"FEMININITIES, MASCULINITIES, SEXUALITIES: Freud and Beyond" by Nancy J. Chodorow

"FEMININITIES, MASCULINITIES, SEXUALITIES: Freud and Beyond"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Feminist theorist Chodorow conducts a complex, uneven, though occasionally intriguing investigation of some of the more controversial aspects of Freud's (and others', from Klein to Lacan) work on sex, gender, and psychoanalysis. Based on a series of lectures Chodorow (Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, 1989) presented at the University of Kentucky in 1990, this slim volume examines the limits of Freud's psychoanalytic theory and practice, and argues that they can still help us ""fully understand gender and sexuality in all their forms."" Addressing the persistent criticisms of Freud by feminists, gay and lesbian theorists, and contemporary psychoanalysts, Chodorow largely agrees that psychoanalysis offers reductive and universalizing accounts of gender and sexuality (i.e., male dominance and heterosexualtiy are normal), but she expends great intellectual effort to illustrate exceptions and to provide more complex psychoanalytic understandings. Her first chapter contrasts the wide variety of outcomes of female development that Freud's clinical work actually acknowledges with the account of ""normal femininity"" that we often take for Freudian theory. In her most compelling chapter Chodorow contends that psychoanalysis does not have an adequate developmental account of ""normal heterosexuality,"" though all sexuality results from psychological struggle and needs to be accounted for. She contrasts this with the rigorous psychoanalytic examination of homosexual development, which provides something of a model. Least comprehensive by far (because there appears to be less source material) is her chapter dealing with how men and women love. Here Chodorow maintains that there are as many kinds of feminine love (or masculine love) as there are women (or men), and that they are shaped by culture, family, and personal psychology. Though this collection suffers from a dense academic style and does not significantly build on Chodorow's previous work, it nonetheless provides a provocative reminder that these are complex issues and that humans, with their capacity for individual variation, are complicated subjects.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0813108284
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky