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Psychoanalysis and History, 6:161-175

Joan Riviere and the Masquerade
Athol Hughes, Ph.D.
In 1919 an act was passed in Britain that made the professions open to
both men and women, thus unbarring the professions from sexual
discrimination. As a consequence, the place of women in society and in the
professions became more secure. Coincidentally 1919 was the year in which
the British Psychoanalytical Society was founded by Ernest Jones. Many
members of the Society in its early years were British women who to a
remarkable extent contributed to the development of psychoanalysis in
England. They brought fresh insights and new understandings to the
psychology of women. One of these women was Joan Riviere, founder
member of the British Psychoanalytical Society, Freud's most able and
sensitive translator and principle interpreter of Melanie Klein's theories and
work. But, most importantly and what I want to address here, is that she was
an original thinker who contributed much to psychoanalytic theory.
British women had long been interested in social issues and in social
reform, and this was particularly the case at the end of the Edwardian era.
Joan Riviere left a diary of important events in her life that took place
between the years 1905 and 1919. Her diary shows that she had taken part in
suffrage meetings and demonstrations, that she was interested in the movement
for divorce reform and that she considered applying for the post of secretary
to the Legal Defence Society. She attended meetings of the Medico-
Psychological Society where she met the suffrage writer May Sinclair.1 The
latter was one of those eminent professional and charitable gentry who
formed the sponsoring group for the Brunswick Square Clinic formed in 1913
(Boll 1962). This clinic was designed to provide, in particular, outpatient
psychotherapeutic help especially for women at a time when such help was
available only within hospital settings. Although the clinic was not explicitly
feminist in theory, it was an institution that became a centre

1 See the article by Philippa Martindale in this issue of Psychoanalysis and
History, pp. 177-200 (Editor's note).

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for new ideas about the psychology of women and for investigating ways of
providing psychotherapeutic help for them. Sadly, one of its founders, Dr
Jessie Murray, became ill in 1919 and died the next year and the clinic closed
shortly after that. Several of the women who trained there were using
psychoanalytic theories and techniques in their work and they moved to the
British Psychoanalytical Society on its inception. Six of the 30 founder
members of the Society were women; as well as Riviere, there were Alix
Strachey, Sylvia Payne, Susan Isaacs, Ella Freeman Sharpe and Barbara Low.
Female sexuality was under close scrutiny in the 1920s with, among
others, papers on the subject by Abraham (1925), Deutsch (1925), Jones
(1927) and Klein (1928). Freud's phallic monistic approach had played a
dominant part in thinking about the sexual development of the girl. Freud
defined femininity in relation to masculinity: without a penis, a female was a
failed male. Freud considered that children, male and female, have no
awareness of the vagina. Women's psychology was a dark continent (Freud
1933) as yet unexplored, and Freud asked What does a woman want? (Jones
1955). It is interesting in this context to wonder that if Freud had asked What
does a man want? he might have recognized that both men and women as
young children have at least an unconscious awareness of the existence of the
vagina and the part it plays in procreation (Jones 1927). But Freud said that
the girl only discovers her vagina when she is forced to give up the idea that
her clitoris is a little penis and abandon her masculine strivings to obtain a
penis, in favour of recognizing the vagina as an organ of receptivity. The
unacknowledged vagina gives credence to Freud's idea of the masculinity
complex, in which the girl hopes that she will receive a penis in the form of a
baby from father. When this wish is not fulfilled she turns in jealous hatred
from her mother whom she considers is castrated, as she sees herself, and
identifies with the father. Ronald Britton, in the chapter on The female
castration complex, Freud's big mistake in his recent book (Britton 2003, pp.
57-74), describes how the masculinity complex, although it can be found in
the analyses of some women, is not considered by many analysts to be part of
the main sexual development of the girl.
In her paper Early stages of the Oedipus conflict Melanie Klein (1928)
outlined how frustration during the oral sucking and weaning stages can result
in intense sadism directed at both members of the oedipal couple. The sadism
can lead to distortions, in the first place, in relation to the mother and
subsequently in relation to the father. Klein's later work (1940) modified the
extent of the sadism in the oedipal situation when she found that the oedipal
conflict is introduced with the move in infancy into the depressive position at
about six months, when love and reparation take centre stage over the more
sadistic phantasies of the earlier months.
In Womanliness as a masquerade Riviere (1929) refers to Klein's
theories relative to the early oedipal situation but develops them further in

