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The Right to Narcissism

A Case for an Im-possible Self-love

Pleshette DeArmitt is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis. She is co-editor of Sarah Kofman’s Corpus.

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

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Introduction: The Right to Narcissism?

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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...

I. Rousseau: The Passions of Narcissus

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Introduction: Another Morality Tale?

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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 fi gure but rather as a cunning and perverse passion that can outwit the most reasonable of men.1 From Madame de Sablé’s Maximes to Pascal’s Pensées, the mot du jour of the moralists...

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1. Man’s Double Birth

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pp. 23-35

The preceding epigraph, drawn from the second paragraph of Book IV of Emile, 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...

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2. Regarding Self-Love Anew

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pp. 36-50

The neat parallelism and apparent continuity between the Second Discourse and Emile begins to break down if one examines these two texts more carefully. Perhaps some of the conflation of the ideas in these two works is because Emile, a text primarily relegated to pedagogical studies in the English- speaking...

II. Kristeva: The Rebirth of Narcissus

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Introduction: Self-Love—Beyond Sin, Symptoms, and Sublime Values

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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...

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Reconceiving Freud’s Narcissus

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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...

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Transference, or Amorous Dynamics

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pp. 80-88

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...

III. Derrida: The Mourning of Narcissus

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Introduction: The Very Concept of Narcissism

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pp. 91-100

It is undeniable, as Derrida himself declares in the preceding epigraph from Specters 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...

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5. The Eye of Narcissus

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pp. 101-123

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...

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6. The Ear of Echo

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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 ...

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Afterword. Narcissism—By What Right?

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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 what right?” That is to say, by what right [droit] or according to what law [droit] could one be justified in one’s...

Notes

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pp. 141-176

Bibliography

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pp. 177-186

Index

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pp. 187-192


E-ISBN-13: 9780823254477
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254439

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth