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The Freudian Mystique

Freud, Women, and Feminism

Samuel Slipp

Publication Year: 1995

"Lucid and convincing...Makes clear that [Freud's] vision was limited both by the social climate in which he worked and the personal experiences he preferred, subconsciously, not to deal with."
Los Angeles Times

Sigmund Freud was quite arguably one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Yet, over the last decade, portions of his theories of the mind have suffered remarkably accurate attacks by feminists and even some conservative Freudians. How could this great mind have been so wrong about women?

In The Freudian Mystique, analyst Samuel Slipp offers an explanation of how such a remarkable and revolutionary thinker could achieve only inadequate theories of female development. Tracing the gradual evolution of patriarchy and phallocentrism in Western society, Slipp examines the stereotyped attitudes toward women that were taken for granted in Freud's culture and strongly influenced his thinking on feminine psychology. Of even greater importance was Freud's relationship with his mother, who emotionally abandoned him when he was two years old. Slipp brings the tools of a trained clinician into play as he examines, from an object relations perspective, Freud's own pre-oedipal conflicts, and shows how they influenced Freud's personality as well as the male-centric shape of his theory.
Not limited to only one perspective, The Freudian Mystique analyzes how the entire contextual framework of individual development, history, and culture affected Freud's work in feminine psychology. The book then looks forward, to formulating a modern biopsychosocial framework for female gender development.

Published by: NYU Press

The Freudian Mystique

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Copyright Page

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p. ix-ix

My initial interest in the history of psychiatry was stimulated by Sheldon T. Selesnick, and my attention to feminine psychology was fostered by Esther Greenbaum, Malvina W. Kremer, and Ann R. Turkel. I also wish . . .

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pp. 1-8

How could Freud, one of the great geniuses of our modern age, be so wrong about women? This is particularly puzzling because out of his sensitive introspection into his own and others' emotional difficulties, he . . .

PART ONE Historical-Cultural Background

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1. Psychoanalysis and Feminine Psychology

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pp. 11-19

In this chapter we will look at some of Freud's key views on feminine psychology, as well as the major criticisms of his theories. Certain questions still remain unanswered about his theoretical understanding of feminine . . .

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2. Magic, the Fear of Women, and Patriarchy

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pp. 20-28

In this chapter we will explore how social attitudes toward women evolved out of an effort to gain magical control over nature and to master existence. Historically, women have been closely associated with nature, since, like . . .

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3. Preoedipal Development and Social Attitudes toward Women

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pp. 29-36

Ernst Haeckel (1834—1919) proposed the biogenetic law in evolutionary Darwinism that ontogeny recapitulates phytogeny, that is, that individual embryological and behavioral development repeats the history of a group . . .

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4. Dethroning the Goddess and Phallocentrism

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pp. 37-45

In this chapter we will further develop the hypothesis that phylogeny also recapitulates ontogeny—the history of a culture parallels individual psychological development. In the previous chapter we examined mythology . . .

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5. Projective Identification and Misogyny

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pp. 46-57

Even though misogyny, the hatred of women, is based on irrational magical thinking, it persisted in Europe into and beyond the Enlightenment, when rationality and science were emphasized. In Charles Darwin's . . .

PART TWO Freud and Feminine Psychology

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6. Freud and His Mother

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pp. 61-70

A detailed picture of Sigmund Freud's earliest years is provided by his biographers Ernest Jones (1953, 1955, 1957), Paul Roazen (1984), and Peter Gay (1978, 1988). Freud's father, Jacob, had come from an . . .

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7. Sex, Death, and Abandonment

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pp. 71-79

One of the most significant events that shaped Freud's emotional life occurred when he was almost four years old. After living a year in Leipzig, his entire family left by train for Vienna in March 1860. In the same . . .

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8. Freud's Family Dynamics

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pp. 80-87

The first three years of Freud's life were characterized by loss or threat of loss of his mother. This situation appears to have resulted in his problems of separating and individuating. Not only did Freud have difficulty . . .

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9. Omitting the Mother and Preoedipal Period in Freud's Theory

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pp. 88-94

Psychoanalysis arose from Freud's self-analysis during the time he was mourning the death of his father. Jacob died in October 1896, and Freud started analyzing himself in July 1897, nine months later, after . . .

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10. Female Sexual Development in Freudian Theory

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pp. 95-102

Two important factors contributed to Freud's formulation of a theory about female sexual development. One was his fear of seeing women as sexually active, and the other was the fear of his own aggression. Freud . . .

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11. Preoedipal Development in Girls and Boys

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pp. 103-112

The original observational research of preoedipal development in infants was conducted by the psychoanalyst Margaret Mahler and her colleagues (Mahler and Furer 1968; Mahler, Pine, and Bergman 1975). They believed . . .

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12. Maternal Merging in Society and the family

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pp. 113-123

Freud (1921) totally ignored the importance of women in his writing on group psychology, emphasizing attachment to a powerful male leader. Therefore, in this chapter we will explore the importance of the infant's . . .

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13. Freud's Support of Career-Oriented Women

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pp. 124-137

Although Freud was no admirer of feminism in his writings, in his personal and professional life he promoted the growth of a number of women who were career oriented and feminist. Characteristically, these women were . . .

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14. Controversial Relationships with Women and Freud's Art Collection

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pp. 138-147

One of the most intriguing riddles that has mystified many of Freud's biographers is the relationship between Freud and his wife's younger sister, Minna Bernays. Minna could be classified as another Gradiva. Peter Gay . . .

PART THREE Current Issues

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15. Freud and Jung

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pp. 151-159

Many feminists have rejected Freud's work because of the patriarchal values reflected in his feminine psychology. Other women have turned away from psychoanalysis because of Freud's negative attitude toward spirituality. . . .

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16. Modern Changes in Psychoanalysis

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pp. 160-173

Freud's quest for psychoanalysis was that he would discover the objective truths and general laws of nature for human behavior as existed in other sciences. Logos would replace myth, man's reason would overcome . . .

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17. Toward a New Feminine Psychology

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pp. 174-187

A new psychology of women is gradually evolving in psychoanalysis as a result of research findings and the acceptance of analytic approaches that emphasize the mother-child relationship, the family, and the culture. . . .

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18. Epilogue: The Evolution of Feminism and Integration with Psychoanalysis

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pp. 188-203

In the eighteenth century, the early feminists had focused on the constriction and injustices that women suffered. This was part of the more general movement of the time for political emancipation and equality that spread . . .


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pp. 205-215

Name Index

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pp. 217-221

Subject Index

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pp. 223-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780814788929
E-ISBN-10: 0814788920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814780145
Print-ISBN-10: 0814780148

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1995

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Femininity -- History.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
  • Psychoanalysis and feminism.
  • Women -- Psychology -- History.
  • Psychoanalysis -- History.
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