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exploring a type of homosexual impediment to a woman's attainment of mature
genital heterosexuality. She acknowledges the contribution of Ernest Jones
(1927) and his schematic presentation of types of female sexual development
that encompasses forms of latent homosexuality. It is one of these types that
she is addressing here. Her description of the patient's defences comes from
her own experiences; she knew the pains and fears suffered by those such as
her patient since she was the patient herself.
Riviere describes a fraudulent form of femininity in a certain type of
woman who has not reached full genital heterosexuality. Although the woman
is mainly heterosexual in her development, she displays features of the other
sex. She hides masculine strivings that give rise to anxiety and fear of
retribution since she considers that any success she attains represents stolen
masculinity. This masculinity must be hidden to avert reprisals feared if she
were to be found to possess it. The capacity for womanliness is there but does
not represent the main development. Rivalry with the mother has never been
resolved and is also great in relation to the father. Riviere describes her
patient as apparently successfully fulfilled, an excellent wife and mother,
with no lack of feminine interests. But she has difficulty speaking in public
(her work involves speaking and writing), and she shows a lack of confidence
by seeking the reassurance of men after one of her successful intellectual
performances. She can become flirtatious in an attempt to masquerade as
guiltless and innocent. This attitude is totally inconsistent with her actual
Riviere's patient identifies strongly with her father, a professional with
literary connections, whose work is similar to that of the patient. She tries to
overcome what she considers her intellectual inferiority by stealing, in
phantasy, potency from the father for her intellectual achievements. The
woman has to propitiate the father of her inner world by offering herself to the
man whom she sees as a father figure in a sexually seductive manner as she
dons the mask of womanliness to avert the reprisals she fears. At the same
time she has to make restitution to the mother for having deprived her of her
possessions. In her success, she has shown herself in possession of the
father's masculinity, thus demonstrating her theft and her guilt. Her consequent
anxiety leads her to deny and minimize her own attributes. She has to placate
the mother and atone for her crimes carried out in phantasy against her, her
body, her husband and her children. She uses the masculinity she has
obtained by putting it at the service of the mother (italics in the original),
she becomes the father and takes his place so that she can restore him to
the mother (Riviere 1929, p. 98). Riviere considers that the girl can do this if
she obtains massive recognition for her efforts of restitution. Unconsciously
she seeks recognition of her supremacy in having the penis to give back. If
gratitude is withheld, her sadism breaks out in full force.
Riviere emphasizes that, in general, the women who attained professional
standing before the 1920s showed more overt masculine strivings than the

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women she speaks of here. The latter acknowledge their femininity and thus
can win the approval of the mothers. But at another level they are competing
with the mothers, as do the more masculine type of women. Riviere describes
how her patient had flashes of hatred against almost any woman with whom
she had much to do. But where permanent or close relationships with women
were concerned she could none the less establish a satisfactory footing
(Riviere 1929, p. 97). Such women deal with their rivalry with the mother
when it comes to competition over beauty by claiming superior intelligence.
Certainly Joan Riviere had acute intelligence as well as beauty. She was tall,
elegant and dressed extremely well. Her daughter Diana gave me photographs
of her mother taken throughout her life. They show that she had immense poise
as well as good looks, which have been confirmed by those who knew her
well (Segal 1991, p. xi).
The subject chosen for psychoanalytical investigation bears a relationship
to autobiographical experiences, and this is doubly so where it is apparent
that the writer is using her own specific experiences to illustrate her thesis.
Knowledge of Riviere's early years is relevant to our understanding of her as
the patient in her paper. She was born Joan Hodgson Verrall in 1883 in
Brighton, Sussex, the eldest surviving child of a solicitor, who belonged to an
old county family with intellectual and literary associations, and the daughter
of a Devonshire parson. Two features of her formative years play an
important part in her becoming a psychoanalyst. Her mother's diary records
Joan's development from the time of her birth through to her maturity. She
reports Joan's unhappiness at the boarding school she attended so that, rather
than matriculate, she went, at age 17, for a year to Gotha in Germany. There,
as well as studying art and music, she became fluent in German. Another
important feature of her history is that her uncle, her father's oldest brother,
was a classics scholar at Cambridge and a prominent member of the Society
for Psychical Research of which Freud was a corresponding member. The
Society translated into English and published his early papers, and played an
important part in spreading knowledge of Freud's work in England. Riviere's
diary, recording important events in her life from when she was 22 until she
was 36 years of age, shows that she was frequently in Cambridge and that she
attended meetings of the Society for Psychical Research. Her mother's diary
also records that Joan was in Cambridge, visiting her aunt and uncle when she
was much younger. No doubt it was there that she first heard of Freud. James
Strachey (1963), in his contribution at the memorial meeting at the time of
her death in 1962, spoke of meeting Joan at her uncle's and confirmed that he
and many others became familiar with Freud's investigations through the work
of the Society. He said that Joan's uncle shared many attributes that Joan so
admired in Freud, his integrity, sincerity and search for the truth.
On her return from Germany Joan took up dress-designing and needlework.
It is an interesting reflection on her parents' view of their daughter's

