Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis


Why has homosexuality always fascinated and vexed psychoanalysis? This groundbreaking collection of original essays reconsiders the troubled relationship between same-sex desire and psychoanalysis, assessing homosexuality's status in psychoanalytic theory and practice, as well as the value of psychoanalytic ideas for queer theory. The contributors, each distinguished clinicians and specialists, reexamine works by Freud, Klein, Reich, Lacan, Laplanche, and their feminist and queer revisionists. Sharing a ...

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Why has homosexuality always fascinated and vexed psychoanalysis? This groundbreaking collection of original essays reconsiders the troubled relationship between same-sex desire and psychoanalysis, assessing homosexuality's status in psychoanalytic theory and practice, as well as the value of psychoanalytic ideas for queer theory. The contributors, each distinguished clinicians and specialists, reexamine works by Freud, Klein, Reich, Lacan, Laplanche, and their feminist and queer revisionists. Sharing a commitment to conscious and unconscious forms of homosexual desire, they offer new perspectives on pleasure, perversion, fetishism, disgust, psychosis, homophobia, AIDS, otherness, and love. Including two previously untranslated essays by Michel Foucault, Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis will interest cultural theorists, psychoanalysts, and anyone concerned with the fate of sexuality in our time.

Lauren Berlant Leo Bersani Daniel L. Buccino Arnold I. Davidson Tim Dean Jonathan Dollimore Brad Epps Michel Foucault Lynda Hart Jason B. Jones Christopher Lane H. N. Lukes Catherine Millot Elizabeth A. Povinelli Ellie Ragland Paul Robinson Judith Roof Joanna Ryan Ramón E. Soto-Crespo Suzanne Yang

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What People Are Saying

Teresa de Lauretis
A wide-ranging collection of essays on a topic whose time has come at last, Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis contains some surprising new takes on ethics and Foucault, attempts to draw Lacan to the side of queer, and revisits 'classic' texts of gay and lesbian theory, reviving old debates with fresh ambition.
—(Teresa de Lauretis, author of The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire)
Kaja Silverman
This important collection of essays will dispel forever the illusion that psychoanalysis has nothing to teach us about lesbian and gay sexuality. It gives a powerful demonstration of the apparently limitless capacity of this discourse to say something new about the issues that matter to most of us. And, given that homosexuality plays a part in the organization of even the most normative psyche, there is none which should matter more.
—(Kaja Silverman, author of Male Subjectivity at the Margins)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226139371
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Dean is an associate professor of English and interpretive theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Beyond Sexuality and Gary Snyder and the American Unconscious.

Christopher Lane is an associate professor of English and director of psychoanalytic studies at Emory University. He is the author of The Ruling Passion and The Burdens of Intimacy, and editor of The Psychoanalysis of Race.

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The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2001 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-13937-1

Chapter One

Arnold I. Davidson

Despite the genuine complexities and real ambiguities that characterize Michel Foucault's attitude toward psychoanalysis, one can at least say with confidence that the Freudian discovery of the unconscious represented for him a decisive epistemological achievement with respect to the philosophy with which he was surrounded, that is to say, with respect to phenomenology and existentialism. It was the psychoanalytic discovery of the unconscious that, as Foucault emphasizes in "The Death of Lacan," allowed one to question the old theory of the subject; whether described in Cartesian or phenomenological terms, this theory of the subject was incompatible with the concept of the unconscious, an incompatibility that Sartre embraced and carried to its ultimate conclusion in Being and Nothingness. Thus, for Foucault, in spite of their overlapping philosophical formation, Lacan and Sartre appeared as "alternate contemporaries," unable to inhabit the same epistemological space. Foucault would therefore see as one of the defining features of existentialism the attempt "to show how human consciousness or the subject or human freedom came to penetrate everything that Freudianism had described or designated as unconscious mechanisms" ("Interview avec Michel Foucault" [1968] 654).

