This paper discusses the different explanatory approaches taken by feminists and (Kleinian) psychoanalysts to women's psychological illness. In particular, anorexia nervosa (a condition that has attracted much feminist attention) is used as an example. Examination of some Kleinian accounts of work with anorexic patients reveals the great disparity between the terms and focus of psychoanalytical explanation and those invoked in feminist discussions. Can the two perspectives be combined? It is argued that, despite its individualist methodology, psychoanalysis stands to gain from a broader understanding (that feminists might supply) of the cultural "provocation" of psychic conflict. This reconciliation of perspectives would require feminists to go beyond the "common sense" psychology that they often presuppose and to acknowledge the mediating influence of unconscious symbolic significance in experience. In connection with this issue, some work by feminists that has sought to accommodate psychoanalytical ideas is criticized for its "literalism." The lesson to be learned from this discussion applies more widely than to the feminist case.


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pp. 1-12
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