Reading Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
From Pleasure to the Object
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Sigmund Freud’s 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality is a founding text of psychoanalysis and yet it remains to a large extent an ‘unknown’ text. In this book Freud’s 1905 theory of sexuality is reconstructed in its historical context, its systematic outline and its actual relevance.
This reconstruction reveals a non-oedipal theory of sexuality defined in terms of autoerotic, non-objectal physical-pleasurable activities originating from the ‘drive’ and the excitability of erogenous zones. This book, consequently, not only calls for a reconsideration of the development of Freudian thinking and of the status of the Oedipus complex in psychoanalysis, but also has a strong potential for supporting contemporary non-hetero-normative theories of sexuality. It is as such that the 1905 edition of Three Essays becomes a highly relevant document in contemporary philosophical discussions of sexuality.
This book also explores the inconsistencies and problems in the original theory of sexuality, notably the unresolved question of the transition from autoerotic infantile sexuality to objectual adult sexuality, as well as the theoretical and methodological shifts present in later editions of the Three Essays. It will be of great interest to psychoanalysts and those with an academic interest in the history of psychoanalysis and sexuality.
Table of Contents
Introduction 01. Hysteria and Sexuality 02. The Infant’s Object Choice and Development 03. Beyond Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality Conclusion: The Actuality of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Philippe Van Haute is professor for philosophical anthropology at Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and extra-ordinary professor of philosophy at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). He has published extensively on the relation between psychoanalysis and philosophy.
Herman Westerink is associate professor for philosophy of religion and intercultural philosophy at Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and extra-ordinary professor at the KU Leuven (Belgium). He has published many books and articles on Freudian psychoanalysis, sexuality and religion.
"With this remarkable work of scholarship, Van Haute and Westerink continue their pathbreaking project of making visible a largely unfamiliar Freud. Their meticulous readings demonstrate not only the historical and conceptual significance of the first edition of Three Essays, but also its astonishing relevance for contemporary debates about sex and gender."
- Tim Dean, James M. Benson Professor in English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA
"Philippe Van Haute and Herman Westerink reveal the multi-layered character of this text. Revealing a non-oedipal theory of sexuality in the 1905-edition and highlighting a theory of sexual pleasure in its potential for a radical critique Van Haute and Westerink also remind us that it is us - our reading habits - that turn Freud into a monolithic thinker he has never been."
- Daniela Finzi, Scientific Director of the Freud Museum Vienna
"Van Haute and Westerink present their own systematic reading of Freud’s text through the vicissitudes of its rewriting in no less than four successive re-editions from 1905 – 1924. What is at stake is the radicality of Freud’s 1905 thesis of the polymorphous perverse nature of an infantile sexuality."
- John Fletcher, Professor Emeritus, University of Warwick, Senior Research Associate, Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London
"Intensifying rather than trying to iron out Freud’s contradictions, Van Haute and Westerink allow the critical potential of the Three Essays to come to the fore, with the excavation of those (non-Oedipal, pleasure-based and auto-erotic) elements that work in opposition to the heteronormative, functional conceptions of sexuality that still circulate today."
- Stella Sandford, Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London