Bruce Nauman, Jean Laplanche and the Art of Helplessness

Cohen, Josh. 2014. Bruce Nauman, Jean Laplanche and the Art of Helplessness. In: John Fletcher and Nicholas Ray, eds. Seductions and Enigmas: Laplanche, Theory, Culture. London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, pp. 326-343. ISBN 9781909831087 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In a career spanning more than five decades the distinguished French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche (1924-2012) elaborated a distinctive methodology for the reading of Freud's corpus and evolved, in connection with it, a radical new metapsychology - one that critically recast Freud's early 'seduction' theory of trauma and placed at the heart of psychic life a particular model of 'enigmatic signification.' Seductions and Enigmas is a volume dedicated to the implications of Laplanche's thought for reading and interpretation. It collects papers that elaborate Laplanche's unique method for the interpretation of Freud, with its attention to the decentering and recentering movements of thought that structure the psychoanalytic field, and explore how the metapsychological developments arising from the implementation of that method open up new horizons for the psychoanalytic reading of other texts and oeuvres in the cultural domain. The volume comprises essays by Laplanche as well as by clinicians and scholars whose work takes inspiration from his research. Authors variously establish, develop or consolidate Laplanche's critical methodology as such, or work through aspects of his major theoretical innovations as points of departure for the reading of cultural works of different kinds: fiction, drama, painting, visual and sound installations, and film. These theoretical innovations cover a breadth of topics including seduction, sublimation, gender, femininity, the functions of binding and unbinding, masochism and the role of the enigmatic. In their range, the texts brought together here are a testament to the vitality and fertility of Laplanche's theoretical endeavour, for anyone concerned with the re-reading of Freud or with continuing to recalibrate and advance the parameters of critical interpretation in light of Freud's legacy.

Item Type:

Book Section


politics, culture, sexuality, Jean Laplanche, Psychoanalysis, seduction, Interpretation, Freudfeminism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


July 2014Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

26 Aug 2015 13:15

Last Modified:

19 May 2020 13:54


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