Psychology & Anthropology

Illustration by Peter Campbell

On Getting the Life You Want

Adam Phillips

20 June 2024

Pragmatism wants us to ask, what is the life we want – or think we want? Whereas psychoanalysis wants us to ask, why do we not want to know what we want?

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‘La Chimera’

Michael Wood

23 May 2024

‘Judge ye,’ Ezra Pound says of a character in one of his poems, ‘Have I dug him up again?’ One answer is obviously yes. In ‘Sestina: Altaforte’, the old troubadour Bertran de Born – with . . .

‘Lacan: L’Exposition’

Francis Gooding

9 May 2024

Culebras,​ or ‘snakes’, come in a twist of three, tightly plaited and bound by ribbon. Their history is obscure: perhaps the style arose because parsimonious cigar-factory bosses wanted to restrict . . .

Last Gasp Apparitions

Michael Ledger-Lomas

4 April 2024

Andrew Lang​ was in Oxford when he first encountered the living dead. One autumn night in 1869, he passed John Conington, professor of Latin, staring silently at Corpus Christi College. Nothing odd about . . .

Gurle Talk

Mary Wellesley

4 April 2024

When​ my daughter began to talk about her body and the bodies of others, I wondered what word we should use for female genitals. I had been taught the term ‘front-bottom’ as a child. Very little . . .

Where on Earth are you?

Frances Stonor Saunders, 3 March 2016

We construct borders, literally and figuratively, to fortify our sense of who we are; and we cross them in search of who we might become.

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Against Self-Criticism

Adam Phillips, 5 March 2015

Lacan​ said that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself – because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbours in the way they loved themselves.

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Ghosts of the Tsunami

Richard Lloyd Parry, 6 February 2014

I met a priest in the north of Japan who exorcised the spirits of people who had drowned in the tsunami.

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Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe, 18 July 2013

Boris Johnson has become his own satirist, safe in the knowledge that the best way to make sure the satire aimed at you is gentle and unchallenging is to create it yourself.

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Among the Flutterers: The Pope Wears Prada

Colm Tóibín, 19 August 2010

In 1993 John McGahern wrote an essay called ‘The Church and Its Spire’, in which he considered his own relationship to the Catholic Church. He made no mention of the fact that he had,...

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The Uninvited: At The Rich Man’s Gate

Jeremy Harding, 3 February 2000

Refugees are not necessarily poor, but by the time they have reached safety, the human trafficking organisations on which they depend have eaten up much of their capital. In the course of excruciating journeys, mental and physiological resources are also expended – some of them non-renewable.

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Dynasty: Lacan and Co

Sherry Turkle, 6 December 1990

Freud believed that psychoanalysis was so deeply subversive of people’s most cherished beliefs that only resistance to psychoanalytic ideas would reveal where they were being taken...

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Fortress Freud

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 18 April 1985

Psychoanalysts have had good reasons for considering themselves beleaguered, but for the past twenty years at least, the world, being less interested in them, has been less interested than they imagine in finding them out. ‘No decent analyst would let his picture appear in the Times,’ one New York analyst snapped at another, as if he had caught him sneaking his image into the temple of Baal.

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Is Michael Neve paranoid?

Michael Neve, 2 June 1983

‘Paranoia.’ ‘He’s paranoid.’ ‘The student movement took such a paranoid view of Nixon.’ ‘Nixon was a paranoid.’ ‘Don’t be so paranoid.’ ‘You’re so oversensitive, Neve, so paranoid.’

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Diary: Looking for Indraprastha

Raghu Karnad, 8 February 2024

Moving the Sanskrit epics ‘from mythology to history’ turns out to mean the obliteration of an archaeological site by a construction site. This is the kind of historical reckoning which India’s present...

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Wreckage of Ellipses: On Enheduana

Anna Della Subin, 8 February 2024

The Sumerian priestess Enheduana managed the complex affairs of the temple and wrote poems, among them a collection of temple hymns that sought to accomplish in verse what her father, Sargon of Akkad,...

