Narcissism: Pathology, Culture, and Politics
Do we live in an “Age of Narcissism,” or has vanity been with us always? Is narcissism necessarily pathological, or is it a structural feature of human subjectivity in general? Is narcissism a diagnostic concept, a moral problem, or a little bit of both at once? Are we all “narcissists”—or is it just you?
In this course, we’ll consider the origins of narcissism as a clinical concept alongside its function as a polemical term in modern political and cultural debates. We will focus on how the idea of “narcissism” became crucial for the ways early psychoanalysts theorized human embodiment, our sense of identity, and our relationships to one another. We will also track how, as a powerful tool for understanding both pathological and normal character structures, narcissism became a capacious metaphor for describing and critiquing everything from consumerism to media spectacle to political activism to changing family structures and sexual mores. Topics to be considered include: narcissism and gender; the “narcissism of small differences”; pleasure, masochism, and self-indulgence; narcissism and social media; and more. Readings will be drawn from Sigmund Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, Lou-Andreas Salomé, Heinz Kohut, Jacques Lacan, André Green, Christopher Lasch, Eli Zatersky, Mark Fisher, Jessica Benjamin, Byung-Chul Han, and others.
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
June 11 — July 02, 2023