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potential that they could be satisfied to see such an intelligent young woman,
who could have shone in academic circles, spend her time dressmaking. Of
course Joan had left school before matriculation and women did not attend
university then as readily as they do now. But many did become teachers and
doctors and her aunt by marriage was a lecturer at Newnham College, one of
the two women's colleges, in Cambridge. So one wonders whether
dressmaking was a form of masquerade adopted by Joan Riviere in which she
took on a womanly role to disguise masculine strivings and competitiveness.
On the other hand, many commentators on her life have stressed the extent of
her love of beautiful things and her appreciation of the expression of beauty in
the arts and literature. Her daughter told me that her mother hated the
homemade dresses that her mother had made for her. Her mother records in
her diary that Joan went bravely off to Germany for a whole year. She has a
fine stock of clothes, Mrs Verrall writes, implying that a fine supply of
clothes was a consolation to an unhappy 17-year-old teenager going by
herself to a foreign country. They were almost all made at home, her taste in
dress is excellent, her mother adds.
When Joan was 23 she married Evelyn Riviere, a barrister and son of a
well-known artist of the day. Their only child, a daughter, Diana, was born
two years later. One year after that, in 1909, Joan's much loved father died
after several years of illness. This event had deep significance for her and
probably contributed to the emotional breakdowns that led to many fruitless
consultations with nerve specialists of the day. Over the next several years
she spent periods in nursing homes that remind one of the contemporary
treatment for neurasthenic women so well described by Showalter (1987)
in her book The Female Malady. Patriarchal doctors imposed rest cures
and other interventions on such women. When Joan was in one of these
nursing homes, her mother reported that she was suffering from neurasthenia
from shock.
In 1916, at the age of 33, Joan Riviere started her psychoanalysis with
Ernest Jones. She was not employing a mask when she did so. Her daughter
told me that her mother sought help for her intense unhappiness: she had no
idea at that time that she would become a psychoanalyst. Her analysis was
fraught with complications that arose out of her tenacious erotic transference
and Jones's acting out of his countertransference, neither of which he seemed
able to resolve. In her first years of analysis, for instance, he lent her his
country cottage several times, and for longer periods than the week that he
mentioned to Freud when he referred her to him. Riviere records in her diary
that she looked after Jones's dog when he was away; and her letters to him tell
of telephone calls he made to her about his marriages. There were many
unexpected breaks that, from her point of view, were not adequately dealt
with. Details of the difficulties can be found in her diary and in the letters she
wrote to Jones that are in the Archives of the British Psychoanalytical
Society. They tell of her intensely erotized transference and of her

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confusion aroused by Jones's acting out. In spite of these difficulties Jones
appreciated, as he told Freud, that she understood psychoanalysis better than
any of the others (22 January 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). He helped her to
the extent that he referred patients to her from 1919 and she became a
founding member of the British Psychoanalytical Society on its inception that
year. Her analysis with Jones continued until 1921, with a break for a year
that Jones told Freud was for tuberculosis and other causes. The idea that
she had tuberculosis might have been a euphemism for intense emotional
disturbances. Her daughter told me that she had no awareness that her mother
had tuberculosis and there is no reference to it in either her mother's or her
own diary. Realizing that the analysis was at an impasse, Jones referred her to
Freud. In introducing her to the latter, he explained that, as well as
understanding psychoanalysis better than the others, she is a fiendish sadist
and a colossal narcissist. She had a strong complex about being a well-
born lady (county family) and despises us all, especially the women (22
January 1922, in Paskauskas 1993).
Riviere was in Vienna for more than six months in 1922. She had five or
six sessions a week, as shown by the accounts that she kept. She returned to
Vienna for a further six weeks of analysis in 1924. She had met Freud at the
International Congress of Psychoanalysis at The Hague in 1920 and had
already translated some of his work into English. She had also become a
member of the Glossary Committee that established how the terms used by
Freud were to be translated into English. The Committee was composed of
Sigmund and Anna Freud, Ernest Jones, and James and Alix Strachey.
Freud admired Riviere's intelligence and her considerable ability to
understand and translate his writings into appropriate English; no doubt she
is very clever and clear-headed, he wrote to Jones, on 13 March 1922.
Herbert Rosenfeld, whom she supervised, told me that she resented Freud's
involving her in the work of translation before she had time to relate to him as
a patient. An informative paper by Anton Kris (1994), entitled Freud's
treatment of a narcissistic patient, throws light on her analysis with Freud.
Since the letters between Jones and Freud have been published by
Paskauskas (1993), it is known that the narcissistic patient about whom they
corresponded is Riviere. Kris uses the letters to discuss Freud's analysis of
Riviere. He does so also in relation to the content of her most important
paper, A contribution to the analysis of the negative therapeutic reaction
(Riviere 1936b). Once more it can be seen that she is drawing on her own
experiences to describe difficulties suffered by narcissistic patients in
attempts to overcome their unconscious destructive self-criticism. They use
what she called an organized system of defence to avoid facing what they
fear would be an overwhelming depression. The unconscious terrors arise
from the patients' convictions that they will have to suffer unbearable and
unending pain and guilt, as well as face the need to sacrifice their whole lives
to restore their internal objects.

