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Title: On the foreskin question : circumcision and psychoanalysis
Author: Osserman, Jordan Harold
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 5995
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Male circumcision is a potent receptacle for fantasy. Whatever its medical benefits or harms, the significance of the practice has always extended to questions beyond the purely organic. By placing specific moments in the history of circumcision into dialogue with psychoanalytic theory, this dissertation demonstrates how circumcision is an inherently ambivalent procedure that enables multitudinous and contradictory responses to the constitutive encounter with lack to be played out on the site of the penis. Through circumcision – whether actual or spectral – the penis is put into relation with the symbolic phallus, allowing the organ to function as an image upon which fundamental questions of subjectivity may be posed. The dissertation begins with an introduction to the relevant psychoanalytic theory on castration, sexual difference, and the phallus, and then examines the extant historical, critical, and psychoanalytic literature relating to circumcision. Subsequently, three case studies are explored, over the course of four chapters: First, St. Paul’s abrogation of Jewish circumcision and its undertheorized role in debates surrounding “Pauline” universalism, considered from the divergent perspectives of Alain Badiou and Daniel Boyarin. Second, the nineteenth-century Anglo-American medicalization of circumcision (promoted as a cure for nervous illness), and the relationship between the “talking cure” and the “circumcision cure.” Finally, the libidinal undertones of contemporary political discourse, activism, and popular sentiment on circumcision. In each case, stances and controversies surrounding circumcision reveal a preoccupation with the question of phallic mastery in the face of lack. Circumcision figures either as an attempt to consolidate mastery – denying or repudiating castration – that at the same time reveals the inherent impossibility of such an enterprise, or, it foregrounds castration, often provoking defensive responses.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available