Since Foucault, in consonance with Lacan, understood the unconscious as a system of logico-linguistic structures, he could oppose the primacy of the subject, of psychological forms, to the search for logical structures, structures that could not be understood or explained in psychological terms and whose existence could not be reconciled with the Sartrean sovereignty of the subject. Structuralism could be understood as "the search for logical structures everywhere that they could occur" and if they could be located within the subject, then the epistemological primacy of consciousness would be overthrown ("Interview" 653; for elaboration, see Davidson, "Structures"). Such were the fundamental stakes in the philosophical debate between existentialism and structuralism, as Foucault conceived it. However odd it may sound, the existence of the unconscious was a decisive component in Foucault's antipsychologism. Moreover, Foucault's interest in linguistics and in the search for linguistic structures played the same kind of epistemological role in his thought, since the existence of these structures would show that language could not be understood by reference to the intentionality of consciousness, thus further limiting the powers of the subject. The space of the psyche was threatened by this alternative space-the space of logic, of logical and linguistic structures, rules, operations-and this threat was one that Foucault was committed to pursuing. He took Lacan to be committed to a similar pursuit. In another brief interview about Lacan, Foucault says that reading Lacan's first texts in the fifties helped him to discover that one "had to try to free everything that hides itself behind the apparently simple use of the pronoun 'I'" ("Lacan" 205). If the structures of the unconscious helped one to realize this aim, so too did Foucault's archaeological histories. And thus Foucault could only have been grateful for Lacan's intervention at the very end of the discussion period following his presentation of "What Is an Author?" to the Société française de philosophie, when Lacan remarked:

Structuralism or not, it seems to me that, in the field vaguely determined by this label, it is nowhere a question of the negation of the subject. It is a matter of the subordination (dépendence) of the subject, which is extremely different; and quite particularly, at the level of the return to Freud, of the subordination of the subject with respect to something truly elementary, and which we have attempted to isolate under the term "signifier." ("Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?" 820)

The same general kind of subordination is a theme that pervades Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge, and, in both Lacan's case and Foucault's, a certain form of humanism-exemplified by but hardly limited to Sartre-is a constant target of attack.

It should come as no surprise, then, that even after the publication of the first volume of The History of Sexuality, often misinterpreted as a full-scale rejection of psychoanalysis, Foucault always insisted on the significance of the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious and wanted, in effect, to detach its significance from the much more suspect psychoanalytic theory of sexuality. As he said,

What is important is not the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, but the Traumdeutung.... It is not the theory of development, it is not the sexual secret behind the neuroses and psychoses, it is a logic of the unconscious.... ("Le jeu de Michel Foucault" 315; my emphasis)

This brings me to "The West and the Truth of Sex," Foucault's brief sketch of some of the main themes of the first volume of The History of Sexuality. We know that Foucault had originally intended to entitle this volume Sex and Truth, and that he thought of its central problems as revolving around the question of how the domain of sex came to be placed within the field of true discourse, that is to say, how in the West sexual behaviors became the objects of a science of sexuality, and how these true discourses were linked to different mechanisms of power (see "Le jeu de Michel Foucault" 312 and "Sexualité et vérité" 137). Without trying to take up these general questions, I want to underline the distinction, highlighted by Foucault in this brief essay, between an erotic art and a science of sexuality, a distinction that raises a series of issues that most commentators on The Will to Know have failed to develop. One underlying, fundamental motivation for this distinction is precisely to undermine, from a new angle, the old theory of the subject as it had come to be incorporated into psychoanalytic and other related types of psychological theory. Although Foucault is not everywhere consistent in his terminology, I would claim that we should draw the conclusion from his discussions, here and elsewhere, that while ars erotica is organized around the framework of body-pleasure-intensification, scientia sexualis is organized around the axis of subject-desire-truth. It is as if one could say that the imposition of true discourses on the subject of sexuality leads to the centrality of a theory of sexual desire, while the discourse of pleasure and the search for its intensification is exterior to a science of sexual desire. Just as Foucault wanted to divorce the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious from the theory of sexuality, so he wants to detach the experience of pleasure from a psychological theory of sexual desire, of sexual subjectivity. The modification of the subject aimed at by the true discourse of the science of sexuality uses the conceptual structure of desire to excavate the real identity of the subject, and so to delimit the domain of psychological intervention. Desire has psychological depth; desire can be latent or manifest, apparent or hidden; desire can be repressed or sublimated; it calls for decipherment, for interpretation. True desire expresses what one really wants, who one really is, while false desire hides or masks identity, one's true subjectivity. No doubt this is a main part of the reason Foucault could not bear the word desire (see Deleuze 189).

Although we have no difficulty talking about and understanding the distinction between true and false desires, the idea of true and false pleasures (and Foucault understood this point even if he never put it in exactly this way) is conceptually misplaced. Pleasure is, as it were, exhausted by its surface; it can be intensified, increased, its qualities modified, but it does not have the psychological depth of desire. It is, so to speak, related to itself and not to something else that it expresses, either truly or falsely. There is no coherent conceptual space for the science of sexuality to attach itself to pleasure, and no primacy of the psychological subject in the experience of pleasure. Structures of desire lead to forms of sexual orientation, kinds of subjectivity; different pleasures do not imply orientation at all, require no theory of subjectivity or identity formation. The circumscription of true desire is a procedure of individualization; the production of pleasure is not.

