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Sexuality, Excess and Representation - Five Lectures on Sexuality

by  Rosine Jozef Perelberg

September 30, October 14, 28, November 11, 25

Saturdays: 15h-17h (Lisbon Time) - Online with recordings


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A psychoanalytic understanding of sexuality refers to the unconscious, repressed aspects of sexuality, which have their origins in infantile sexuality.

Psychoanalysis has, since Freud, viewed sexuality as traumatic to the individual. This traumatic dimension is linked to the force of the drives in that there is always something in excess that cannot be reduced to the level of representation

The traumatic dimension of sexuality also relates to the recognition of the difference between the sexes, the result of a long process of development and elaboration. The revolutionary, fundamental contribution made by Freud is the idea that one is not born already made as a man or woman, but one is constituted as such in the process of development. The notion of innate bisexuality is central to Freud’s writings and permeates his understanding of all his clinical studies: the Dora case, Little Hans, the Wolf Man, the Rat Man, Schreber and a case of homosexuality in a woman.

The course will be based on my book Sexuality, Excess and Representation. London: Routledge and The New Library of Psychoanalysis. It is also available in French: Sexualité, Excès et Représentation. Paris: PUF (2022) and Spanish : Sexualidad, Exceso y Representacion. Buenos Aires: BIEBEL


Rosine Jozef Perelberg

Professor Rosine Jozef Perelberg is a  Distinguished Fellow, Training Analyst and past President of the British Psychoanalytic Society, Visiting Professor in the Psychoanalysis Unit at University College London and Corresponding Member of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society. Previously she undertook a PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics.  


She has written and edited 12 books. Psychic Bisexuality has won the 2019 American Board & Academy of Psychoanalysis Book Prize for Best Edited Book.



In the first seminar we will examine how this fundamental perspective has been elaborated by contemporary authors. Andre Green has suggested that “although, for psychoanalysis, difference is sexual, the question of bisexuality is related to psychoanalytic theory as a whole” (A. Green, 2018).



In the second seminar we will examine the intrinsic link between sexuality and excess. Sexuality in psychoanalysis establishes a link between an excessive amount of excitation, the infant's experience of helplessness, and trauma. The idea of excess emphasises a quantitative element, not reducible to the field of representation. If the drives are at the root of psychical activity, this “implies that something is basically in excess, an overload charge on the mind, linked with the bodily exigencies of the drives whose derivatives have to be sent back to the unconscious because their free expression forbids psychic organisation”.


At the end of his life Freud suggested that both sexes repudiate femininity– a phenomenon that is an essential element of the asymmetry between the sexes. This repudiation is, Freud suggests, the bedrock of psychoanalysis and part of the great riddle of sex (1937c, p. 252). It is part of the domain of what is unanalysable for Freud. This is a mysterious statement that has been a source of many debates, especially in France. What did Freud mean? Freud’s work establishes a link between the feminine and the object of psychoanalytic investigation. In the third seminar we will examine the way in which this formulation has been discussed across the psychoanalytic literature.



In the forth seminar we will examine the notion of paternal function in psychoanalysis and explore the crucial relevance of the paternal function to the understanding of different types of psychopathologies, from violence to psychosis.

The notion of paternal function has been largely ignored in contemporary British object relations theory that has focussed on the mother-infant relationship. The theme of the killing of the father, however, permeates Freud’s writings. He oscillated between different types of interpretations, on the one hand viewing it as a real event that took place in the distant past and was then repressed, on the other regarding the “event” as a myth. A paradox is thus presented: the killing of the father is, in Freud’s view, a requirement for the creation of the social order that, from then on, prohibits all killings. The father, however, has only to be killed metaphorically: the actual exclusion of the father lies at the origin of so many psychopathologies, ranging from violence to the psychoses and perversions.

The notion of paternal function will be also explored for the understanding of political systems and social events.



In the fifth and final seminar will constitute an overview of psychoanalytic approaches and controversies around transgender identifications.  The issue has given rise to a wide literature that has apparently challenged traditional psychoanalytic ways of thinking about sexuality. This seminar will examine key contributions to this important question.

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