On Flirtation

Overview

People tend to flirt only with serious things - madness, disaster, other people's affections. So is flirtation dangerous, exploiting the ambiguity of promises to sabotage our cherished notions of commitment? Or is it, as Adam Phillips suggests, a productive pleasure, keeping things in play, letting us get to know them in different ways, allowing us the fascination of what is unconvincing? This is a book about the possibilities of flirtation, its risks and instructive amusements - about the spaces flirtation opens...
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Overview

People tend to flirt only with serious things - madness, disaster, other people's affections. So is flirtation dangerous, exploiting the ambiguity of promises to sabotage our cherished notions of commitment? Or is it, as Adam Phillips suggests, a productive pleasure, keeping things in play, letting us get to know them in different ways, allowing us the fascination of what is unconvincing? This is a book about the possibilities of flirtation, its risks and instructive amusements - about the spaces flirtation opens in the stories we tell ourselves, particularly within the framework of psychoanalysis.

The author of On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored illuminates the possibilities of flirtation--its risks and instructive amusements--and the spaces flirtation opens in the stories we tell ourselves, particularly within the framework of psychoanalysis. The book reveals the virtues of being committed to the open-endedness of life.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review - Janet Malcolm
[Phillips'] writing is strong and lucid...[He] writes of his work with child and adult patients in the moving and exciting way that marked the clinical writings of D.W. Winnicott and the early works of M. Masud R. Khan.
Times Literary Supplement - David Ingleby
In Phillipstour de force.
Boston Phoenix - Bill Marx
[These] essays are intellectual flirtations that use the wiles of paradox to tease us into liberating ourselves from the old stories, to make us accept the madcap contingency of our lives...On Flirtation is everything Phillips says psychoanalytic writing should be--a pleasure rather than a misery to read, "a kind of practical poetry."
Psychoanalytic Books - Donald Kuspit
Adam Phillips' On Flirtation is less a study of the psychology of coquetry than it is a delightful glimpse into the pleasures of uncertainty. Flirtation is Phillips' metaphor for playing with stimulating ideas so that we can explore anew their complexity without fear of adhering to stultifying orthodoxy or succumbing to overearnestness...On Flirtation will be fascinating to all those who wish to restore the importance of contingency in human life and who, committed to open psychoanalytic inquiry, realize that not everything can be neatly understood or mastered...Given Phillips' subtle mind, appreciation of complexity, tolerance of conflicting views, rejection of traditional forms of closure, and epigrammatic style, it is no accident that he has written a superb book.
Esquire - Will Blythe
In three superb books, On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; On Flirtation; and Terrors and Experts...[Phillips] has endorsed pleasure as a laudable goal (imagine!) and enshrined narrative as a form of soul making. In the process, he's punched lovely skylights into the gloomy Freudian edifice and in general done much to rehabilitate the psychoanalytic enterprise by honoring the idiosyncrasy of human experience and by wielding method lightly, playfully, humanely.
Malcolm Bowie
Phillips writes as a "flirt"--in the special sense he defines in his opening essay--but how much richer his book is for that. Before next going into print, the envious rivals and embittered former lovers who nowadays cluster around Freud's name should all report to Phillips for a lesson in flirtation.
New York Times Book Review

[Phillips'] writing is strong and lucid...[He] writes of his work with child and adult patients in the moving and exciting way that marked the clinical writings of D.W. Winnicott and the early works of M. Masud R. Khan.
— Janet Malcolm

Times Literary Supplement

In Phillips' hands, nothing is as ordinary as it appears to be. Each essay is a kind of mystery tour; you never know where you are going to end up...[A] tour de force.
— David Ingleby

Boston Phoenix

[These] essays are intellectual flirtations that use the wiles of paradox to tease us into liberating ourselves from the old stories, to make us accept the madcap contingency of our lives...On Flirtation is everything Phillips says psychoanalytic writing should be—a pleasure rather than a misery to read, "a kind of practical poetry."
— Bill Marx

Psychoanalytic Books

Adam Phillips' On Flirtation is less a study of the psychology of coquetry than it is a delightful glimpse into the pleasures of uncertainty. Flirtation is Phillips' metaphor for playing with stimulating ideas so that we can explore anew their complexity without fear of adhering to stultifying orthodoxy or succumbing to overearnestness...On Flirtation will be fascinating to all those who wish to restore the importance of contingency in human life and who, committed to open psychoanalytic inquiry, realize that not everything can be neatly understood or mastered...Given Phillips' subtle mind, appreciation of complexity, tolerance of conflicting views, rejection of traditional forms of closure, and epigrammatic style, it is no accident that he has written a superb book.
— Donald Kuspit

Esquire

In three superb books, On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; On Flirtation; and Terrors and Experts...[Phillips] has endorsed pleasure as a laudable goal (imagine!) and enshrined narrative as a form of soul making. In the process, he's punched lovely skylights into the gloomy Freudian edifice and in general done much to rehabilitate the psychoanalytic enterprise by honoring the idiosyncrasy of human experience and by wielding method lightly, playfully, humanely.
— Will Blythe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674634374
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Phillips is Principal Child Psychotherapist in the Wolverton Gardens Child and Family Consultation Centre, London.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgements
On Flirtation: An Introduction
I The Uses of the Past
1 Contingency for Beginners 3
2 Freud and the Uses of Forgetting 22
3 On Love 39
4 On Success 42
5 Besides Good and Evil 59
6 The Telling of Selves 65
II Psychoanalysis Reviewed
7 Depression 79
8 Anna Freud 88
9 Perversion 100
10 Freud and Jones 109
11 Cross-Dressing 122
12 Erich Fromm 131
13 Guilt 138
14 Freud's Circle 148
15 Futures 153
III Writing Outside
16 Philip Roth's Patrimony 167
17 Isaac Rosenberg's English 175
18 Karl Kraus's Complaint 196
19 John Clare's Exposure 206
Bibliography 218
Index 221
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