GSD 360, 37483, Freud, Feminism, and Queer Theory
By: Jacqueline Foxworth
Freud, Feminism, Queer Theory. Are these three things even related, you ask? Kinda, yeah, and you can find out how by reading this post and then registering for Professor Peter Rehberg’s spring course.
A little bit on Professor Rehberg that you may not learn in class: he is part of an exchange program run by the German government to bring German and European cultural studies to the U.S. through a teaching and research at American universities. He received academic training both in Germany, where he acquired his master’s, and the U.S., where he received his PhD.
So, who is Freud, and what are Feminism and Queer Theory? Freud, a neurologist who lived from 1856 to 1939, is known as the father of psychoanalysis, which is considered a method for the treatment of psychopathology through a dialogue between the patient and psychoanalyst, named the “talking cure”.
According to Professor Rehberg, feminism describes “our cultural interpretation of sexual difference [being] heavily charged with ideologies that put women into a disenfranchised position,” which overwhelmingly seems to be the norm in the West today. In the class, he wants to tackle such questions as: Why is feminism being dismissed in today’s society? Why does it have such a negative connotation? On the subject of Queer Theory, Professor Rehberg explains that it implies “not just a critique of heteronormativity, but also a critique of notions of identity.” And in terms of where these two ideas converge, he feels “feminism cannot afford to ignore the question of homo- and hetero-sexuality,” and his course will delve into why this might be.
So, where does Freud meet Feminism and Queer Theory? It is often understood that Freudianism and psychoanalysis provide an inhospitable environment for women, gays, and lesbians. But, how accurate is this interpretation? For example, was Freud misogynistic or was he just really good at explaining the misogynistic system of society? And, was Freud’s work on sexuality actually useful for queer theory? According to Professor Rehberg, we have to take a closer look at history and Freud’s writings in order to understand these contrasting views.
Finally, when I asked Professor Rehberg why it is important to understand Freud, Feminism and Queer Theory today, he responded: “I still think that psychoanalysis is the most complex discourse on sexuality and the relationship between sexuality cultures and subjectivity that we have today…It’s a cultural tradition that offers such a fantastic, fascinating understanding of how subjectivity works and what our relation to our body is…I don’t think psychoanalysis is over.” He then provided examples of ways in which psychoanalysis has infiltrated our everyday discourse, like how often we use its terms such as “symptom,” “fetish,” “neurosis,” etc. All of these are reasons why even students not in Germanic or Gender Studies would benefit from this course, so I would encourage all students to quench their curiosity and take it!