Louise Bourgeois, Le Lit Gros Édredon (with lips)

Feminism and Psychoanalysis

Instructor: Paige Sweet
Bureau of General Services—Queer Division
208 West 13th Street, #210
New York, NY 10011

Sigmund Freud famously described femininity as a “riddle” and “dark continent.” Yet, the psychoanalytic theories Freud generated, particularly his conception of how the unconscious influences the development of the self, has proved crucial to many feminist accounts of gender and sexuality. Paradoxically, it’s precisely because Freud did not know what a woman is that he felt compelled to discover how she becomes one. In other words, feminists have found in Freud a vocabulary for conceptualizing and articulating ways in which gender and sexuality are not natural—that is, not based on any pre-existing biological, anatomical, or psychic material.

In this course we will explore the intersection of feminism and psychoanalysis in order to understand the network of relations between sexuality and the unconscious, gender and the body, “feminine” experience and feminist politics, unconscious dynamic and social structures. Reading works by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and others, we will ask: How does psychoanalysis theorize sexual difference in a way useful for feminist politics? Do theories of hysteria have any viability for feminist politics? Is there political potential in writing or thinking from the (“female”) body? If there is a “masculine” logic that has repressed a “feminine voice,” how might we go about hearing differently in order to listen to that voice? How might the poetic or experimental text be recruited for a psychoanalytically inflected feminism? What are the limitations of these theories of gender and sexuality; that is, what experiences might they occlude?

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 12 — December 10, 2019
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Tuesday, November 26th.


Registration Open