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American Imago 58.4 (2001) 813-836

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There Where Primary Narcissism Was, I Must Become:
The Inception of the Ego in Andreas-Salomé, Lacan, and Kristeva

Lorraine Markotic


This essay explores the psychoanalytic work of Lou Andreas-Salomé, specifically in relation to theories of the development of the ego. That Andreas-Salomé's writings have received so little attention is especially regrettable in light of the many ways in which they anticipate current discussions. Andreas-Salomé perceives an inconsistency in Freud's thinking on the formation of the ego; she senses, even when she does not explicitly state, that in this respect his theories need reworking.

The topic of ego development has played a central role in the debates between mainstream and French psychoanalytic theorists. Whereas in Freud's time other psychoanalysts (especially Jung and Adler) rejected Freud's concept of sexuality because they thought he overemphasized its importance for the development of the self, today his concept of sexuality is accepted by most French analysts (though not by many others), but his account of the development of the ego is widely challenged. This holds true not only for Jacques Lacan but also for Catherine Clément, André Green, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Jean Laplanche. Here I focus on Kristeva's writings and the writings of Lacan that influenced her, examining the theories of both in relation to those of Andreas-Salomé. I am concerned, above all, with Andreas-Salomé's rethinking of Freud's theory of ego development, but I would also like to elucidate the points of connection between her work and the theories of Lacan and Kristeva. 1 [End Page 813]

Theories of Ego Development:
Freud, Lacan, Kristeva

Many social critics of psychoanalysis object to Freud's theory of the earliest development of the self. Their revisions, however, often presuppose an innate striving for a self, which is precisely what Freud thought needed to be investigated. How does a newborn child, this bundled mass of flesh, which cries when it is hungry or in pain, become a person? How does an ego emerge? It is in the context of such questions that Lou Andreas-Salomé's psychoanalytic writings are best located.

Freud presents two versions of the development of the ego. From his formulation of the two principles of mental functioning (1911), he surmised that there must be an agency mediating between wish and reality. In the Introductory Lectures, he states that the "transition from the pleasure principle to the reality principle is one of the most important steps forward in the ego's development" (1916-17, 357). He posits that the ego emerges when our drives are not satisfied and serves to mediate between the reality principle and the libido. Indeed, he ascribes the function of reality-testing to the ego. In "A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams," he writes: "We shall place reality-testing among the major institutions of the ego" (1917a, 233; italics in original); and in "Mourning and Melancholia" he again refers to reality-testing as one of the central functions of the ego (1917b, 247). It seems, however, that Freud himself was not completely convinced by his presentation of the ego as developing out of the conflict between the reality principle and the pleasure principle. In The Ego and the Id (1923), he radically revised his earlier conception and depicted the ego as a precipitate of internalized identifications, especially those of the child with its parents during the Oedipus complex.

Neither Lacan nor Kristeva accepts Freud's depiction of the ego as an agency that arises through contact with external reality, but both are deeply influenced by Freud's later theory of an ego that arises through internalized identifications. Both believe, however, that a preoedipal form of identification must inaugurate the ego. Freud himself acknowledges such a possibility, albeit only once, when he alludes in The Ego and the Id to [End Page 814] identification with the "father of one's own personal prehistory" [Vater der persönlichen Vorzeit...


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