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1394915

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Representation of Patriarchy: Sexuality and Epistemology in Freud's "Dora"Author(s): Toril MoiReviewed work(s):Source:
Feminist Review,
No. 9 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 60-74Published by:
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Representation
f
Patriarchy:
Sexuality
and
Epistemology
in
Freud's
Dora
TorilMoi
OverthepastfewyearsFreud'saccountof his treatment of theeighteen-year-oldDorahasprovokedmanyfeminists to takeuptheirpen,inangeror fascination.Dorahad forsome time suffered from varioushysterical symptoms(nervouscough,lossofvoice,migraine,depression,and what Freud calls'hysterical unsociability'and'taediumvitae'),but itwas notuntilthe autumn of1900,whenherparentsfound a suicidenotefromher,thatDora's father sent her to Freudfor treatment. Freud'scasehistoryrevealsmuch about the situation of ayoungwoman from the Viennesebourgeoisieat the turnof thecentury.Dora'spsychologicalproblemscaneasilybe linkedtohersocialbackground.Shehasverylittle,ifany, scopeforindependent activity,isstrictlyguardedbyherfamily,andfeels underconsiderablepressurefrom herfather. Shebelieves(andFreudagreesthat she isright)that she isbeingusedas apawninagamebetween herfather and HerrK.,the husband of her father'smistress. Thefather wantstoexchangeDora for FrauK.('ifIget yourwife,youget my daughter'),so as to be abletocarryonhisaffairwithFrauK.undisturbed.Dora claims that her fatheronlysent hertopsychiatrictreatment because hehopedthatshe would be 'cured' intogiving upheroppositionto herfather's affairwithFrauK.,accepther role as avictim of the malepower gameand take HerrKas herlover.Freud, then,becomesthepersonwho istohelpDora tohandle this difficultsituation.ButFreud himself is the first to admit thathis treatment ofDora was a failure.Freud has hisownexplanationsof thisfailure,butthese are notwhollyconvincing.Feminists havebeenquicktopointout thai thereasons for Freud'sailure areclearlysexist: Freud isauthoritarian,awillingparticipantnthe malepowergameconductedbetween Dora's fatherand HerrK,and at no timeturns to considerDora's ownexperienceof the events.That Freud'sanalysisfails because of its inherentsexism isthe common feminist conclusion.ButDora1isacomplextext,and feminists havestressedquitedifferentpointsintheirreadingofit.Helene Cixous and CatherineClement discussthepoliticalpotentialofhysteriaintheirbookLajeunenee(CixousandClement,1975),andagreethatDora'shysteriadevelopedasaform ofprotest,asilent revoltagainstmalepower.Theydiffer,however,asIshall showlater,intheirevaluation of theimportanceofhysteriaasapolitical weapon.CixousandClement do not discussinanydetail theinteractionbetween Freud andDora,butHeleneCixous returnedto this themein1976,when shepublishedherplayPortrait deDora(Cixous,1976).HereDora'sstoryisrepresentedindreamlikesequencesfromDora's ownviewpoint.CixousplaysskilfullywithFreud's
FeministReviewNo9October1981
This content downloaded on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:45:57 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
Freud'sDora61
text:shequotes,distorts anddisplacesthe 'father-text'withgreatformalmastery.Thistechniqueenablesher to create newinterpretationsofDora'ssymptomsinaplayfulexposureof Freud's limitations.JacquelineRose's article 'Dora-fragmentof ananalysis'(Rose, 1978)differsconsiderablyfrom these two Frenchtexts.Rose seesDoraasatext which focuses withparticularacuteness on theproblemof therepresentationoffemininity,anddiscussesseveralmodern Frenchpsychoanalyticaltheories offemininity (particularlyMicheleMontrelayand LuceIrigarayinrelation toLacan).She concludesby rejectingthatsimplistic readingofDorawhichwould see Dora the womanopposedto andoppressed byFreud the man.AccordingtoRose,Dorareveals how Freud'sconceptofthe femininewasincompleteandcontradictory,thusdelineatingamajor probleminpsychoanalytical theory:itsinabilitytoaccount for the feminine.Avaluablecontribution to a feministreadingofpsychoanalysis,Rose'sessayis nevertheless silentonitspolitical consequences.The same is true of Suzanne Gaehart's 'The Scene ofPsychoanalysis:TheUnansweredQuestionsof Dora'(Gaerhart, 1979).Gaerhart readsDoraprincipallythroughLacan's andIrigaray'sdiscussion of Dora'scase,arguingthat the centralprobleminthe text is'thesymbolicstatus of the father'.AccordingtoGaerhart,Doramust be seen as Freud's'interrogationof theprincipleofpaternity';it isinthe correctunderstandingof the text'shandlingof thisproblemthatwe will findthekeyto theultimateexplanationofDora'sillness and also thebasis oftheidentityof Freud and hiswork(Gaerhart,1979:114).Gaerhart'shighlysophisticatedreadingofDorashowsthat the status of the father inDoraisproblematical,and the fatherhimself mademarginal,because Freud wants to avoid the centralinsightthat the(Lacanian)ImaginaryandSymbolicrealms arefundamentally complicit.Theoreticallyvaluablethoughthisessayis,itfails to indicatetheconsequencesof itsreadingofDorafor afeministapproachtopsychoanalysis.Maria Ramas'long studyof Dora 'Freud'sDora,Dora'sHysteria:TheNegationof aWoman's Rebellion'(Ramas, 1980),is themost accessible article onDora to date.Whereas Rose and Gaerhartuseasophisticatedtheoreticalvocabulary,Ramas writesinalucid,low-key style.Buther'theoretical'enquiryadvances littlebeyondascrupulous,somewhat tedious resume ofFreud'stext.Ramasarguesthat 'Ida's'problem(RamasusesDora's realname,IdaBauer,throughouthertext)was herunconscious beliefthat'femininity,bondageand debasementweresynonymous'(Ramas,1980:502).Since Freudunconsciouslyshared thisbelief,sheclaims,he couldonlyreinforce Dora'sproblemrather than free herfrom them.This,atleast,is atraditional feministreading:itimpliesthat Doracouldescapeherhysteriaonlythroughfeministconsciousness-raising-thatifshecouldstop equatingfemininitywithbondageshe wouldbe liberated.But it isalso asadly partialandsuperficialaccount,failingtoencompass manycontroversial areas ofFreud'stext.Despiteone brief reference toJacquelineRose'sarticle,Ramasseems tofindthe statusof the term'femininity'inthe textquiteunproblematical;sheunquestioningly acceptsFreud's automatic reduction of oral sexto fellatio(apointIshall return tolater),anddoes not even noticemanyof Freud's more eccentric concernsinthecase-study.Qualifyingher ownessayaspure'feministpolemics',Ramassuggeststhatfurtherstudyof Dorawouldleadbeyondfeminism:Ifthis were Freud'sstory,wewouldhavetogobeyondfeministpolemicsandsearch for the sources ofthenegativecountertransference-theunanalyzed partofFreud-thatbroughttheanalysisto anabruptend(Ramas,1980:504).I believe thatit isprecisely throughanexplorationifthe'unanalyzed partofFreud' thatwemayuncover the relationsbetween sexualpoliticsand
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