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Riviere was the first to identify such an organized system of defence,
which has been studied extensively since she introduced the concept. The
defensive mask adopted by the narcissistic patient is one of unconscious
compliance, with a false and treacherous transference, that is such a blow
to our narcissism that it tends to rouse strong depressive anxieties in
ourselves. So the patient's falseness often enough meets with denial by us and
remains unseen and unanalysed by us too (Riviere 1936b, p. 153). Kris gives
evidence that Freud was able, by supporting positive aspects of Riviere's
personality, to help her to abandon elements of her destructive self-criticism
and its projections into others. In considering the mechanisms of defence used
by depressed narcissistic patients, Riviere acknowledges the importance of
Klein's (1935) paper A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic
depressive states. In this important paper Klein introduces the idea of the
depressive position in which individuals have to face and work through
depressive feelings that follow recognition of the harm that they have done to
their objects in phantasy and in reality.
Riviere's insightful writings show that in spite of great difficulties she did
not abandon her quest to be valued and understood as a woman who made
significant, independent and original contributions to psychoanalysis. She
gives full recognition to the importance of Klein's concepts in developing her
own psychoanalytic thinking, but she also takes Klein's work further in
developing new theories. In her paper Jealousy as a mechanism of defence
published three years after the paper on the masquerade, Riviere (1932)
shows, for instance, that it is oral envy that leads the morbidly jealous woman
to search for unattainable love and to feel deprived. Riviere's elaboration of
envious spoiling that underlies apparent oedipal jealousy predates Klein's
(1957) book Envy and Gratitude by a quarter of a century. She was also able,
as Hanna Segal expressed it, to put across some of Mrs Klein's ideas with a
vividness that I think neither Mrs Klein nor any of her other collaborators
achieved (Segal 1991, p. xiii).
Freud and Jones could often sound condescending and chauvinistic in their
letters concerning Riviere's analysis. Jones wrote that he hoped that the
analysis was going well, otherwise the Society would lose a reliable
translator and member (22 January 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). Freud found
her to be a real power and can be put to work by a slight expenditure of
kindness and recognition. To be sure she is a concentrated acid and not to be
used until diluted and she is not even with you yet but I can see no real
difficulty (11 May 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). He took Jones to task for
exacerbating her difficulties by his acting out but he was pleased that things
had not become overtly sexual. Jones responded that she was not the type who
attracted him erotically but he could admire her intellect as he would that of a
man (1 April 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). In general Freud was more
sympathetic to her difficulties and more supportive of her than was Jones.
Freud was alert to her need for acknowledgement and recognition. He

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helped her to find an appropriate place in the British Society as Translating
Editor of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. He told Jones that he
considered that she was entitled to such recognition that initially Jones was
loath to confer. Freud also recognized Riviere's vulnerability and told Jones
that she will require special care and regard indefinitely (25 June 1922, in
Paskauskas 1993).
On her return to London Riviere found recognition for her skills among the
members of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Jones wrote to Freud in
December of the year she returned saying that she had made an excellent
impression on her return and I think we shall work well together (22
December 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). A year and a half later he said that
she was a most valuable and loyal co-operator, has given not the slightest
trouble to anyone, and is on the best of terms with myself (9 February 1924, in
Paskauskas 1993). It would appear that Riviere did not require special care
and regard indefinitely and was able to overcome the arrogance and
superiority she had previously expressed towards Jones.
I would like to consider some important aspects of Riviere's life to
illustrate further that her patient in the masquerade paper is herself. Like
her patient she had to deal with a tendency to use her intelligence to triumph
over others less endowed than herself. Her daughter Diana told me that her
mother's relationship with her own mother was difficult. In her paper the
patient's rivalry with her mother finds expression in her intellectual
achievements. Joan Riviere looked down on her mother whom she considered
intellectually inferior to her father who, like the patient's father, was a
professional and came from a literary family. Her mother was the third girl of
14 children of a clergyman's family and had been a governess for seven years
before her marriage. From the point of view of her relationship to men,
Riviere's history could be seen to confirm omnipotent phantasies that she
damages or emasculates the men in her life. Joan was the second child born to
her mother. The first, a boy, was born a year before she was, and died a day
after his birth. Although there is no overt indication of it in her diary, her
mother might have been disappointed that Joan was not a boy to take the place
of the dead baby. A second brother was born four years after Joan; Mrs
Verrall described him as slow to learn, as awkward, his feet are not right,
and she referred to him as the boy even when he was 31 years old. Diana
Riviere told me that he emigrated to Canada and the family lost contact with
him. On their wedding trip Joan's husband became severely ill and remained
so for some time. Joan called his illness English cholera and her mother
said that he was badly poisoned; so one can surmise that he had severe
intestinal problems. He died of cancer in 1945, 17 years before she did. Her
father was frequently ill throughout her life. Her mother's diary indicates she
was often more preoccupied with her husband and his illnesses than she was
with her children. In fact, in giving priority to the needs of her husband she
seems almost indifferent to those of the children. When Joan

