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Psychologies of Women

In response to:

The New Psychology of Women from the October 24, 1991 issue

To the Editors:

In her review “The New Psychology of Women” [NYR, October 24, 1991], Phyllis Grosskurth mentions Louise J. Kaplan as “one of the few theorists to draw a clear distinction between a penis and a phallus.” We would like to say that this is nothing new; the highly influential analyst Jacques Lacan made such a distinction more than thirty years ago in his Ecrits. There are extensive discussions of this difference by French analysts, such as Monique Schneider and Joyce McDougall as well as in the introduction to our book Women Analyze Women: In France, England, and the United States (New York and London: NYU Press and Harvester Press, 1988, hardcover, and 1991, paper). It is also of interest to note that back in 1949 Simone de Beauvoir in Le Deuxieme Sexe (published later as The Second Sex in this country) was already implying this distinction, as Baruch points out in her book Women, Love, and Power: Literary and Psychoanalytic Perspectives (NYU Press, 1991).

It is possible that Grosskurth was not aware of our books, but she should, in any case, have been aware of the primary works of the analysts just mentioned as well as those of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray for an article that purports to present an overview of “the new psychology of women.” The new psychology is not simply a matter of Anglo-American clinical practice and theoretical thinking. The French contribution has deeply influenced psychoanalysis not only in Europe but also in North and South America. Could it be that the reviewer ignores our Women Analyze Women, which treats this contribution, because in it Hanna Segal, the eminent British Kleinian, accuses Grosskurth of distorting the evidence in her biography of Melanie Klein?

Elaine Hoffman Baruch
Professor of English
York College of CUNY
Lucienne J. Serrano
Associate Professor of French
York College of CUNY

Phyllis Grosskurth replies:

Unfortunately it was not possible to deal with the vast number of new books on the subject, and I had to confine myself to the dozen or so books that seemed most worthy of attention. I do, however, greatly regret that I failed to mention Jean Baker Miller and the value of the work being done at the Stone Center, work which has subsequently been drawn to my attention.

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