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We other narcissists: self-love in Freud and culture

Rees, W; (2020) We other narcissists: self-love in Freud and culture. Textual Practice 10.1080/0950236x.2020.1839956. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

I examine the paradoxical place of narcissism in contemporary culture, and within the work of Freud. Paying close attention to the repeated moments of equivocation and contradiction within Freud’s descriptions of primary and secondary narcissism, I draw on the work of Jean Laplanche, who suggests that the ambiguities in Freud’s texts often mirror ambiguities within the constitution of the ego. I argue that we should read Freud’s inability to rigorously distinguish self from other in his explications of self-love not – or not only – as a failure on his part, but also as a trace of an alterity at the heart of identity. It is the very ‘failure’ of Freud’s concept of narcissism that leaves it open to the other and makes it remain a vital concept today, when the word narcissism has been reduced to an impoverished notion of self-obsession. In closing I suggest that, with his knotted and never fully coherent concept of narcissism, Freud provides us with a way of thinking about human relationships outside of the binaries of selfless v selfish love that so commonly constrain our popular and theoretical ideas about love.

Type: Article
Title: We other narcissists: self-love in Freud and culture
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/0950236x.2020.1839956
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236x.2020.1839956
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Freud, psychoanalysis, narcissism, Laplanche, Levinas
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124764
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