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was 7 weeks old, she wrote that her husband needed a holiday and that he
went abroad for three weeks. When Joan was one year old both parents
travelled abroad for three and a half months. On their return Mrs Verrall was
pregnant with her second daughter Molly, two years younger than Joan. She
left again to go to Europe with her husband when Molly was just 3 months
old. Although Joan identified with her father and seemed closer to him than to
her mother, his invalid status and the attention he received from her mother
could have contributed to unconscious wishes to harm him and consequent
fears that she had done so. When Joan was 3 years old his illness was
identified as rheumatic fever. Another episode gives further evidence of her
mother's lack of maternal devotion: when the two older children developed
whooping cough the youngest child, who was then one month old, was sent
away with a nurse. If Mrs Verrall had been more in touch with the needs of a
baby, she would have gone with him herself and left the older children to be
nursed at home.
Could Mrs Verrall be another example of womanliness as a masquerade,
a woman who adopts a mask of womanliness, this one to cover an inability to
deal with infantile distress and death, an inability that could have played a
detrimental role in her oldest surviving child's development? Mrs Verrall's
diary gives several indications of a preoccupation with her own needs, as
well as with those of her husband. For instance, she hopes that Joan's birth
would not be a repetition of the birth of the baby the year before. It is as if the
new baby should confirm her capabilities as a mother and spare her any
further distress. She hopes that the early weaning of Joan will help her [the
mother's] inflamed eyes. Did Joan grow up with the idea that she had to make
up to her mother for her losses, that strong depressive feelings contributed to
the ideas she described in her papers of having to put right past sins in
endless and fruitless reparation? Her mother's diary indicates a type of
falseness to which the sensitive young Joan could have reacted. Was Mrs
Verrall's mask a type of perfectionism, like the chatelaine who runs a
beautiful household and expects her children to behave beautifully when
brought by nurse to be shown off to visitors, but who are relegated to the
nursery for much of the rest of the time? Did Joan Riviere herself adopt a
similar mask of the perfect hostess, perhaps in competition with her mother?
Paula Heimann (1963) describes Joan's housewifeliness when, on one
occasion, while they were working together on some translation and Heimann
fully expected that sandwiches would be the order of the day, a perfect lunch
was served with absolutely no shop talk. Diana told me that there was a
rapid turnover of maids in her mother's house; many did not meet her
standards. And why did Riviere have only one child? Was her severe
emotional illness so soon after the birth of her daughter a contributing factor?
Did the emotional illness have its foundations in difficulties in identifying
with a good internal mother? Diana Riviere told me that her aunt and her
grandmother frequently looked after her when she was a young

