Advertisement

The Narcissistic Homosexual: Genealogy of a Myth

  • Elizabeth Lunbeck
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History book series (CIH)

Abstract

Among the many character traits associated with narcissism, perhaps none has proven more central and enduring than self-love. The Narcissus of classical mythology has long served in the Western tradition as an object lesson in the dangers of excessive love of self, and it is thus not surprising that the psychological use of “narcissism” from the start connoted an all-enveloping, pathological vanity and taste for self-admiration alongside what quickly would become its more technical referents. The sexologist Havelock Ellis, who is usually credited with having coined “narcissism” in 1898, used the term in reference both to a sexual perversion and to a state of absorbing contemplation and admiration of self.1 Freud, in perhaps the first recorded analytic discussion of narcissism, in 1909, explained to his Viennese colleagues that the narcissism on display in “being enamoured of oneself”—and, he added, parenthetically, “of one’s own genitals”—was normal, a necessary and “indispensable stage of development.”2 And his fellow analyst Otto Rank published a paper in 1911 in which narcissism was treated as first and foremost love of self.3

Keywords

Male Homosexuality Paternal Authority Surrogacy Arrangement Object Love Heterosexual Attraction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Havelock Ellis, in “The Conception of Narcissism,” Psychoanalytic Review 14 (1927), 129–153, 135ff, rehearses the history of the term and his role therein.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sigmund Freud, in Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Vol. II: 1908–1910, ed. Herman Nunberg and Enest Federn, trans. M. Nunberg (New York: International Universities Press, 1967), 312 (November 10, 1909).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rank, cited in Sydney E. Pulver, “Narcissism: The Term and the Concept,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 18 (1970), 319–341, at 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Steven Bruhm in Reflecting Narcissus: A Queer Aesthetic (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 12, notes that the earliest (Greek, predating Ovid) fragments of the Narcissus myth were homoerotic.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Many issues are to be found in the substantial literature on psychoanalysis (and psychiatry) and homosexuality that are not broached here, where my focus is primarily on analytic construals of homosexuals’ capacity for object relations—the issue on which the knitting together of homosexuality and narcissism is premised. For broader treatments, see Kenneth Lewes, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988).Google Scholar
  6. Richard C. Friedman and Jennifer I. Downey, eds., Sexual Orientation and Psychoanalysis: Sexual Orientation and Psychoanalysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  7. Ronald V. Bayer’s classic work on psychiatry, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (New York: Basic Books, 1981).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Freud, Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood (1910), SE 11, 100.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Freud, “Contribution to a Questionnaire on Reading” (1907), SE 9, 245–247. The book is Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky, Leonardo da Vinci (St. Petersburg: N. N. Klobukov, 1902).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Freud to Jung, December 2, 1909, in The Freud/Jung Letters: The Correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire, trans. Ralph Manheim and R.F.C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 2: Years of Maturity, 1901–1919 (New York: Basic Books, 1955), 78 (note that the pagination in the British and American editions differs).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Freud to Jung, December 2, 1909; see also Freud to Ferenczi, December 3, 1909, in The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and S?ndor Ferenczi. Vol. 1, 1908–1914, ed. Eva Brabant, Ernest Falzeder, and Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch, under the supervision of André Haynal, trans. Peter T. Hoffer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). See Nunberg and Federn, ed., Minutes, II, 338–352 (December 1, 1909), for a transcript of the presentation to the Wednesday Society, which closes with Freud’s thanking his colleagues for their “attention and active participation” before expressing his disappointment over the fact that “the discussion has not placed more material at his disposal.”Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Freud to Abraham, January 20, 1910, in The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907–1925, ed. Ernst Falzeder, trans. Caroline Schwarzacher (London: Karnac, 2002).Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    Freud to Andreas-Salome, February 9, 1919, in Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé: Letters, ed. Ernst Pfeiffer, trans. William and Elaine Robson-Scott (New York: Norton, 1985). A second edition in the works, Freud wrote to Ferenczi along similar lines that it was “certainly the only pretty thing that I have written”: February 13, 1919, in The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sdndor Ferenczi. Volume 2, 1914–1919, ed. Ernst Falzeder and Eva Brabant, trans. Peter T. Hoffer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    Jones, Freud, vol. 2, 78. Later analysts also saw the work as autobiographical; see, for one example, Joseph D. Lichtenberg, “Freud’s Leonardo: Psychobiography and Autobiography of Genius,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 26 (1978), 863–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 27.
    Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (New York: Norton, 1998 [1988]), 274–275. “My homosexuality”: Freud to Ferenczi, October 17, 1910.Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Nunberg and Federn, ed., Minutes, II, 345, 350 (December 1, 1909).Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    Jorge L. Ahumada, “On Narcissistic Identification and the Shadow of the Object,” International Review of Psycho-Analysis 17 (1990), 177–187.Google Scholar
  19. idem, “Commentary,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 48 (2000), 35–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 44.
    Freud, Leonardo, 116, 131, 135, 115–117; Lauren Lawrence, “The Covert Seduction Theory: Filling the Gap between the Seduction Theory and the Oedipus Complex,” American Journal of Psychoanalysis 48 (1988), 247–250, argues with reference to Leonardo that Freud entertained a theory of covert parental/maternal seduction, his disavowal of his seduction theory notwithstanding.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 48.
