Guilt, suffering and the psyche

Hall, Alison Jane (2010) Guilt, suffering and the psyche. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The topic of this thesis is guilt. The thesis begins by considering the broad context of guilt as conceptualised across the humanities and social sciences. It then focuses on the extensive work done on guilt in psychoanalysis. The main contributions to the debates on guilt in psychoanalysis are investigated in detail to isolate the key issues in trying to understand guilt. The key question approached concerns the origin of guilt and its functioning in psychical life. The thesis shows how previous theorists have struggled to identify a plausible explanation for the presence of guilt in mental functioning and in particular for the suffering generated by pathogenic guilt. It argues that there are impasses in the work of Freud, Klein and others that prevent their being able to fully account for guilt. It employs insights and argument from the work of Jacques Lacan to proceed beyond those impasses. While the emphasis in the work of previous theorists was on trying to identify what subjects were really guilty of, beyond their superficial self-reproaches, this thesis argues that the avowal of guilt by subjects functions as a device to keep anxiety at a distance and, functioning as such, it is inherently deceptive. The thesis shows that Lacan revisits problems raised in his Ethics seminar from 1959-60 in 1972-3 in his Seminar XX ‘Encore’. The theoretical developments in the later seminar show that the inscription of subjects in a sexed order is regulated by their relation to the signifier and produces differentials in relation to the law and Other jouissance. While most guilt theories argue that guilt is a ‘fault’ in the human being, Lacan’s theoretical work allows us to argue that guilt is a ‘fault’ that is constructed in the moment of the construction of human subjectivity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
B. > Theses
Item ID: 9134
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 25 May 2012 08:47
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:44

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