Annotated Bookshelf: A Non-Oedipal Psychoanalysis?

Van Haute, Philippe, and Tomas Geyskens. A Non-Oedipal Psychoanalysis? A Clinical Anthropology of Hysteria in the Works of Freud and Lacan. Translated by Joey Kok. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2012.

Poor Dora: A century of the couch, and hers remains the originary and central enigma of psychoanalysis, she stands still as the sphinx to the Freudian eddy-fuss. Source of the father’s frustration, Dora poses in fact three questions: On four legs, she begs the analyst to consider what is a hysteric?; on two, she asks as all hysterics do was will das Weib?; on three legs, she raises the issue of Oedipus, and whether or not analysis should be a normative enterprise or a pathoanalytic praxis? While touching on all three riddles, Van Haute and Geyskens take as their principle interest the final issue, arguing that in the latter approach, “[t]he different forms of psychological disorder do not stand over against psychological normality” in some positivist and objective diagnosis, but “on the contrary, they display a specific disposition that is active in normal inner emotional life, yet is expressed in an excessive way in pathology” (17). In this account, which amounts to a clinical anthropology, “[t]he power of sexual desire, oral fixation, bisexual inclination, and disgust of sexual pleasure are all constitutionally determined libidinal factors that determine Dora’s fate as a disposition, i.e., as a cluster of forces that has the potential to express itself in a severe hysterical symptomatology, but can also sublimate itself to religious surrender, feminist militancy, or literary pleasure, sublimations only announced in a crude caricaturist way in the hysterical symptom” (60). This suggests that the highest marks of culture—art, religion, philosophy—are, in principle, structurally in step with Freudian neuropathologies—hysteria, obsessive neurosis, and paranoia—a formal solidarity that makes normative calculation, viewing the former as better, impossible; rather, in their cultural forms, “the various components of the [neurotic] disposition express themselves in a non-symptomatic, powerful and pleasurable way” (71), but in no way healthier than the neuroses per se. Accordingly, a clinical anthropology implies that “human beings live out their existence in a continuous tension between culture and pathology that cannot be resolved” (119), that “[f]undamentally, human existence occurs in an insurmountable, strenuous relationship between misrecognition of lack (frustration) and the acceptance of its structural character,” the former materializing pathologically and the latter culturally (159). Against this position, the Oedipus complex, whether in its tragic Freudian form “as the cord of all neuroses” (78) or in its Lacanian structural re-reading, “immediately implies the possibility and need for a psychogenetic explanation” (84), a developmental interpretation wherein the analysand’s history might have turned out better were it not for some contingent trauma.

This post is one entry in an ongoing annotated bibliography of my bookshelf. If it’s useful to any person other than myself, all the better.


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