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Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (1928 - 2006)

Lifespan: 1928 - 2006

Related: perversion - psychoanalysis - psychopathology - creativity - perversion

By the time of the student rebellions of May 1968, she had become a political conservative. In their anonymous 1969 book L'universe contestationnaire (reworked and published in English in 1986 as Freud or Reich? Psychoanalysis and Illusion), Chasseguet-Smirgel and her husband/co-author Béla Grunberger argued that the utopian political ideology of the student demonstrators, as well as of their Freudo-Marxist avatars Herbert Marcuse and Gilles Deleuze, was fueled by primary narcissism, the desire to return to the maternal womb. Further, that the very term "Freudo-Marxism" was oxymoronic--one could not reconcile the reality principle with the Communist utopia. Chasseguet-Smirgel's analysis of Wilhelm Reich, the Freudian dissident who became an insane systematizer of the libido, explains why his orgonic theory collected followers despite its apparent wackiness. [Dec 2006]

Creativity and Perversion (1996) - Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Otto Kernberg Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

...the number of perverts involved in the field of art is probably much greater than the average for the population in general.... It can be supposed ... that the pervert inclines in some particular manner to the world of art. --Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Creativity and Perversion, 1984


Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (1928 - 2006) (whose surname is alternatively spelled "Chasseguet-Smirguel," but generally not in English-language publications) was a leading French psychoanalyst, a training analyst, and Past President of the Société Psychanalytique in Paris. From 1983 to 1989, she was Vice President of the International Psychoanalytical Association. Chasseguet-Smirgel was Freud Professor at the University College of London, and Professor of Psychopathology at the University of Lille. She is best known for her reworking of the Freudian theory of the ego ideal and its connection to primary narcissism, as well as for her extension of this theory to a critique of utopian ideology. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janine_Chasseguet-Smirgel [Dec 2006]


Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel is a member of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris and honorary member of the Philadelphia Psychoanalytical Society, and a former holder of the Freud Chair at London University and the Chair of Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology at Lille University.

Beauty and the Enlightened Beast - Arthur Pontynen

"The roots of modern-day horrors are to be found not in superstition and ignorance, but in the perverse philosophical assumptions of the Enlightenment itself."

The aestheticization of reality and, indeed, life has discernible personal and social consequences. In Creativity and Perversion (1984), Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel identifies them by examining the psychological association between aestheticism, creativity, and perversion. She finds that the driving cultural force behind each of these impulses is the unwillingness of the child to acknowledge reality, particularly the differences between things. Following Freud, she notes the importance of an individual’s recognizing differences between the sexes and the generations, observing that denial of those differences is neither enlightened nor tolerant; in fact, it results in a psychology that is fundamentally sadistic. It is grounded in an immature attempt to obtain a single goal: the violent elimination of all distinctions. As an illustration, Chasseguet-Smirgel refers to another prominent figure of the Enlightenment, the Marquis [Comte] de Sade:

The materialistic reasoning of Sade when he speaks of the equality of man with an oyster, the equality of all human beings, the equality of Good and Evil, the equality of death and life . . . reveals but one basic intention: to reduce the universe to faeces. . . . The Sadean hero actually becomes the grinding machine, the cauldron in which the universe will be dissolved.

Chasseguet-Smirgel depicts the unwillingness to come to terms with reality as an act of pride, and consequently as an act of violence. That violence has a sexual component: because it is grounded in a denial of reality, it involves a wish to make others conform to "one's own will"or pleasure. This impulse has played out vividly in art. Chasseguet-Smirgel considers three examples of Luciferian characters: a historical one, Caligula; a fictional one, the scientist Doctor Moreau; and a real-life artist, Hans Bellmer. Each of these characters exhibits a will to construct reality according to his own pleasure, and each also displays a tendency toward sexual sadism. Bellmer, who was known for creating dolls that suggest a disturbing sexual violence, was quoted as saying in 1965,

The body can be compared to a sentence inviting one to disarticulate it for its true elements to be recombined in a series of endless anagrams . . . leib (body), lieb (love), Beil (axe).

The sadist refuses to accept reality, and thus takes pleasure in rearranging it in perverse ways. Bellmer is not alone in this regard, the culture of the Enlightenment has provided countless examples of such sadistic content, from the Marquis de Sade to Edward Munch (whose paintings and prints titled Madonna link sex with violence) to Marcel Duchamp (The Bride Stripped Bare by the Bachelors, with its onanistic male grinding machines). More recent examples include Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, which was spattered with feces and displayed in the Brooklyn Museum. In these last two cases, images representing a powerful reality are used to provide perverse pleasure by being associated with, and thereby violated by, human waste.

This attempted equalizing of differences is nothing new in human experience. It is central to the work of the Marquis de Sade, who merely updated the worldmaking aspirations of the Roman emperor and consummate worldmaker Caligula. For a detailed historical account of the sordid activities of worldmakers through the ages, the reader can visit the histories of Suetonius, Procopius, and a wide variety of others. More timely is the work of a current philosopher, Peter Singer.

words by by Arthur Pontynen from Beauty and the Enlightened Beast July - Aug 2001

Creativity and Perversion (1984) - Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Otto Kernberg

This psychoanalytic work is fascinating reading and frequently cites and interprets Marquis de Sade

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