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child and her mother was in nursing homes. Diana expressed some resentment
when she told me that her mother sent her to a boarding school that she had
not inspected. Possibly what Diana might have suffered accounted for the fact
that she did not marry nor have children.
Further evidence that Riviere was writing about her own experiences in
Womanliness as a masquerade lies in a letter that Freud wrote to her a year
before the paper was published (9 September 1928, in Hughes 1992). We do
not have Riviere's contributions to the letters that Freud wrote to her during
his lifetime. She kept the ones he wrote to her and they were published in
1992 (Hughes 1992). He said: I welcome your promise to write something
for publication. Anything you write about yourself personally is sure of my
interest. One can assume that she had told him that she was writing a paper
that drew on her own experiences. Appreciative as he was of Riviere's
intelligence and application to psychoanalysis, Freud wanted her to be more
than his disciple: he wanted her to find her own voice and make her own
contributions to psychoanalytic thinking, as well as being his preferred
Before we leave Riviere's relationship to men, one has to consider her
views of Jones and his inadequacies as her analyst. He had said in a letter to
Freud, written when she was in Vienna, that she treated me (with some
exceptions, of course) like her younger brother whose sole function in life
was to admit that he was nothing by the side of her greatness. This attitude
continued and, now that she feels sure of your support in all that she views
and wishes, her letters have become more intolerably dictatorial and harsh
(22 May 1922, in Paskauskas 1993). Riviere had had an idealized
transference for Jones that changed to contempt and anger when he became
part of her analytic family. He then was the object of her projected self-
criticism. And no doubt Freud suffered in the same way, idealized as the
father with whom she identified, while she triumphed over Jones, the
younger brother. But then the story changed, Freud told Jones that she could
be very negativistic with him, as harsh and critical as she had been with
Jones. Appignanesi and Forrester (1992) note that astute criticism was a
constant in her repertoire, even when it came to the founder of
psychoanalysis (p. 361). The letters from Jones to Freud, quoted above,
concerning her favourable reception on her return to the British Society and
her friendly relationship with Jones, show that her sadistic critical attitude
towards him had been modified. Riviere's tributes to Freud on the occasion of
his eightieth birthday and on the centenary of his birth give clear indications
of her genuine love for and appreciation of him, not only as the scientist but
also as the man.
However, her astute critical faculties were apparent when she turned her
attention to Anna Freud's views on child analysis. Freud's reaction to
Riviere's views of Anna's work is in a letter he wrote to her after he had read
her contribution to the Symposium on Child Analysis held in London

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in 1927. Most of the letters he wrote to her are friendly, supportive and
encouraging. They frequently speak of translation matters but also of her
needs, as well as of his troubles, the suicide of his niece, the death of his
dearest grandson, and of his cancer, the first tolling of the bell (8 May
1923). The letters were not so friendly, however, when it became apparent
that Joan Riviere was supporting the ideas of Melanie Klein on child
analysis. The latter's theories had a powerful influence in the British Society
and the differences between her technique in conducting child analysis and
that of Anna Freud were considerable. At first Freud gives a phlegmatic
response to the reception in London of Anna Freud's (1927) book The
Technique of Child Analysis. But after the publication in the International
Journal of Psycho-Analysis of the contributions of members, including
Riviere (1927) of the Symposium on Child Analysis responding to Anna
Freud's book, the tone of his letters changes. He takes Riviere to task for her
part in supporting Klein's ideas about the early oedipal relationship, the
development of the early super-ego and the child's relationship to the parents
of the internal world.
It is now known that Freud analysed Anna, thus she was an analytic sibling
of Joan Riviere, of whom she declared herself jealous (Young-Bruehl 1988).
Ronald Britton (2003), in writing of Anna's analysis, has described a
particular form of relationship that some women have to their fathers that is
disadvantageous to their development (p. 68). He calls it the Athena-
Antigone complex in which the relationship to the mother is denied, thus
sparing the daughter jealousy, envy, desire for revenge and inferiority. This
position is at the expense of the woman's relationship to herself as a woman.
The Athena-Antigone complex is apparent in Joan Riviere's personality as
well as in Anna Freud's. The former identified with her father and the
importance of her relationship to her mother was denied. Her father was an
invalid for most of her life and, as well as being his favourite child, her
mother's diary indicates that she had a special relationship to him. Towards
the end of her paper on the masquerade Riviere asks how the anxiety arising
from having stolen masculinity from the father is averted. She says, with
regard to the mother, This is done by denying her existence and no
relationship with her is possible (Riviere 1929, p. 100). Although the
mother's existence appears to be denied, it is in actuality all too much feared.
The fact that Riviere can write about these defences so succinctly shows that
she had come to terms, to a certain extent, with the impulses she describes.
Her anxiety had abated.
Further letters from Freud continued warmly supportive of Riviere and her
work, they spoke, for instance, of arrangements for her to visit him in 1931
and 1936, of his sadness that his ill health prevented him attending her lecture
in Vienna On the genesis of psychical conflict in earliest infancy (Riviere
1936a). This long paper constituted an exchange lecture instituted by Jones to
discuss the growing differences in psychoanalytic theories held in

