Castration Complex

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

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The castration complex is the primary figure under which Freud understands the internalisation of sexual difference. It first appears in his essay “On the Sexual Theories of Children” (1908) and thus precedes and underlies the later formulation of the Oedipus Complex, which appears in his “Contributions to the Psychology of Love” in 1910. In the 1908 essay Freud posits the idea, based on his case history of “Little Hans” (published in 1909), that the young boy perceives the possession of the penis as the “normal” condition and his sister’s lack of a penis as a defect. Because as this stage the female genitalia are not apparent, the girl child is also disposed to see herself as lacking the penis: gender identity thus becomes constituted around the presence or absence of…

893 words

Citation: Clark, Robert. "Castration Complex". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 October 2005 [, accessed 13 April 2024.]

1601 Castration Complex 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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