In a famously enigmatic passage of The Will to Know, Foucault identifies bodies and pleasure, in contrast to sex-desire, as the point of support for the counterattack against the apparatus of sexuality (see Volonté 208). Whereas desire and the science of sexuality are internal to this apparatus, pleasure can function as a point or line of resistance to the structures and mechanisms of that very apparatus. Foucault is less enigmatic about this contrast in his interview "Le gai savoir," originally conducted in 1978:

I advance this term [pleasure] because it appears to me to escape those medical and naturalistic connotations that this notion of desire bears within itself. That notion was used as a tool, a setting of intelligibility, a calibration in terms of normality: "Tell me what your desire is and I will tell you who you are, if you are normal or not, I will therefore be able to admit or disqualify your desire." One certainly finds this "hold" [prise] which goes from the notion of Christian concupiscence to the Freudian notion of desire, while passing through the notion of the sexual instinct in the 1840's. Desire is not an event, but a permanence of the subject, on which all this psychologico-medical armature is grafted. The term "pleasure," on the other hand, is free of use, almost devoid of meaning. There is no "pathology" of pleasure, no "abnormal" pleasure. It is an event "outside the subject," or at the limit of the subject, in that something which is neither of the body nor of the soul, which is neither inside nor outside, in short, a notion not assigned and not assignable. (The French text is qtd. in Halperin 217 n. 181.)

Desire allows a hold or grip on the subject that is central to the constitution of a science of sexuality, while pleasure escapes the discourse of pathology and abnormality, the discourse of scientia sexualis; its "location" at the limit of the self in fact disturbs, disrupts the primacy of the subject. This is one philosophical context in which we should place Foucault's extraordinary remarks delivered in 1979 at the meeting of Arcadie:

Pleasure is something that passes from one individual to another; it is not a secretion of identity. Pleasure has no passport, no identity card. (The French text is qtd. in Eribon 271.)

We can easily invert Foucault's remarks and say that desire is a secretion of identity; it does possess an identity card. And as with other kinds of passports, it can be authentic or counterfeit, representing more or less faithfully who one is. Pleasure does not represent anything; there are no counterfeit pleasures.

Although other texts of Foucault could be cited to support this interpretation, these claims do directly raise the question of how one is to understand his remarks, both here and in The Will to Know, about that other pleasure, the "pleasure of analysis" (Volonté 94-96). For this specific pleasure seems to belie the conceptual division between desire and pleasure on which I have insisted. Indeed, Foucault's invocation of the pleasure of analysis is intended to complicate the strict distinction between ars erotica and scientia sexualis, leading us to ask whether, "at least in certain of its dimensions," scientia sexualis may not function as an ars erotica (95). Without denying the numerous relations between this art and this science, I want to note that Foucault's own remarks question the status of this "pleasure of analysis" in ways that mark it out as not being homogeneous with the pleasures that can function as points of resistance to the apparatus of sexuality. In addition to placing this pleasure within quotation marks, Foucault explicitly refers to this category as containing "ambiguous pleasures," a characterization used nowhere else. But even more importantly, his characterization of this pleasure employs verbs, all of which partake of the grammar of desire-in "The West and the Truth of Sex," fouiller, traquer, interpréter; in The Will to Know, verbs such as exposer, découvrir, débusquer. These are all activities whose object is typically desire and not pleasure, and this is the only instance in which Foucault attaches them to "pleasure," evidence enough of the ambiguous status of this pleasure. Moreover, in "The West and the Truth of Sex," speaking of the way in which the science of sex still belongs to the erotic art, Foucault himself refers not to the pleasure of analysis but to people who "spend so much money to buy the biweekly right to formulate laboriously the truth of their desire, and patiently to await the benefit of interpretation" (my emphasis), as if to say that the formulation of true desire and the benefit of interpretation fill in the content of the pleasure of analysis.

At the end of his discussion in The Will to Know, Foucault raises a set of questions that already indicates the gap between this pleasure and the body-pleasure-intensification axis that I have previously discussed. After identifying the pleasure of analysis, he asks:

Should one believe that our scientia sexualis is but a singularly subtle form of ars erotica and that, of this apparently lost tradition, it is the Western and quintessential version? Or should one suppose that all these pleasures are but the byproducts of a sexual science, a benefit that supports its innumerable efforts? (Volonté 96)

This latter question can only be coherently asked of the pleasures of analysis, and that fact alone shows the distinctiveness, the peculiarity, of this kind of pleasure. It is a pleasure that has neither the epistemological nor the political force of those other pleasures advanced by Foucault; in a word, it does not disrupt the sovereignty of the subject.

