Beauvoir x Reworking x Symbol of

Hi everyone. Sorry for missing the seminar on Friday, got my wisdom teeth pulled (still a little bruised today).

Just finished up The Second Sex. I found the way that Beauvoir reworks psychoanalysis really insightful. Even the form/style which she uses to rework and discuss it is great. She presents certain theories of psychoanalysis and doesn’t just attack them straight away, she discusses them, points out some of their flaws (in a much more amiable way than Paine) and works in her own ideas. I mean, her deconstruction of penis envy is really, really solid:

“The little boy obtains from his penis a living experience that makes it an object of pride to him, but this pride does not necessarily imply a corresponding humiliation for his sisters” (43)

And later she writes

“If the little girl feels penis envy it is only as the symbol of privileges enjoyed by boys” (44)

She’s reverse engineering Freud. Instead of the outside world being symbolic of sexual desires/fantasy/etc, sexual desires are themselves symbolic of an outside world. It helps to find a place for the social in Freud’s psychoanalytic model.

Beauvoir’s mention of the “purposiveness of existence” (46) also provide a really provocative broadening of Freudian psychoanalysis. “If we do not go back to the source, man appears to be the battleground of compulsions and prohibitions that alike are devoid of meaning and incidental,” Beauvoir explains (46). This is something that bugged me about Freud’s work: everything come back to desire – but desire for what? I mean this in the sense that, while sex is the foundation for Freud’s model, it can’t possibly be just the pleasure of sex in itself which drives all of our action. Beauvoir suggests that there’s something more, that there is meaning to be found beyond the “battleground of compulsions and prohibitions.”


2 thoughts on “Beauvoir x Reworking x Symbol of

  1. I like that you mention her deconstruction of penis envy – it was great that she managed to say that Freud was utter nonsense and then explain it rather than making an unsupported claim!

  2. This is something that bugged me about Freud’s work: everything come back to desire – but desire for what?

    This didn’t quite occur to me while reading Freud (maybe I was too overwhelmed with distaste, ha) and you’re right – it’s interesting.

    (Also, now I’m wondering about how Freud would see existentialism.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *