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The Hatred of the Father in Perversion

The Letter, Issue 8, Autumn 1996, Pages 17 - 32


THE HATRED OF THE FATHER IN PERVERSION*

André Michels


It is often difficult if not impossible to talk publicly about one's own clinical cases, especially when this involves talking of intimate details that the psychoanalyst has been entrusted with and is expected to keep to himself. However, nothing prevents him from using his clinical experience to discuss material, clinical or literary, which has already been published, nor from giving his own interpretation of this. In this paper, I will use the case of Oscar Wilde and attempt to give a clinical interpretation of it. We have all the necessary information on him for a detailed reading that will enable us to develop some hypothesis on perversion in general. An axis will serve as the guide of this research, namely via the way in which the functions of the father intervene in this case to determine it in every single aspect. This will be useful in expounding the pervert's typical attitude towards the challenge of castration.

Let us begin by saying that this takes place insofar as castration dogs not intervene to give a structure to the 'place of the Other' (le lieu de l'Autre), especially ot the first Other in the life of the child -that means his mother. The pervert is constantly forced to take on the challenge personally. At times it is so important in his life as an adult that it dominates the entire clinical picture. From this we can also refer to and develop the Freudian hypothesis which asserts the disavowal of castration to be at the origin of fetishism and hence also, at least implicitly, that it is paradigmatic of the defence mechanism present in perversion. Repression, though not absent, does not work at all like in the neurotic. I will try to give you an idea of how we could elucidate and give an interpretation of the defence mechanism which takes place in perversion and which determines its scenario. The hypothesis I would like to develop is that the specificity of the perverse reaction that the subject will put into place depends on the way in which the 'father issue' was introduced in his life. However, this does not contradict the generally admitted opinion, which can be verified clinically, that perversion is the result of the law of the mother who did not 'suffer' the sanction of a third" agency or authority which is that of the father. The pervert will be tine as long as he can Eve in a universe which is solelv maternal, and reject the paternal influence, if possible for ever. He will thus be able to stay away from the limits of his subjectivity which are symbolic but which at the same time cause pain (faire mal). In French the word le mal has different meanings, - already yesterday evening we spoke about le mal.[1] As well as evil, it means harm, hurt, disease, illness, pain, ache etc. The pervert is forced to enact one or more at a time of those multiple forms of le mal, of pain or of evil. To avoid hurting himself (de se faire mal), he will do all he can to create a double life, of which Dorian Gray's story is an appropriate example. I will comelback for a little while to it and try to show how in fact it is like a model for perversion.

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