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JUDITH A. ROOF Freud Reads Lesbians: The Male Homosexual Imperative OMEWHERE between desire and knowledge is the broad meta1 phorical locus of lesbian sexuality in Freud's work. This site, the scene of a mystery in the Dora case, is the illusive place where knowledge about sexuality and desire come togethet. Dora's attraction to Frau K. is exactly the knowledge Freud knows and misses because of his own counter-transferred desire.1 The coincidence of desire and knowledge around the elusive lesbian figure is an abundantly-described miseen -scène in feminist psychoanalytic criticism, but within the sapphic parameters ofsuch alluring terms abides a more unwavering germ: under the guise of the evasive lesbian lies the intractable visage of male homosexuality . In his two main attempts to analyze lesbian patients, the Dora Case and "Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman," Freud rathet obsessively veets toward a male homosexual analysis.2 Though he delineates or enacts many of the configurations by which lesbian sexuality is represented and understood in contemporary western culture (as masculine, as immature), his elucidation of the ways we resolve the clash of paradigms—in the case of the lesbian, how we harmonize the tangled collision of gender and sexuality—reveals a consistent lesbian retirement in favot of a masculine model. Using Freud's work as an exemplary instance, I want to examine exactly how the lesbian figure both resists definition and tends to vanish as she is pulled between the comfortable "normality" of heterosexuality on the one hand and the ardent attraction of male homosexuality on the other. This same tension between enigmatic presence and inevitable fading continues in Arizona Quarterly Volume 46 Number 1, Spring 1990 Copyright © 1990 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 004-1610 Judith A. Roof gay ctitical studies and in feminist discourse about exclusion and diversity despite the existence of a distinct lesbian critical ttadition. In both the Dora Case and "Psychogenesis" the ptetextual question of lesbian sexuality is ultimately displaced by the subtle insistence of what surprisingly seems to be a normative male homosexual mode. Though I will focus mainly on "Psychogenesis," I want to begin with what appeats to be the buried underside of the Dota case: its relation to Freud's friendship with Wilhelm Fliess and the impottunate emergence of male homosexuality in Freud's case history of Dora, which though it does not monopolize his analysis, regularly appears at the crux of his discussions of homosexuality. ' While Freud sees lesbian sexuality variously as primeval, archaic, erotic, primal, and immature, he constantly displaces it in favor of something else, something both more primal and more mature, something more central—the "key" tule that male homosexuality is "the primitive form of sexual longing for both men and women" (Letter of October 17, 1899, 380). His insistent return to the masculine form—not heterosexuality, but specifically male homosexuality—suggests that what is repressed under the avoided potential of Dora's lesbian sexuality is knowledge of male homosexual desire.4 It also suggests that Freud can only read lesbian sexuality from the parallel perspective of male homosexuality, a parallel he continues through his theoretical work on inversion, even though he suspects that the symmetry between male homosexuality and lesbian sexuality cannot be maintained. Freud regarded the Dora case as a stepping-stone between The Interpretation of Dreams and Three Essays on Sexuality or perhaps more accurately, saw the case as a fertility rite for the marriage of his ideas with those of Fliess. While in 1899 he comments to Fliess that "[a] theory of sexuality may be the immediate successor to the dream book" (Octobet 1 1, 1899, 379), he uses the five-year era of the Dora case as a period of gestation for this theoty, born of this Fliess-Freud cross-fertilization centered around a notion of inherent bisexuality. Commenting in November, 1899, Freud holds off a rather monstrous premature birth: "With regard to the sexual theory, I still want to wait. An unborn piece remains attached to what has already been born" (November 19, 1899, 387). The "born" piece, the Dota case, is an introduction to something else, something which prepares the ground for more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 17-26
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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