"Why Freud?" Asked the Shrew: Psychoanalysis and Feminism, Post-Partum Document, and the History Group

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Tracing the parallel development of Juliet Mitchell's Psychoanalysis and Feminism (1974), and Mary Kelly's epic conceptual art work, Post-Partum Document (1973–1979) to the History Group, a feminist reading group in London, I ask what these influential works offer to thinking on sexual and gender politics today. Closely connected to this question, I explore what the turn to the problem of war by both Mitchell and Kelly in more recent times might reveal about the usefulness of psychoanalytic feminism to war discourse.

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In this paper, Winnicott elaborates on a concept that occupied him in various forms and formulations towards the end of his life: the capacity of the self to relate to the object (or other) in such a way that the object (or other) is recognized as having a place outside the subjective experience of self. Winnicott refers to this as a sophisticated use of reality. He elaborates on this subject using his extensive clinical experience with patients in primitive and less primitive stages of emotional development.
Corpus, the first section of Mary Kelly’s large project Interim, stirs up feelings that cannot quite be pinned down into words, images that are on the verge of being discovered and ideas that might be on the tip of a collective tongue. This sensation is due to the exhibition’s subject matter and to its visual presentation. Both are allied to the debates and experiments around women’s relation to language and images that drew feminist aesthetics into ‘alliance’ with avant-garde aesthetics during the 1970s. Mary Kelly’s work as an artist and theorist, and my own work as a film-maker and theorist, are identified with this movement; and we both gained a cultural identity and framework from its existence. But our common political origins go back further, to the early days of the Women’s Movement in 1970. It is for this reason that writing the introduction to this catalogue means more to me than the pleasure of discussing and celebrating the work of an artist I admire, and consider to have great political and poetic significance.
Margarita Jimenez and I wrote this account of the Miss World demonstration in Shrew (the London Women’s Liberation Workshop journal that each group edited in turn). We decided to use our very different styles of writing to give the piece two levels; she wrote a first person account of events, and I wrote an impersonal comment on our action. The piece was, of course, discussed with the whole group, collectively edited and published anonymously.
Interview: Douglas Crimp in conversation with Mary Kelly
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Re)viewing Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document
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