The Gender Conundrum: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Femininity and Masculinity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Gender Conundrum

Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Femininity and Masculinity, 1st Edition

Edited by Dana Birksted-Breen


312 pages

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pub: 1993-07-08
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In The Gender Conundrum Dana Birksted-Breen brings together for the first time key psychoanalytic papers on the subject of femininity and masculinity from the very different British, French, and American perspectives.

The papers are gathered around the central issue of the interplay of body and psyche in psychoanalysis. The editor sees the positive use of this given tension and duality as the key to real understanding of the questions currently surrounding gender identity. As well as addressing the outspoken controversy over the understanding of femininity, she shows that there has been a more silent revolution in the understanding of masculinity.

Offering an international perspective, this collection of seminal papers with introductions of exemplary clarity fills a considerable gap in the literature, providing a classic text for psychoanalysis and gender studies.


"This would be an excellent book for candidate seminars or study groups to read in conjunction with classic papers on masculinity and femininity because it offers an international range of material and emphasises current themes of debate." - Alice Jones, IJPA

"The virtue of the book… lies in the exhaustive, and thoughtful background research undertaken by Dana Breen. The scope of the research lays the ground for her judicious selection and imaginative organisation of contemporary psychoanalytic writings on the vast and very alive topic of the Oedipus complex and the gender conundrum. The key to Breen's organisation of the book can be gleaned from her forty-page introduction. It is both pithy and thought-provoking. In this introductory essay Breen presents the reader, in a highly digestible and amenable form, the sheer scope of Oedipus theory, both in its vertical-historical and in its more horizontal-contemporary dimension. Freud, Klein and Lacan constitute the major theoretical triumvirate in relation to whose thought contemporary trends and controversies are situated and evaluated." - Cyril Couve, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

"Breen organises this unruly territory by re-examining in particular the question of the woman's psychosexual development. This issue highlights a tension she suggests is inherent in psychoanalysis between its concern with how the mind construes experience and, on the other hand, the fact that the mind is situated in the body and cannot be abstracted from it. The breadth of Breen's knowledge of the three main traditions and the clarity of her discrimination about their essential differences makes this a book all analysts and psychotherapists interested in this subject will wish to possess." - Jane Temperley, Book club of the British Society

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. General Introduction. Part I: The Oedipus Complex. Introduction. Blos, Son and Father. Laufer, The Female Oedipus Complex and the Relationship to the Body. Britton, The Missing Link: Parental Sexuality in the Oedipus Complex. Part II: The Phallic Question. Introduction. Chasseguet-Smirgel, Freud and Female Sexuality: The Consideration of Some Blind Spots in the Exploration of the 'Dark Continent'. Gillespie, Concepts of Vaginal Orgasm. Braunschweig, Fain, The Phallic Shadow. Montrelay, Enquiry into Femininity. Gibeault, On the Feminine and the Masculine: Afterthoughts in Jaqueline Cosnier's Book, Destins de la Feminite. Part III: The Representation of the Body. Introduction. Bernstein, Female Genital Anxieties, Conflicts and Typical Mastery Modes. Glasser, 'The Weak Spot' - Some Observations on Male Sexuality. Part IV: Bisexuality. Introduction. McDougall, The Dead Father: On Early Psychic Trauma and its Relation to Disturbance in Sexual Identity and in Creative Activity.Greenson, Dis-identifying from Mother: Its Special Importance for the Boy. Aisenstein, Clinical Notes on the Identification with the Little Girl. Limentani, To the Limits of Male Heterosexuality: The Vagina-man.

About the Editor

Dana Breen is a Training Psychoanalyst in private practice and is actively involved in the training organization of the Biritsh Institute of Psycho-Analysis. She is Book Review Editor of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. She was formerly a research fellow at the University of Sussex.

About the Series

The New Library of Psychoanalysis

The New Library of Psychoanalysis is published by Routledge Mental Health in association with the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London.

Its purpose is to facilitate a greater and more widespread appreciation of psychoanalysis and to provide a forum for increasing mutual understanding between psychoanalysts and those in other disciplines. The series also aims to make some of the work of continental and other non-English speaking analysts more readily available to English-speaking readers, and to increase the interchange of ideas between British and American analysts.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis published its first book in 1987 under the editorship of David Tuckett, later followed by Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Susan Budd and Dana Birksted-Breen. A considerable number of Associate Editors and readers have assisted the editors.

Under the guidance of Foreign Rights Editors, a considerable number of the New Library books have been published abroad, particularly in Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Peru, Spain and Japan.

The aim of the New Library of Psychoanalysis is to maintain the high level of scholarship of the previous series, to provide a forum for increasing understanding between psychoanalysis and other disciplines and to increase the interest of the general book-reading public in psychoanalysis.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis also aims to help the various schools of psychoanalysis to better understand each other. It has published books representing all three schools of thought in British psychoanalysis, including a particularly important work edited by Pearl King and Riccardo Steiner, expounding the intellectual and organisational controversies that developed in the British psychoanalytical Society between Kleinian, Viennese and 'middle group' analysts during the Second World War.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis has also translated and published several books by Continental psychoanalysts, and it plans in the future to continue the policy of publishing books that express as clearly as possible a variety of psychoanalytic points of view.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health