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Int J Psychoanal. 1984;65 ( Pt 1):73-84.

Reflections on Dora: the case of hysteria.


It is with Dora that psychoanalysis becomes what we know it to be: the problem of the transference is introduced for the first time in her case. Although the number of papers written on this case is astonishing we still want to know more and more about her. Maybe this is a characteristic of the hysteric: it tantalizes us, waving a cape--like a bullfighter--that hides nothing behind it. In the second part of this paper, I refer to certain changes in psychoanalytic theory which would account for the apparent 'disappearance' of hysteria. In the third part, I relate hysteria to femininity. I suggest there is an hysterical stage in the development of women, characterized by divalence. Whilst ambi-valence describes a situation in which the subject has to decide whether he loves or hates his object, divalence would describe the situation in which the subject is confronted with the choice between mother and father, within the context of the oedipal drama. This is specifically feminine because it is the woman who has to change from one to the other in her development. When the subject gets 'fixed' to this stage, we find an hysteric who cannot determine the object of her desire, and she will always remain in the middle, unable to choose between mother or father, incapable of defining herself as a woman or a man--in spite of her apparently sexualized 'feminine self'.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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