Foucault's interest in the dissolution of the psychological subject of scientia sexualis is not only compatible with but also, in my view, required by his final concern with ethical subjectivation. But rather than pursuing these latter concerns, I want to give a final example of the stakes involved in the dissolution of the psychological subject. Perhaps the clearest exemplification of this dissolution remains Pierre Guyotat's Éden, Éden, Éden, to which Foucault devoted a very brief but brilliant and theoretically powerful text. Guyotat's book, without saving "the subject, the self, the soul," without protecting the "primacy of the subject, the unity of the individual," without representing sexuality as the "fundamental or primitive desire of the individual," is able to enact a rupture (Foucault, "Il y aura scandale, mais ..." 75). In this book the individual

is but the precarious extension of sexuality, provisional, quickly effaced; the individual, in the end, is but a pallid form that arises for a few moments from a great repetitive, persistent source. Individuals, the quickly retracted pseudopods of sexuality.... If we want to know what we know, wemust give up what we suppose about our individuality, our self, our subject position.... In your text, it is perhaps the first time that the relations of the individual and of sexuality are plainly and decidedly reversed ...: sexuality passes to the other side of the individual and ceases to be "subjected" [assujettie]. ("Il y aura scandale, mais ..." 75)

The inaccessibility of Éden, Éden, Éden, its unreadability, its new form of extremeness are marks of its exteriority and of its resistance to the apparatus of sexuality. Our inability to imagine what this text sounds like attests to the hold of that "anthropological slumber" that Foucault was ceaselessly combating ("Philosophie et psychologie" 448). We should not underestimate, as we so often do, the severe difficulty of dissolving the subject. If psychology, in all of its forms, has been an "absolutely inevitable and absolutely fatal impasse" of our thought since the nineteenth century, then its rupture will be experienced as a kind of death (448). So let us not forget, in this context, these shocking remarks of Foucault:

I think that pleasure is a very difficult behavior.... I would like and I hope I'll die of an overdose of pleasure of any kind. Because I think it's really difficult, and I always have the feeling that I do not feel the pleasure, the complete total pleasure, and, for me, it's related to death.... I think that the kind of pleasure I would consider as the real pleasure would be so deep, so intense, so overwhelming that I couldn't survive it. I would die. ("Michel Foucault: An Interview by Stephen Riggins" 129)

I hope we are in a position to take Foucault's remarks conceptually, and not psychologically, and to use them to ask ourselves a question he often asked himself, a question to which we still do not have a satisfactory answer: What is the pleasure of sex, what does it do to us?


Excerpted from HOMOSEXUALITY & PSYCHOANALYSIS Copyright © 2001 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis: An Introduction
Tim Dean and Christopher Lane

Part One: Theorizing Sexuality

1 Foucault, Psychoanalysis, and Pleasure

2 The West and the Truth of Sex

3 The Death of Lacan

4 Closing Up the Corpses: Diseases of Sexuality and te Emergence of the Psychiatric Style of Reasoning

5 Freud and Homosexuality

6 Lacan and the Hommosexuelle: "A Love Letter"

7 Homosexuality and the Problem of Otherness

Part Two: Gay Sexuality

8 Freud on Group Psychology: Shattering the Dream of a Common Culture

9 Loving Civilization's Disconentes: Reich and Jouissance

10 Heterosexuality Terminable or Interminable? Kleinian Fantasies of Reparation and Mourning

11 The Eroticism of Desolation

Part Three: Lesbian Sexuality

12 "The Community of Dolphins" v. "The Safe Sea of Women":
Lesbian Sexuality and Psychosis

13 Unrequited Love: Lesbian Transference and Revenge in Psychoanalysis

14 Homosexuality and Psychosis in the Clinic: Symptom or Structure?

15 Lust for Innocence

Part Four: Clinical Perspectives

16 Can Psychanalysis Understand Homophobia? Resistance in the Clinic

17 Speaking of the Surface: The Texts of Kaposi's Sarcoma

Part Five: Queer Relations

18 Genital Chastity

19 Sexual Disgust

20 Sexuality at Risk: Psychoanalysis Metapragmatically

21 The Fetish of Fluidity

22 Love, A Queer Feeling

Contributors Index

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