Return to Events Calendar

Leo Bersani & Adam Phillips
Respondents: Teresa de Lauretis and David Marriott

Intimacies, A Conversation

Tuesday, February 17 / 4 PM / Humanities 210

This event addresses issues raised by the co-authored Intimacies (Chicago, 2008), among them the re-description of narcissism and the possibility of a non- or anti-epistemological psychoanalysis.

Download a copy of Intimacies, Chapters 1, 2 and 4.

Download a copy of Intimacies, Chapter 3

Download a copy of Henry James's "The Beast in the Jungle."

LEO BERSANI is Emeritus Professor of French at UC Berkeley. His books include The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art (Columbia, 1986), The Culture of Redemption (Harvard, 1990), Homos (Harvard, 1995), and, with Ulysse Dutoit, Caravaggio’s Secrets (MIT, 1998), and Forms of Being/Cinema, Subjectivity, Aesthetics (BFI, 2008).

Concerning Intimacies, he writes, “Any durable political changes depend on changes in our most intimate relational structures. In addressing the possibilities of these changes, we ask such questions as: Is intimacy necessarily personal? What is the role of knowledge in intimacy? What has the role of psychoanalysis been in the promotion and/or obstruction of what Foucault called ‘new relational modes’?”

ADAM PHILLIPS is a psychoanalyst, the general editor of Penguin Modern Classics’s Freud translations, and the author of fourteen books, including On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life (Harvard,1993), Monogamy (Vintage,1999), Going Sane (Fourth Estate, 2005), Side Effect (Harper, 2006), and, with historian Barbara Taylor, On Kindness (2009).

TERESA DE LAURETIS is Distinguished Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz. Her most recent book is Freud’s Drive: Psychoanalysis, Literature and Film (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008).

DAVID MARRIOTT is Professor of the History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz. His recent publications include: Haunted Life (Rutgers, 2007) and Hoodoo Voodoo (Shearsman Books, 2008). He is currently completing a book on the Unwanted, which deals with the question of hatred in the visual.

In Intimacies, Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips present a fascinating dialogue about the problems and possibilities of human intimacy.  Their conversation takes as its point of departure the central importance of psychoanalysis to the modern imagination, though they also claim that psychoanalysis has failed to realize its most exciting and innovative relational potential. 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 fi lm 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.

Co-sponsored by the Queer Theory Research Cluster and the Departments of Literature, History of Consciousness, History of Art and Visual Culture, Psychology, and Sociology

Overview - Programs - Publications - Sites of Interest - Events - Clusters - CS Archives- Home

Last modified: December 11, 2008
Please send your comments to the Center for Cultural Studies,