Before language: the rage at the mother

Pajaczkowska, Claire (1988) Before language: the rage at the mother. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

Download (12MB) | Preview


The thesis argues that psychoanalysis is a necessary
component of cultural analysis. It is argued that existing
syntheses of psychoanalysis and political theories tend to
limit the recognition of the relative autonomy of psychic
reality by offering accounts of the social determination of
The contemporary reappropriation of psychoanalysis by
feminist theorists has formulated new explanations of the
social position of women as the 'second sex'. The
challenge of feminism to traditional theories of culture
and society includes questions of how sexual difference
informs the transformation of thought into language, how
language determines theory, and how theory conceptualises
the difference between subjectivity and objectivity.
The contradictions within existing syntheses of
structuralism, Marxism and feminism are described, and the
differences between psychoanalysis and sociology are traced
through the the critical reception of Freud's Totem and
Taboo by anthropologists. The validity of Freud's concept
of the Oedipus complex is explored, and it is suggested
that despite the limited acceptance by anthropologists,
Totem and Taboo contains a valid theory of the relation of
the subject to society. Freud's work is relocated within
the paradigm of evolutionary biology to provide a
materialist analysis of psychic structure that is not based
on linguistics. A study of the origins of language reveals
the complexity of the historical factors determining the
co-evolution of representation, the maternal function, and
the structuration of psychic reality.
New discoveries about the pre-Oedipal dyad that underlies
the Oedipus complex have shown the effects of infantile
dependence and maternal care on adult subjectivity, and it
is argued that factors such as the unconscious fear of
dependency and of women are of particular significance for
feminist thought.
It is argued that the theory of pre-Oedipal and prelinguistic
subjectivity can make intelligible aspects of
ideologies of racism and sexism that are not fully
explained by sociological or political theory. The
mechanism of projection or projective identification, it is
argued, provides a specifically psychoanalytic contribution
to existing theories of culture.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13278
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 14:33
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 03:33

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.