or her own right, with a center of being equivalent to my own? This question of recognition is closely related to how we frame, tolerate, and theorize difference and is therefore tied to the issue of gender. Benjamin argues that intersubjective theory does not replace but rather adds to the existing intrapsychic theory of psychoanalysis, which focuses on the individual. Her both/and (as opposed to either/or) approach is carried throughout the book, for Benjamin brilliantly integrates relational and Freudian positions, feminist and psychoanalytic theory, and clinical and theoretical information.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15682-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    These essays represent an effort to place in bolder relief some of the main ideas expressed inThe Bonds of Love(1988) and to critically rethink others. I was impelled by the challenge to provide a more detailed account of the implications of my ideas for psychoanalytic theory and practice, as well as to reconsider certain problems that the intervening years have brought into focus.

    The position from which I write — that of a psychoanalyst involved from the beginning with feminist thought—is not one that can rely on the well-worn grooves of an established discipline. Rather, it is located...

  5. 1 Recognition and Destruction: An Outline of Intersubjectivity
    (pp. 27-48)

    In recent years analysts from diverse psychoanalytic schools have converged in the effort to formulate relational theories of the self (Eagle 1984, S. Mitchell 1988). What these approaches share is the belief that the human mind is interactive rather than monadic, that the psychoanalytic process should be understood as occurring between subjects rather than within the individual (Atwood and Stolorow 1984, S. Mitchell 1988). Mental life is seen from an intersubjective perspective. Although this perspective has transformed both our theory and our practice in important ways, such transformations create new problems. A theory in which the individual subject no longer...

  6. 2 Sameness and Difference: An “Overinclusive” View of Gender Constitution
    (pp. 49-80)

    The idea of gender development has of necessity been linked to the notion of coming to terms with difference. What has changed in contemporary psychoanalysis is the meaning of sexual difference. Assimilating the meaning of sexual difference(s) and assuming a position in relation to it/them are no longer seen as being triggered by the discovery of anatomical facts. The way in which perceptions of anatomy and the body come tofiguredifference is now a matter for further exploration. Psychoanalytic assumptions about the character of gender difference, however, have not been wholly liberated from the naturalizing tendency in Freud’s thought,...

  7. 3 The Omnipotent Mother: A Psychoanalytic Study of Fantasy and Reality
    (pp. 81-114)

    Karen Horney (1932) began her classic essay “The Dread of Woman” with Schiller’s poem about “The Diver” whose search for a woman doomed him to the perils of the engulfing deep. Horney suggests that man’s longing for woman is always coupled with “the dread that through her he might die and be undone.” This fear may be concealed either by contempt or by adoration: contempt repairs the injury to masculine self-esteem, whereas adoration covers dread with awe and mystery. Speculating on the origin of these feelings, Horney declares, “If the grown man continues to regard woman as a great mystery,...

  8. 4 Father and Daughter, Identification with Difference: A Contribution to Gender Heterodoxy
    (pp. 115-142)

    Since the 1970s most of Freud’s views on feminine development have been subjected to critical revision. Where Freud (1933) saw the girl beginning life as “a little man,” most analysts now regard the girl’s early attachment to her mother as a bond of identification that fosters her femininity. Numerous papers have disputed Freud’s (1925, 1931, 1933) main contentions: that girls are not aware of their own genitals, that they do not develop a firm superego, that they are more guided by envy of the opposite sex than boys. More generally, a new theory of gender identity has been evolving (Stoller...

  9. 5 What Angel Would Hear Me? The Erotics of Transference
    (pp. 143-174)

    The inspiration for this essay is the opening passage of Rilke’sDuino Elegies.¹ Although Freud committed psychoanalysis to the process of demystification, it is not precisely in that spirit that I transpose the figure of the Angel from the sacred to the therapeutic. Rather, I wish to summon up that aspect of mystery which remains alive in psychoanalysis, in the erotic force of the transference. For the terrifying and powerful figure of the Angel seems to express something of the awe and danger that Freud first discovered in the relationship between Breuer and Anna O, a force equal to that...

  10. 6 Sympathy for the Devil: Notes on Sexuality and Aggression, with Special Reference to Pornography
    (pp. 175-212)

    The occasion for these remarks was a conference on pornography, which led me to speculate about the excitement associated with sadistic fantasies and images of sexual violation. Viewing a number of pornographic works, the participants in the conference were compelled to conclude that their awareness of sexual objectification and degradation, even their revulsion, did not exclude fascination and excitement. Indeed, any observers who can tolerate the conflict may note with dismay their own excited responses to fantasies or images of acts that they know would in reality be distasteful, perhaps frightening or even traumatic. The same sexual fantasy may at...

  11. References
    (pp. 213-226)
  12. Index
    (pp. 227-234)