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Title: Gender, Sexuality and Psychoanalysis: Re-evaluating oedipal theory
Authors: Barden, Nicola Juliet
Supervisors: Wheeler, Susan
Award date: 30-Jun-2016
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: Psychoanalysis has been affected by the many legal, social and cultural shifts in attitudes towards homosexuality. Psychoanalytic institutions now accept gay and lesbian men and women as trainees, training supervisors and committee members, and have statements of equality that include sexual orientation. History indicates that psychoanalysis has come lately and sometimes reluctantly to this position, not least because oedipal theory, considered by some to be the cornerstone of psychoanalysis, places homosexuality as a developmental deficit. Resolution of oedipal conflict, on which psychic health depends, rests on the opposition of identification and desire, making it impossible to theorise homosexuality outside of pathology, however benign. The research addressed itself to this clash between theory and policy with the aim of finding out whether and how it had been addressed, and to considering implications for future theory building in areas of gender and sexuality. Participants were invited to contribute as expert practitioners and theoreticians, all published figures in the field. Ten participants took part in two interviews each, separated by a year during which the researcher distributed a summary paper of the main themes arising in the initial interview, allowing the participants opportunity to respond indirectly to each other’s thinking. The second set of interviews were subject to a full thematic analysis which formed the basis for the discussion. The research found that there was a mixed response to oedipal theory, with some participants able to shrug off past accretions and find in it a useful framework for thinking about broader issues of boundaries, omnipotence and limitation, while others felt it should be left behind as an artefact of the past. In considering the development of analytic theory there was general agreement that the field urgently needed to look beyond its own borders and work with science, academia and other theoretical approaches. Transgender came out as a surprise topic that was referred to as ‘the new homosexuality’ in psychoanalysis, with some concerns being voiced over understanding this as had in the past been voiced over understanding homosexuality. This suggested that analytic theory about gender and sexuality had not been subject to substantive or systematic re-theorising following the greater acceptance of gay and lesbian sexualities, and that the problems with theory endemic to discussions of homosexuality were being repeated in relation to transgender. It was noted that drive theory presented difficulties in theorising away from gender difference as the organiser of desire and identity, and relational theory seemed to allow greater freedom in this regard.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Institute of Lifelong Learning
Leicester Theses

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