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CHAPTER ELEVEN: A moving tribute to Freud

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere wrote this tribute to Freud a week after his death on 23 September 1939, in London. It is a moving account of her appreciation of his genius and of his vision but, most importantly, of Freud the man; he comes alive as a person of great integrity and inflexible honesty, of humour and sensitivity. He had expressed surprise (letter to Jones, 23 September 1927) that Riviere found Melanie Klein’s theories of child development relevant. Riviere however had no difficulty in reconciling theories of Freud with those that she considered extended his work. Her loyalty to the man and his enormous contribution to science and the world is apparent in this tribute. She never lost her appreciation of Freud although she was at the same time ready to admire and explore new ideas.

Her statement that ‘his power to see new facts and to check his observations diminished after his operation in 1924’ might be queried by some. However, it can be seen to echo what Freud himself had said in his ‘Postscript’ (1935a) to An Autobiographical Study (1925d [1924]): that since the time he had put forward his ‘hypothesis of the existence of two classes of instinct (Eros and the death instinct) and proposed a division of the mind into ego, superego and id’ he had made ‘no further decisive contributions to psycho-analysis’.

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A castration symbol

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

The duplicating of an object in dreams is known to analysts as a representation (by means of an opposite idea) of its absence. It occurs particularly in reference to castration ideas and with penis symbols. The following instance of this mechanism coming up in a phantasy may point to a possible second motivation by which this form of representation comes to be used (the first being the characteristic unconscious one of representation by opposites).

A young obsessional girl said one day during analysis, pointing to the pattern on a curtain near her: ‘Do you see that thing hanging down like a little seal on a man’s watch-chain? I thought of it tied on to your husband’s penis, as if he had two penises; and then I thought the seal would rub against his penis and bruise it, and you would kiss the bruise, and his penis would be all bloody and mangled, and your lips would be covered with the blood.’ Unconscious phantasies of castrating a man and of becoming pregnant by biting off a penis were beginning to come out in projection on to the analyst. Rubbing was an important symptom in the neurosis (washing mania).

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Review of F. Alvah Parsons, The Psychology of Dress

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

A review of this book has really no place in this journal. The book is in effect a description of clothes and costume in the upper classes from mediaeval times to the present day, limited almost entirely to Western Europe. In a disarming preface the author, who is president of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, disclaims any attempt at a history of costume or at ‘a technical psychological treatment’ of the subject. His title is therefore misleading. The quality of the psychology in the book may be gathered from the letterpress under the illustrations, of which the following are examples:

‘Our modern young women may find solace in Queen Victoria’s attempt to cover her ears.’

‘It was not given to the ladies to exploit the new and less autocratic fashion of dress, but it was arrested by the Empire.’

The author’s style is not adapted to the serious student, whether of costume or of psychology. The book is well produced, and as a popular work has its attractions. Its 150 full-page photographic illustrations, taken from paintings, portraits, and engravings, many of which are beautiful, have great interest, though this would have been increased by information concerning the title, creator, and present location of the originals.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Freud in the 1930s

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

This paper is more than a book review-it is a lucid and incisive appreciation of Freud’s thinking as he supplements theories that he had presented in his original Introductory Lectures (1916-17 [1915-17]). Joan Riviere shows once again her acute sensitivity to Freud’s meaning and message, as well as her admiration for him and his work: Freud tells us repeatedly that none of his ideas claims to provide a final solution—not to anxiety, not to self-destructiveness, nor to the formation of the superego. She notes ambiguities and discrepancies in some of his hypotheses, ambiguities and discrepancies that he was the first to acknowledge. She points out, for instance, that in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a [1929]), published three years earlier, Freud relates the severity of the superego to the individual’s own aggressiveness and here that aspect of its organization has hardly a mention. She also comments that it is difficult to see that ‘internal mental conflict does not arise in the child until the passing of the Oedipus complex’ and regrets that he does not accept the evidence concerning pregenital stages which confirm, extend and amplify his own hypotheses.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Polemics

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

This is Joan Riviere’s contribution to a symposium held before the British Psycho-Analytical Society in London, May 1927, in which Melanie Klein and four supporters (Ernest Jones, Edward Glover, Joan Riviere and M. N. Searl) replied to criticisms voiced by Anna Freud in a book Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis, that she made from her lecture notes and published in Vienna in 1927. She used it ‘to bring the differences between her own approach and Melanie Klein’s into very stark light’ (Young-Bruehl, 1988). These differences were fundamental and concerned with the timing of the development of the superego and the child’s relationship to the parents of its internal world.

In her paper Riviere supports Klein’s theory of the early development of the superego and suggests a connection between the strength of the superego and deprivation. She argues against Anna Freud’s contention that the superego in the child is too little developed to restrain him from acting out when its roots are analysed. To Riviere the severity of the superego is modified by the analysis of anxiety and guilt, and the bitterness of frustration is thereby better tolerated; she shows how anxiety, guilt, and frustration all contribute to superego excesses. Riviere attributes ‘little importance to the adult’s conscious wish for cure’ and considers the differences in the attitudes of adults and children towards making the unconscious, conscious, in analyses are more apparent than real. The child’s transference to the analyst is similar to that of the adult patient, and the negative aspects of the transference need to be analysed in children as they are in adult patients.

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