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London and Vienna. The paper is the clearest and most brilliantly expressed
outline of Kleinian theory as it was at the time.
Although Riviere wrote several original papers, her contributions to
psychoanalytical literature were not commensurate with her insight and her
intelligence. She had documented on several occasions the way that
phantasied sadistic attacks on the oedipal couple and on their creativity are a
source of inhibitions in performance. And we know that she had been
inhibited in contributing at meetings. Jones referred to her inhibitions in a
letter to Freud in which he said that she was then, in 1922, better able to
express herself, where she had once been dumb from angst. However, Paula
Heimann (1963), in her moving tribute to Riviere at the time of her death,
said that her shyness and modesty (although these attributes could at times be
covered up by impatience) contributed to her difficulty in speaking in
discussions at Society meetings. Heimann said that in the smaller community
of two she was a most creative speaker, and produced many bold and original
ideas, which she could have expressed in articles for the benefit of many,
instead of just one listener. However, she chose to spend her time and
energy more in helping others to write (p. 231). This is reminiscent of
Riviere's description of how the woman who feels she has deprived the
mother of the father's potency makes restitution by helping those less able than
Riviere's critical powers found full expression when it came to the subject
of Freud's views on female sexuality. She (1934) reviewed his New
Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Freud 1933). In general the
review was highly favourable, but it became quite scathing when she turned
her attention to Freud's attitude to female sexuality. She asks how he who
opened the eyes of science to infant sexuality can so ignore the baby girl's
pronounced interest in men and in her playing with dolls (p. 127). She said
that Freud did not always see women's sexual function as remaining latent
until the discovery of the lack of a penis. Furthermore she points out how, in
his paper On narcissism (Freud 1914), he had described the typical female
self-sufficiency and inaccessibility and the satisfaction of women in being
loved which was quite different from his description of women's
masculinity complex in New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis
(Riviere 1934, p. 128).
Riviere then gives her own view of women's sense of their sexuality and
describes how when a woman's oral libido, later carried over to her genital
zone, has developed free from undue anxiety, she has freedom and satisfaction
both in acquiring, but mainly in possessing, and ultimately in cherishing
good objects within her, whether they be a man's sexual organ within her
(in phantasy), or his children, or himself, or bodily beauty or treasures of any
other kind (p. 129). She describes how the destiny of women is not
unsatisfied sense of loss and abnegation alone: there is from the beginning in
her a potentiality of satisfied possession, even in childhood,

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of an enjoyment, not completely understood by men, in her girlhood and
beauty, in the wifehood and motherhood that enlarge her personality and in
that part in men's lives and the world's work that only women can and do
fulfil (p. 129). This is a far cry from Freud's view of women's insufficiencies
and it is more consistent with his view of the narcissism of women that he
explored in his paper on the subject. To Riviere, a woman becomes a woman
by fulfilling her feminine destiny without undue anxiety. For the times, and for
a woman who had taken part in suffragette activities, her descriptions seem
oddly old fashioned, one could say even Victorian, but then Strachey had said
that in spite of everything she [Riviere] still kept much of her Victorian
attitude to life (Strachey 1963, p. 230). Her Victorian attitude can be seen in
her views of women's destiny. That men do not understand women's sense of
self-sufficiency could have an echo in Freud's query: What does a woman
want? Is her description of women's sense of self-sufficiency the same as
narcissism? It would seem that she is talking of something different from what
Freud had described in writing on narcissism. At the end of her paper Riviere
asks, What is the essential nature of fully developed femininity? (Riviere
1929, p. 101). She draws on the investigations of Jones and Deutsch to outline
how the answer lies in the oral-sucking stage. The sole gratification for the
feminine woman is that of receiving the penis, semen, child from the father, as
the nipple, milk was received in infancy from the mother in the oral-sucking
stage. Riviere goes on to explain that the acceptance of castration, the
humility, the admiration of men, comes partly from the over-estimation of the
object at that early stage, but mainly from the lesser strength of the sadism that
derives from the oral-biting stage. The capacity for self-sacrifice expresses
efforts to restore and make good, whether to mother or father figures, what has
been taken from them. Riviere ends the paper with a consideration of the
attainment of full heterosexuality which coincides with genitality. Both imply
the attainment of a post ambivalent state, as described by Abraham (1925).
So that the differences between the normal woman and the homosexual lies
in the degree of sadism and the power of dealing both with it, and with the
anxiety it gives rise to in the two types of women (Riviere 1934, p. 101).
Joan Riviere concludes that genuine womanliness is not a masquerade. She
finds that true feminine fulfilment lies in reduction of the sadism related to
early oral impulses and in the ability to deal with the anxiety that such
impulses can arouse.
Abraham, K. (1925) Character formation on the genital level of the libido. In
Selected Papers on Psycho-Analysis. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 407-14.
Appignanesi, L. & Forrester, J. (1992) Freud's Women. London: Weidenfeld
& Nicolson.
Boll, T.E.M. (1962) May Sinclair and the Medico-Psychological Clinic of
London. Proceedings of American Philosophical Society 106: 310-26.
Britton, R. (2003) Sex, Death and the Superego. London and New York:

