Psychoanalysis and American Art

Sigmund Freud's black and white portrait

‘…I shall avoid the temptation of entering upon a critique of American civilization; I do not wish to give an impression of wanting myself to employ American methods.’
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (1931).

‘…some intellectuals go so far as to relate the demise of the intellectual community in America to the importation of psychoanalysis.’
Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970)

What is the significance of psychoanalysis to the development of American art and the writing of American art history? What does the importation, exportation and practice of different psychoanalytic theories in the United States tell us about artists, art making and art writing? What does psychoanalysis tell us about artistic relations between Europe and the United States? Does psychoanalysis provide fruitful perspectives on American art made prior to the development of analytic discourse at the beginning of the twentieth century? Are there any specific factors in American art and culture that make psychoanalysis a necessary critical approach for the art historian?

This conference offers a review of the importance of psychoanalysis to the history and historiography of American art, at a moment when theory appears to be on the wane in the humanities and when art history is enjoying a renewed archival turn. As the debates between Rachael Z. DeLue and Bryan Wolf in A Companion to American Art (2015) show, we are still digesting the legacies of psychoanalytic poststructuralism in art historical narratives. This conference asks what psychoanalysis does for, in and with American art and art history today.

Organised by Professor David Peters Corbett (Director, Centre for American Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Theodore Gordon (University of Sussex). 



13.30 – Registration

14.00 – 14.30: Welcome and Introduction (David Peters-Corbett and Theo Gordon)

14.30– 15.45: Dreams and Waking Life

Christa Robbins, ‘Kenneth Noland: The Reichian Encounter’

Nicholas Robbins, ‘Fitz Henry Lane’s Dream’

15.45-16.15 tea break

16.15 – 17.30: Transference

Levi Prombaum, James Baldwin and his analyst: LIFE magazine, 1963′

Kimberly Lamm, ‘Painted Exchanges: Portraits of American Girls and the Sexual Politics of Freud’s Dora‘

17.30-18.00 comfort break

18.00 – Keynote: Gregg Bordowitz

19.30 reception


09.30 registration

10.00 – 11.00: Trauma

Catherine Spencer, ‘Joan Jonas’s Imagist Poetics’

Michael Green, World on the Brink: Joan Jonas and H.D

11.00-11:30 tea break

11:30-12:30: Repetition

Theodoros Triandos, ‘The Queer Time of Early Video’

Christian Whitworth, ‘ “I don’t ever have to see you again – to see you again’: Critical Mass, Repetition, and the Re-Performance of Avant-Garde Film’

12:30-13:30 lunch break (provided for the speakers and chairs only)

13.30 – 14.45 roundtable

Jo Applin, Whitney Davis, Rye Holmboe, Margaret Iversen

14.45 closing remarks

15.00 END

This event has passed.

22 Mar - 23 Mar 2019

Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd March 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, London