Psychoanalytic Narratives Old and New
Routledge – 1998 – 448 pages
In this groundbreaking re-visioning of lesbianism, Magee and Miller transcend a literature that, for decades, has focused on the timeworn and misconceived task of formulating a lesbian-specific psychology. Rather, they focus on a set of interrelated issues of far greater salience in our time: the developmental and psychological consequences of identifying as homosexual and of having lesbian relationships. Their consideration of these issues leads to a rigorous review of major psychoanalytic and biological theories about female homosexuality and a probing examination of current notions of gender identity. These tasks set the stage for Magee and Miller's own model of psychologically mature sexuality between members of the same sex.
The developmental and clinical issues taken up in specific chapters of Lesbian Lives include the challenges facing lesbian adolescents; the psychological and social significance of "coming out"; the various meanings and contexts of coming out as a gay or lesbian analyst; the interaction of individual psyche and social context in clinical work with lesbian patients; and the history of homosexual therapists and psychoanalytic training. The chapter on "Bryher," the lesbian-identified life partner of the poet Hilda Doolittle (Freud's patient "H.D."), relying on unpublished documents, is not only a wonderful exemplification of themes developed throughout the work, but an invaluable contribution to psychoanalytic history.
Lesbian Lives is a heartening sign of the generous scholarship and humane impulse that are transforming psychoanalysis in our time. In writing infused with an experiential immediacy born of personal participation in the stories they tell, Magee and Miller weave a multiplicity of narratives into a fabric of explanation far richer, far more colorful --far truer to lived experience--than anything psychoanalysis has heretofore offered on the subject.
“Lesbian Lives is a fine and spirited act of declassification. The authors have gathered a wide range of testimony –- from lesbian poets, novelists, memoirists, biographers, and and analysts ( most importantly, themselves as clinicians and writers of case histories) –- and woven it together in a manner that questions all existing psychoanalytic classifications of ‘the female homosexual’ and the whole simplistic enterprise of classifying women solely by their heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual ‘object choices.’ If other psychoanalysts could prove capable of the censorship-lifting Magee and Miller call for and practice, who knows what interesting conversations might supplant all the pronouncing upon and against that frightening collective fantasy: the Freudian Lesbian.”
- Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Ph.D., Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis
“What a wonderful book: inventive, scholarly, fluent, imbued with the seriousness, wit, irony, and passion appropriate to the clinical and theoretical practices of psychoanalysis. Commanding the full range of psychoanalytic interpretations of lesbian desire and challenging familiar sex and gender dichotomies, it builds intertextual bridges among many histories: psychoanalytic, social, personal, feminist, and, yes, clinical. Multiple narratives of female homosexuality -- drawn from case histories and movies, fiction and poetry, biography and autobiography -- weave a rare complexity and richness that render palpable the mystery, difficulty, and possibility in the life of any patient, any analyst, any person. The lay reader will find Lesbian Lives illuminating; the professional will find it necessary.”
- Muriel Dimen, Ph.D., Author, Sexuality, Intimacy, Power (Analytic Press, 2003)
“This shift, from am emphasis on etiology and pathology to an emphasis on resilience and the elaboration of inner experience, is precisely the shift Magee and Miller want to evoke in their readers. They make their case in a thorough and scholarly fashion, and provide a meaningful context in which to reframe psychoanalytic thinking about love between women. . . . Magee and Miller have given us a book that is rich in ideas as well as history. It is a book that should be read by anyone interested in psychoanalysis and where it is headed.”
- Sandra Kiersky, Ph.D., JAPA
“Innovators like Magee and Miller teach us much about the wider realm of human desires and passions.”
- Karol Marshall, Ph.D., Contemporary Psychoanalysis
1. Superior Guinea-Pig: Bryher and Psychoanalysis2. The Story of Our Lives Becomes Our Lives3. "She Foreswore Her Womanhood": Psychoanalytic and Biological Theories of the Etiology of Female Homosexuality4. Assaults and Harassments: The Violent Acts of Theorizing Lesbian Sexuality5. Coming Out: The Necessity of Becoming a Bee-Charmer6. Moratoriums and Secrets: Searching for the Love of One's Life7. What Sex Is an Amaryllis? What Gender Is a Lesbian?8. When the Psychoanalyst Is a Lesbian: "A Certain Idealization of Heterosexuality"9. Homosexuality and Psychoanalytic Training