Intimacies

Leo Bersani, Adam Phillips

Intimacies

Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips present a dialogue about the problems and possibilities of human intimacy. Their conversation takes as its point of departure psychoanalysis and its central importance to the modern imagination - though equally important is their shared sense that by misleading us about the importance of self-knowledge and the danger of narcissism, psychoanalysis has failed to realize its most exciting and innovative relational potential.In pursuit of new forms of intimacy they take up a range of concerns across a variety of contexts. To test the hypothesis that the essence of the analytic exchange is intimate talk without sex, they compare Patrice Leconte's film about an accountant mistaken for a psychoanalyst, "Intimate Strangers", with Henry James' classic novella "The Beast in the Jungle". A discussion of the radical practice of barebacking - unprotected anal sex between gay men - delineates an intimacy that rejects the personal.Even serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the Bush administration's war on terror enter the scene as the conversation turns to the way aggression thrills and gratifies the ego. Finally, in a reading of Socrates' theory of love from Plato's Phaedrus, Bersani and Phillips call for a new form of intimacy which they term "impersonal narcissism": a divestiture of the ego and a recognition of one's non-psychological potential self in others. This revolutionary way of relating to the world, they contend, could lead to a new human freedom by mitigating the horrifying violence we blithely accept as part of human nature. 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
Intimacies

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 144
RRP £10.50
Date of Publication May 2008
ISBN 978-0226043517
Publisher Chicago University Press
 

Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips present a dialogue about the problems and possibilities of human intimacy. Their conversation takes as its point of departure psychoanalysis and its central importance to the modern imagination - though equally important is their shared sense that by misleading us about the importance of self-knowledge and the danger of narcissism, psychoanalysis has failed to realize its most exciting and innovative relational potential.In pursuit of new forms of intimacy they take up a range of concerns across a variety of contexts. To test the hypothesis that the essence of the analytic exchange is intimate talk without sex, they compare Patrice Leconte's film about an accountant mistaken for a psychoanalyst, "Intimate Strangers", with Henry James' classic novella "The Beast in the Jungle". A discussion of the radical practice of barebacking - unprotected anal sex between gay men - delineates an intimacy that rejects the personal.Even serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the Bush administration's war on terror enter the scene as the conversation turns to the way aggression thrills and gratifies the ego. Finally, in a reading of Socrates' theory of love from Plato's Phaedrus, Bersani and Phillips call for a new form of intimacy which they term "impersonal narcissism": a divestiture of the ego and a recognition of one's non-psychological potential self in others. This revolutionary way of relating to the world, they contend, could lead to a new human freedom by mitigating the horrifying violence we blithely accept as part of human nature.

Reviews

The Financial Times

Salley Vickers

Taking the form of a conversation between this congenial but not necessarily like-minded pair, Intimacies explores the pitfalls and possibilities of human intimacy and the damage that a zeal to know ourselves and others can wreak. The exchange of views reflects the authors’ philosophies: differences are the source, not the stumbling blocks, of intimacy; distance should enhance not diminish pleasure in others’ company; and it is disastrous to take things personally.

18/08/2008

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The Guardian

Steven Poole

Bersani performs some intriguing close readings of films and novels; and surveys the implications of gay barebacking porn (sex without condoms) and the subculture of "bug-chasers", managing impressively to combine an ethical condemnation with an analytic sympathy... In response, Phillips executes a few of his trademark cutesy paradoxes, and evinces a super-subtle oneupmanship.

31/05/2008

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