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’s 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.
Charmingly persuasive and daringly provocative, Intimacies is a rare opportunity to listen in on two brilliant thinkers as they explore new ways of thinking about the human psyche.
“In this fascinating and disturbing book, two writers with prose styles and intellectual styles that are at once famously identifiable and intimately personal celebrate the possibility of relationships that defy identity and undo personality. Braiding together brilliant psychoanalytic reflections on fiction and film, on the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the invasion of Iraq, on suicidally unsafe sex and Socrates’ theory of love, Bersani and Phillips at once dream of shattering the ego and, in their own distinct voices, display its miraculous, tragicomic persistence.”
“Intimacies is a very incisive and gentle exchange between two writers who have thought and rethought psychoanalysis in powerful terms for contemporary culture. The dialogue enacts the kind of relationality it seeks to know, moving beyond the traditional narcissism of authorship, probing the important difference between being a psychological subject and finding a way to be present to another person. Psychoanalysis is moved beyond the theory of the ego and developmental norms, returned to primary questions of how and why pleasure is often at odds with self-preservation, and how such enduring tensions are presented in visual media, sexual practice, dialogue, and clinical exchange. Practiced here is an intimacy that explores the regions of impersonal co-existence where losing the self expands the capacity to love. This a beautifully crafted book, one that underscores how the social life of the psyche is a matter of risk, wager, suspense, excitation, bodies, talk, and all manner of things both dangerous and sustaining.”Judith Butler, author of Undoing Gender
The It in the I
Shame on You
The Power of Evil and the Power of Love
On a More Impersonal Note