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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2004 Winter;52(1):43-67.

Mourning beyond melancholia: Freud's psychoanalysis of loss.

Author information

1
Kent State University, Department of English, OH 44242-0001, USA. tclewell@kent.edu

Abstract

Freud's mourning theory has been criticized for assuming a model of subjectivity based on a strongly bounded form of individuation. This model informs "Mourning and Melancholia" (1917), in which Freud argued that mourning comes to a decisive end when the subject severs its emotional attachment to the lost one and reinvests the free libido in a new object. Yet Freud revised his mourning theory in writings concerned with the Great War and in The Ego and the Id (1923), where he redefined the identification process previously associated with melancholia as an integral component of mourning. By viewing the character of the ego as an elegiac formation, that is, as "a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes," Freud's later work registers the endlessness of normal grieving; however, it also imports into mourning the violent characteristics of melancholia, the internal acts of moralized aggression waged in an effort to dissolve the internal trace of the other and establish an autonomous identity. Because it is not immediately clear how Freud's text offers a theory of mourning beyond melancholy violence, his account of the elegiac ego is shown here to ultimately undermine the wish for an identity unencumbered by the claims of the lost other and the past, and to suggest the affirmative and ethical aspects of mourning.

PMID:
15089015
DOI:
10.1177/00030651040520010601
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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