Taking a knife to the hegemon: Psychoanalytic implications for a Dionysian father

By LOUIS ROTHSCHILD – Nov. 8th at 6 pm London time/ 7 pm Berlin time/ 8 pm Cape Town and Jerusalem time/ 1 pm New York Time/ 12 noon Chicago time/ 10 am Vancouver time

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

In her 1969 essay entitled The Personal is Political, Carol Hanisch considers the  dichotomy of Therapy and Politics.  There, she argues against the commonplace splitting of what are oft considered mutually exclusive practices to suggest that once therapeutic work addresses interpersonal power relations, that therapy is political.  My recent book, Rapprochement between fathers and sons:  Breakdowns, reunions, potentialities is framed in such a perspective, and is also the foundation for this talk.

Although the Freudian project addresses the social from both the perspectives of tradition and living in the present, Freud’s gendered conceptions crumble under subsequent feminist and post-structural critique to reveal alienation where intersubjective mutuality might be. The Freudian conception of masculinity entails a portrait of an atomized and resentful individual that psychoanalysts as diverse as Reich, Ferenczi, and Lacan found to be traumatically reactive in a manner that eschews vulnerability.  This talk aims to situate work within psychoanalysis to rework conceptions of masculine identity in a fashion that problematizes desire for domination and control in favor of mutuality.  Here, Jessica Benjamin’s insight that the absence of parental nurturance causes submission is brought to bear on ecological, governmental, and familial spheres.

In addition to clinical material and personal reflections, well known stories such as Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, the tragedy of Icarus, and that of Abraham and Isaac will be considered to illuminate fault lines within masculine identity and to situate our respective hopes and fears. A rigid or hegemonic masculinity is contrasted by the idea of a Dionysian or poetic father who can avow vulnerability in a fashion that privileges care in attunement to the ebbs and flows of relational co-participation.


Louis Rothschild, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Baltimore County, Maryland. His publications have ranged from quantitative to qualitative, social-cognitive to psychoanalysis, and clinical to philosophical. Most recently, he completed his first book, Rapprochement between fathers and sons: Breakdowns, reunions, potentialities with Phoenix Publishing House. Additionally,  he co-edited and contributed a chapter to Precarities of 21st century childhoods: Critical explorations of time(s), place(s), and identities, and also penned the epilogue for the edited  book Truth: Developmental, Cultural, and Clinical Realms. Outside of his professional life, Louis has a fondness for tennis, triathlon, and chasing a rather elusive sourdough starter in the kitchen.

This seminar has passed. The film based on the seminar is available for rental, see Films. 

Terms and conditions: Please register early. If you haven’t registered at least half an hour before the seminar starts, your participation cannot be guaranteed. Your ticket will only be refunded if the seminar is cancelled or postponed. If you have registered for a seminar and miss out for whatever reason, you can e-mail psychoanalysis.politics[at]gmail.com and ask for a private copy of the talk minus the discussion, which will be ready a few days after the event. For those who haven’t registered for a seminar, the video will be available for rental after a few days, see Films

Image: geraldbrazell (2011/2012) Wild Things. R.I.P. Maurice Sendak. Mural in the children’s section of the Richland Library, Columbia, SC. From the 1963 children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. Source: Flickr. Creative Commons.