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Melanie Klein
Melanie Klein

Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis Ireland


Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Marie Bonaparte (1882 - 1962)

Princess Marie Bonaparte was born to Roland, grandnephew of Napoleon, and Marie Blanc, from whom she inherited much of her great wealth. Her mother died not long after Marie's birth and the child was reared by a succession of nursemaids and governesses under the baleful eye of Marie's paternal grandmother.
In the absence of much closeness either from her family or from a succession of governesses, each of whom seemed to leave as soon as she began to be attached to them, Marie turned to writing. From a very early age she filled copy books with her scribbling. By the age of seven Marie could speak and write in three languages and her writing was soon done in one of these secret foreign scripts, safe from the prying eyes of servants and others.
Marie was apparently impressionable and when barely sixteen was taken in by the attentions of her father's secretary. As she was wont to do from childhood she wrote down her passion. This time her thoughts would not be kept secret, however, but sent as ardent love letters. The secretary used Marie's letters to blackmail her and eventually threatened to make the whole affair public, giving up the letters only when paid off by Marie's father.
Shortly after her twenty-first birthday, when she had come into her fortune - only weeks after this affair was finally settled, Marie fell and cut her nose, leaving a slight scar. Throughout her life Marie made numerous attempts to have the mark on her nose covered up by surgery. Though she had many lovers throughout her life she complained of a sexual frigidity and an absence of passion. It was as though this mark on her nose was the only trace of her passion - and her error - a trace which she could neither tolerate nor eradicate. This surgery would echo the many attempts she also made to surgically 'correct' what she took to be the cause of her lack of pleasure in sex - the position of her clitoris. The themes of sexual pleasure and its absence, of passion and its lack, of intrusion and penetration into the body would resonate throughout her life. She continued to write and one of her earliest pieces was entitled 'Considerations on the Anatomical Causes of Frigidity in Women'.'Considerations on the Anatomical Causes of Frigidity in Women'.

A woman of high intelligence, Marie surrounded herself with the intellectual leaders of her time and it was not long before she became interested in psychoanalysis. Not one to be satisfied with half measures, she insisted on being analysed by Freud himself. Initially, despite letters written on her behalf by major figures involved in psychoanalysis in France, Freud showed little interest. It was only when Marie went to Vienna to meet Freud personally that he relented and agreed to take her on. Freud became quite impressed by Marie, and she with him, so that they became good friends and she became in effect Freud's loyal emissary in Paris. Marie was extraordinarily generous and it was with money loaned by her that Freud was able to escape from the Nazis. She is famous also for defying Freud and refusing to destroy letters Freud had written to Wilhelm Fliess.
However, despite her loyalty to Freud, Marie tended towards a biological underpinning to psychical difficulties. She demonstrates this in her writing; in Female Sexuality (1953) for example, she puts forward a biological theory of bisexuality. However, in her study of Poe, The Life and Works of E. A. Poe (1949), she takes a more psychoanalytic and much less biologically orientated position. By the 1950s, Marie had become the grande damme of French psychoanalysis. She and Jaques Lacan were both in analysis with Lowenstein and apparently each complained of the other to him. Marie looked upon Lacan as a disturbing and destabilising influence on psychoanalysis. For his part, Lacan considered that Marie was accorded far too much respect simply by virtue of her age and her connection to Freud. Appignanesi and Forrester tell us in Freud's Women (Virago, London, 1993) that even late in her life she wielded quite a degree of influence and that it was she who was instrumental in having Lacan expelled from the International Association and ensuring that his new group, Société Française de Psychoanalyse, would not be recognised.

Selected Works:
The Life and Works of Edgar Allen Poe (1949) Female Sexuality (1953)
Further Reading:
L. Appignanesi & J. Forrester. Freud's Women (1993)
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