The Scandalous Fact of Fetishism: Charcot and Magnan, Binet and von Krafft-Ebing

In this article, I discuss Freud’s theory of fetishism and the most important resources he draws on to elaborate his theory, namely, three texts from the end of the 19th century, Charcot and Magnan’s “Genital Inversions, and Other Sexual Perversions” (1882), Alfred Binet’s “Fetishism in Love” (1887) and von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886). I trace their respective theorizing on fetishism, where the attempt to categorize the perversions, a fascination with raw case-material and a focus on degeneracy and heredity as causes are pivotal. I also highlight observations, ideas and concepts in their texts which, while mentioned only in passing, will be crucial for Freud’s and Lacan’s later theories. A close reading of these three texts produces a theory of fetishism that can be summarized as follows: Normal love has fetishistic aspects, but these aspects are harmoniously ordered and result in “normal” sexual intercourse. Therefore, the behaviour of the fetishist cannot be seen as the defining criterion for fetishism. Rather this is a subjective psychical state that has its roots in the association of the awakening of genital excitation with an exterior fact. This association of ideas crystallizes into a fetish, which operates as a sign in a language-based scenario that is instrumental for the regulation of sexual enjoyment in an intense, non-standard way. In fetishists, one finds an ambivalent attitude towards the fetishistic object and a specific relationship to the law. I argue that by the time Freud tackles the question of fetishism, the groundwork has already been done by the early sexologists.

Looking for Tracks in Lacan’s “Kant avec Sade”

In 2010 I was invited to take part in a cartel with Filip Geerardyn, Wim Matthys and Elisabeth Van Dam for a close reading of Lacan’s text “Kant with Sade”. In the aftermath of this I wrote this text, which is neither a record of the cartel, nor an attempt to interpret or to summarize Lacan’s text. It is the result of following the tracks that Lacan sets out, more a Deleuzian Rhizome than a logical or critical argument. Following these tracks leads to a dramatic discovery. Lacan’s act of writing is an invitation to work through some crucial questions on ethics (Kant and Freud) rather than to consume Sade’s literature or to consider the case of the French libertine.

Freud reads Krafft-Ebing: A short Genealogy of Sadism

This contribution presents a reconstruction of the way the concept of sadism was introduced and anchored in psychoanalytic metapsychology. It focusses on the first two editions (1905 and 1910) of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Freud’s singular indebtedness to Krafft-Ebing is emphasized. Subsequently, it is argued that Freud’s selective reading of Krafft-Ebing is determined by his model of hysteria. Freud seems unable to give an adequate account of sadism in his Three Essays and in his later work, sadism remains a conceptual “problem child” becoming an oversimplified passe-partout concept used to discuss the theme of human aggressiveness.

“My Name was Sabina Spielrein”: Freud’s Russian Daughter and the Echoes of her Fascinating Oeuvre

This contribution is dedicated to the Russian psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein (1885-1942). Following a short sketch of the historical context, we focus on Spielrein’s oeuvre, with specific reference to the implicit and the explicit impact of both Spielrein and her earliest work on the thinking of Jung and Freud. We concentrate not only on the theme of (counter)transference and on the concept of the death instinct, but also on some typically Jungian core concepts, such as the “collective unconscious”, the “archetypes”, the “anima”, and the “shadow”. In addition, we also briefly discuss Spielrein’s pioneering work in child analysis, including the role of child play, infant observation, and developmental psychology. In this way, we hope to illustrate the concrete impact of Spielrein’s oeuvre on the work of Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, and Donald Winnicott.