    Nunberg and Federn, ed., Minutes, II, 306–307 (November 10, 1909).Google Scholar
  22. 51.
    Freud, “Femininity,” in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933 [1932]), SE 22, 112–135. I am indebted here and in what follows to the astute reading and insights of Louis Breger, Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 13–14. See also François Roustang, Dire Mastery: Discipleship from Freud to Lacan, trans. Ned Lukacher (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 101.Google Scholar
  23. 57.
    Freud to Max Halberstadt, The Letters of Sigmund Freud, ed. Ernst L. Freud, trans. Tania and James Stern (New York: Basic Books, 1975).Google Scholar
  24. Cited in David Galef and Harold Galef, “Freud’s Wife,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis 32 (2004), 513. Two mothers verged close to two wives—as Ferenczi suggested in writing to Freud (December 26, 1912), reporting and interpreting one of his own dreams: “Only you have moved to the position of father, your sister-in-law to that of mother … You once took a trip to Italy with you sister-in-law (voyage de lit-à-lit)” a scandalous intimation he immediately disavowed by adding “(naturally, only an infantile thought!).”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 58.
    See Ralph Blumenthal, “Hotel Log Hints at Illicit Desire that Dr. Freud Didn’t Repress,” New York Times, December 24, 2006, for a summary of the controversy and evidence.Google Scholar
  26. 59.
    See Breger, Freud, on this issue. See also Madeline Sprengnether, “Reading Freud’s Life,” American Imago 52 (1995), 9–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ester R. Shapiro, “Grief in Freud’s Life: Reconceptualizing Bereavement in Psychoanalytic Theory,” Psychoanalytic Psychology 13 (1996), 547–566, for traumatic readings of Freud’s early life and his idealized reconstruction of his relationship to his mother.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 61.
    Freud, in Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Vol. IV: 1912–1918, ed. Herman Nunberg and Ernst Federn, trans. M. Nunberg (New York: International Universities Press, 1975), 136 (December 11, 1912); Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930 [1929]), SE 21, 103.Google Scholar
  29. Patrick Mahony, “Review of Freud, Jung and Hall the King-Maker: The Historic Expedition to America (1909), by Saul Rosenzweig (1992),” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 74 (1993), 84 2–846, suggestively interprets Freud’s well-known, lifelong hostility to America in terms of his need for a negative, frustrating maternal object.Google Scholar
  30. 66.
    Alfred Adler, in Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Volume I: 1906–1908, ed. Herman Nunberg and Ernst Federn, trans. M. Nunberg (New York: International Universities Press, 1962), 394 (May 6, 1908).Google Scholar
  31. 68.
    Fritz Wittels, in Nunberg and Federn, ed., Minutes, II, 58 (November 18, 1908).Google Scholar
  32. 71.
    Paul Robinson, “Freud and Homosexuality,” in Whose Freud: The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, ed. Peter Brooks and Alex Woloch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 144–146.Google Scholar
  33. 74.
    A. A. Brill, “The Conception of Homosexuality,” Journal ofthe American Medical Association 61 (1913), 335–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gustav Bychowski, “The Ego of Homosexuals,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 26 (1945), 114–127.Google Scholar
  35. 79.
    Ferenczi, “The Nosology of Male Homosexuality (Homo-Erotism)” (1913), in Sex in Psycho-Analysis (Contributions to Psycho-Analysis), trans. Ernest Jones (New York: Dover Publications 1956), 250.Google Scholar
  36. 82.
    Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921), SE 18, 141.Google Scholar
  37. 83.
    Freud, “Some Neurotic Mechanisms,” 232; idem, Group Psychology, 141. Freud to Ernest Jones, March 8, 1920, in The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908–1939, ed. R. Andrew Paskaukas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993): “The social instincts are indeed made up of both, libidinous and selfish, components, we always considered them as sublimations of the homosexual feelings.”Google Scholar
  38. 86.
    J. C. Flügel, “Sexual and Social Sentiments,” British Journal of Medical Psychology 7 (1927): 139–176, at 140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Robert M. Riggall, “Sexuality,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 8 (1927), 530–531, abstract of ibid.Google Scholar
  40. 87.
    As an alternative, R. W. Pickford, “Déjà Vu in Proust and Tolstoy,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 25 (1944), 155–165.Google Scholar
  41. Carl M. Herold, “Critical Analysis of the Elements of Psychic Functions—Part III,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 11 (1942), 187–210.Google Scholar
  42. 88.
    G. Pederson-Krag, “Abstract of Edrita Fried, Combined Group and Individual Therapy with Passive-Narcissistic Patients, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy 5 (1955),” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 25 (1956), 455; Bychowski, “Ego of Homosexuals,” 255–259.Google Scholar
  43. 89.
    Otto Fenichel, “Outline of Clinical Psychoanalysis,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 2 (1933), 260–308, at 277.Google Scholar
  44. 90.
    H. Nunberg, “Homosexuality, Magic and Aggression,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 19 (1938), 1–16, at 3.Google Scholar
  45. 91.
    Bychowski, “Ego of Homosexuals,” 257; Rudolph Wittenberg, “Lesbianism as a Transitory Solution of the Ego,” Psychoanalytic Review 43 (1956), 348–357, at 348.Google Scholar
  46. 92.
    Bychowski, “Ego of Homosexuals,” 258; Fritz Morgenthaler, “Introduction to Panel on Disturbances of Male and Female Identity as Met with in Psychoanalytic Practice,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 50 (1969), 109–112, at 110.Google Scholar
  47. 94.
    Henry Harper Hart, “Narcissistic Equilibrium,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 28 (1942), 106–114, at 110.Google Scholar
  48. 97.
    Carl M. Herold, “Critical Analysis of the Elements of Psychic Functions—Part III,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 11 (1944), 187–210, at 200.Google Scholar
  49. 98.
    Lewes, Male Homosexuality, 77. The notion of homosexuality as failed heterosexuality is discussed in passing in Sidney H. Phillips, “Homosexuality: Coming out of the Confusion,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 84 (2003), 1431–1450, at 1433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Sally Alexander and Barbara Taylor 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Lunbeck

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations