Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Dr. Christine Roulston


Our principal inquiry revolves around the issue o f touch and its relationship to psychoanalysis, the latter of which traditionally relies on the medium of speech in order to apprehend unconscious expressions. Why did psychoanalysis develop according to this principle, and how was touch understood within this paradigm? In providing a psychoanalytic account o f touch, our analysis engages these questions by reviewing the historical and cultural contexts out of which psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud, emerged as a therapeutic praxis. Shifting from a predominantly historical and technical account of psychoanalysis, we then consider the theoretical works of Freud in order to explore how touch is implicated in the forces that propel psychical life. We are ultimately led, by way of Lacanian psychoanalysis, to a series of missed encounters that defines what is at stake for touch as a lost object, which is to say, as a lost object that incites desire. Significantly, touch, as something fundamentally lacking, not only animates human inter-subjectivity in a perpetual, corporeal reconfiguration, but it also calls into question the signifying capacities of language that give meaning to our most carnal, and craved for, encounters with one another.



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