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May 22, 2014 8:00 am - June 26, 2014 5:00 pm

Four classes: May 22, 29, June 19, 26, 2014.


Can psychoanalysis rethink sexuality without fully relying on the controversial and contested notion of the phallus? The simplest, schematic version of the Freudian Oedipal model offers a binary logic of having or not having it, of presence or absence: boys have it, girls don’t. For Freud, castration is a loss that women think they have suffered and that men fear. For Lacan, the phallus is clearly not the penis; for him castration is even a more fundamental loss affecting both sexes since both sexes are castrated. Nobody can have the phallus or can be it. In the mother’s body, nothing is missing. Lack is purely a logical limit—the mother is deprived of something she does not have. The phallus is the object that appears to veil a symbolic lack.

It should not come as a surprise that Lacan’s only conceivable idea of the object of desire is a strange object, one he refers to with the letter a. This object is lacking, it does not have an image, there is no signifier to name it, it is leftover of symbolization that cannot be seen or deciphered, and if it happens to be revealed, it can create severe anxiety.

This object commemorates loss and lack, hence it defines human sexuality as asexual—the whole human economy of desire is mediated by this enigmatic object. Paradoxically, the object a, even though it is the cause of sexual desire, is not sexual in itself. This is of special interest in transgender and queer issues because the object a usually takes the form of something that may or may not be gendered.

This course will explore how Lacan’s invention of the object a provides a model that supersedes the notion of the phallus. No previous knowledge of Lacan is required.



May 22, 2014 8:00 am
June 26, 2014 5:00 pm
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The New School, Wollman Hall
66 West 12th Street
New York, NY United States

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