The Structures of Love

Art and Politics beyond the Transference

By James Penney

Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Cultural Studies, Philosophy, Film Studies, Postcolonial Studies
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Paperback : 9781438439723, 258 pages, January 2013
Hardcover : 9781438439730, 258 pages, April 2012

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Refusal of Love
Love in the Social
The Technique of Love
Resisting the Transference
Woman and the Riff-Raff
The Fall of the Other
From Partial Love to Anxiety
2. Socrates, Analyst
An Original Transference
Of Love Spheres and Stranded Vessels
A Pregnant Beauty
The Part of Love
Love, Ménage à Trois
3. Like a Pack of Rats
Will the Real Frantz Fanon Please Stand Up?
A Gift of Quinine
The Metropolitan View
The Pack of Rats
4. Loving the Terrorist
Massacre and Subjectivation
A Century of Violence
A Begging Bowl Made of Flesh
Of Grey Hair and Treachery
5. For the Love of Cinema
Imaginary Signifiers?
Species of Identification
Beyond the Phenomenon of Cinema
Proustian Obsession and the Failure of Spectatorship
6. Naked Love
Bodies of Theory
Painting in Nature
Nude and Naked
Tableau and Screen
Shameful Nudes
The Object of Art

Reframes the terms of cultural analysis with a fresh take on transference theory in Freud and Lacan and a critical engagement with the philosophy of Alain Badiou.


Both Freud and Lacan defined the transference as the ego's last stand—its final desperate attempt to keep the truth of the unconscious at bay. Both also viewed the transference as a social phenomenon.

In The Structures of Love James Penney argues that transference is the concept with which psychoanalysis thinks through the unconscious demands that circumscribe and can sabotage our creative initiatives in the arts and politics. Penney suggests a method of cultural analysis that enables us to identity the transformative potential of genuine artistic and political acts. He stages a dialogue between Lacan's psychoanalysis and the philosophy of Alain Badiou; includes chapters on Frantz Fanon and Jean Genet, Chantal Akerman and Lucien Freud; and explores the aesthetic, political, and ethical consequences of the transference idea, pushing it into exciting new territory.

James Penney is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Trent University. He is the author of The World of Perversion: Psychoanalysis and the Impossible Absolute of Desire, also published by SUNY Press.


"[Penney] successfully challenges a formidable array of contemporary prejudices that are virtual pieties in the liberal humanities … By articulating his theory in accessible terms and applying it to cases in philosophy, postcolonial theory, cinema, and painting, Penney makes one of the strongest cases I've seen for the significance of psychoanalysis in work that aspires to ethical and political value. Students of cultural studies, especially those interested in the political and ethical implications of their work, would be well advised to take note." — Molly Anne Rothenberg, New Formations

"A welcome contribution to the literature, this fine study of the psychoanalytic concept of transference explores how art and politics, as acts, can be understood for what they reveal about the workings of the unconscious mind … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"This is an original contribution to Lacanian scholarship. The scope of the book is impressive, dealing with postcolonial theory, film theory, art/painting, and critical theory. It introduces to Anglo-American readership, Lacan's texts that have not been translated into English." — Mikko Tuhkanen, coeditor of Queer Times, Queer Becomings