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Deutsch, H. (1925) The psychology of women in relation to the functions of
reproduction. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 6. []
Freud, A. (1927) Four lectures on child analysis: introduction to the technique
of child analysis. In The Writings of Anna Freud, vol. 1. New York:
International Universities Press. []
Freud, S. (1914) On narcissism: an introduction. In Standard Edition vol. 14.
London: Hogarth Press. []
Freud, S. (1933) New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Standard
Edition vol. 22. London: Hogarth Press. []
Heimann, P. (1963) Obituary. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 44: 228-35. []
Hughes, A. (1991) The Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers,
1920-1958. London and New York: Karnac. []
Hughes, A. (1992) Letters from Sigmund Freud to Joan Riviere (1920-1939).
Int. Rev. Psycho-Anal. 19: 265-84. []
Hughes, A. (1997) Personal experiencesprofessional interests: Joan
Riviere and femininity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 78: 899-911. []
Jones, E. (1927) The early development of female sexuality. Int. J. Psycho-
Anal. 8: 459-72. []
Jones, E. (1953-57) Sigmund Freud: Life and Work, vols 1-111. London:
Hogarth Press. []
Klein, M. (1928) Early stages of the Oedipus complex. In The Writings of
Melanie Klein, vol. 1 London: Hogarth Press, 1975, pp. 186-98. []
Klein, M. (1935) A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic depressive
states. In The Writings of Melanie Klein, vol. 1. London: Hogarth Press,
1975, pp. 262-89. []
Klein, M. (1940) Mourning and its relation to manic depressive states. In The
Writings of Melanie Klein, vol. 1. London: Hogarth Press, 1975, pp. 344-
69. []
Klein, M. (1957) Envy and gratitude. In The Writings of Melanie Klein, vol.
3. London: Hogarth Press, 1975, pp. 176-259. []
Kris, A. (1994) Freud's treatment of a narcissistic patient. Int. J. Psycho-
Anal. 75: 649-64. []
Paskauskas, R.A. (ed.) (1993) The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund
Freud and Ernest Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. []
Riviere, J. (1927) Symposium on child analysis. In A. Hughes (ed.), The
Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers, 1920-1958. London
and New York: Karnac, pp. 80-7. []
Riviere, J. (1929) Womanliness as a masquerade. In A. Hughes (ed.), The
Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers, 1920-1958. London
and New York: Karnac, pp. 90-101. []
Riviere, J. (1932) Jealousy as a mechanism of defence. In A. Hughes (ed.),
The Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers, 1920-1958.
London and New York: Karnac, pp. 104-15. []
Riviere, J. (1934) Review of Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on
PsychoAnalysis. In A. Hughes (ed.), The Inner World and Joan Riviere:
Collected Papers, 1920-1958. London and New York: Karnac, pp. 118-
31. []
Riviere, J. (1936a) On the genesis of psychical conflict in earliest infancy. In
A. Hughes (ed.), The Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers,
1920-1958. London and New York: Karnac, pp. 272-300. []
Riviere, J. (1936b) A contribution to the analysis of the negative therapeutic
reaction. In A. Hughes (ed.), The Inner World and Joan Riviere:
Collected Papers, 1920-1958. London and New York: Karnac, pp. 134-
53. []
Segal, H. (1991) Foreword to A. Hughes (ed.), The Inner World and Joan

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Riviere: Collected Papers, 1920-1958. London and New York: Karnac,
pp. xi-xiv.
Showalter, E. (1987) The Female Malady. London: Virago.
Strachey, J. (1963) Obituary. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 44: 228-35. []
Young-Bruehl, E. (1988) Anna Freud. London: Macmillan.

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Although she published her paper Womanliness as a masquerade in
1929, Joan Riviere wrote it in 1928, the year that women in England got the
vote. I want to consider the paper, her first original contribution to
psychoanalytic thought, in the social and cultural context of the time, and then
I shall focus on elements in it that relate to Joan Riviere's personal
experiences and family influences that shaped her understanding of women
and their sexuality. As well, I shall look at her views in relation to those of
Freud, Klein and Jones. There is evidence that Riviere was speaking of
herself in her descriptions of the patient in her paper, evidence that can be
found in her diary and in the diary of her mother; as well as from the
interviews that I had with her daughter Diana. In addition there is a letter from
Freud to Riviere that gives further evidence that she is writing about herself in
this paper. The correspondence between Freud and Jones concerning Riviere
and her analysis with Freud in 1922 also throws light on her experiences and
on her personality that are similar to those of the patient she describes in
Womanliness as a masquerade.

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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]
Hughes, A. (2004). Joan Riviere and the Masquerade. Psychoanal. Hist.,

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