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Even the Eyelashes: Inca Mummies

Erin L. Thompson, 4 January 2024

The Chinchorro culture began mummifying their dead in what is now southern Peru and northern Chile around 6000 BCE, making South America’s earliest mummified bodies two thousand years older than those...

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‘You made me do it’

Jacqueline Rose, 30 November 2023

If we loosen our grip on suffering, discard any claim to own it, then perhaps we can ask a different question: how much pain can anyone hold in their mind at once? Must my pain always be greater than yours...

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Questions about the kinds of word that were and were not suitable for inclusion were a perennial source of conflict between James Murray and the volunteers who had professional status in a particular field....

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Smoke and Lava: Vesuvius Observed

Rosemary Hill, 5 October 2023

While the Romantic view of Vesuvius saw it as a unique phenomenon, a spectacle, for the scientists it was a specimen, a comparator for investigations into the nature of volcanic activity. Newtonian physics...

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Short Cuts: Orca Life

Francis Gooding, 21 September 2023

We may understand less about orcas than they do about us. The example of Twofold Bay suggests they are able to understand human desire and intention, at least when it overlaps with theirs.

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Chumship: Upper West Side Cult

James Lasdun, 27 July 2023

Where Freudian orthodoxy called for analysts to work scrupulously against the effects of transference, Saul Newton and his colleagues taught their followers to do precisely the opposite, i.e. exploit the...

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On Marshy Ground: Fen, Bog and Swamp

Fraser MacDonald, 15 June 2023

Peatlands are wetlands, the argument goes, and wetlands disturb us; they’re the abject backwaters of modernity – marginal and malarial, disavowed and despoiled. We’ve ruined them and now they’ll...

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Europeans were eager for Native Americans to tell them the location of precious metals and the source of beaver pelts. But less practical Indigenous knowledge needed either to be assimilated into the existing...

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When Thieves Retire: Pirate Enlightenment

Francis Gooding, 30 March 2023

It isn’t just that the story of the Enlightenment needs amending to reflect its true complexity, it’s that conventional approaches to global history are in need of profound recalibration. The Malagasy...

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In the Mad Laboratory: Invisible Books

Gill Partington, 16 February 2023

We’re increasingly comfortable with the idea of a book in virtual rather than physical form, but what happens when the content disappears too? Inevitably, we’re left looking at the frame around it....

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Coiling in Anarchy: Top of the Lighthouse

Rosemary Hill, 16 February 2023

It is one of the curious qualities of the lighthouse that while its raison d’être is to be visible, durable and stable in the most adverse conditions, it is often seen as a site of ambiguity and insecurity.

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In ancient Egyptian culture, images and words were in a state of constant oscillation between letters, sounds and things. Hieroglyphic letters require as much typographical standardisation as the letters...

Read more about At the British Museum: The Phonetic Hieroglyphic Alphabet

The postwar welfare state, with its implicit recognition of human need, produced public domains and clinical spaces in which the state was cast as maternal surrogate to a population of child citizens....

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Like a Bar of Soap: Work, don’t play

Bee Wilson, 15 December 2022

It wasn’t that Maria Montessori believed imagination served no purpose, but that its purpose was to bring about things that were real. Why did adults waste so much time getting children to imagine the...

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Church, Chief, Cat, Witch: Confessed Sorcerers

Chloe Nahum-Claudel, 3 November 2022

The Yagwoia​ people, who live in the remote Angan region of Papua New Guinea, on the sparsely populated, forested fringes of the highlands, are notable among their neighbours for their staunch adherence...

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LRB contributors

LRB Contributors, 21 July 2022

Elif Batuman, Edna Bonhomme, Hazel V. Carby, Linda Colley, Meehan Crist, Anne Enright, Lorna Finlayson, Lisa Hallgarten and Jayne Kavanagh, Sophie Lewis, Maureen N. McLane, Erin Maglaque,

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