Empty Space: Creativity, Femininity, Reparation, Justice


  • Carolyn Laubender




psychoanalysis, aesthetics


I take up Klein’s theorization of creativity through reparation to consider how this principally psychological formulation articulates a relationship between aesthetics and politics.[1] Much scholarship on Klein, like that by Leo Bersani (1990), Lyndsey Stonebridge (1998), Esther Sánchez-Pardo (2003), and Mary Jacobus (2005) has rightly called attention to the central function of creativity in her work, showing how her narrative of the psychic impulse to create opens onto a broader theory of aesthetics. Yet, for all this attention to aesthetics, few psychoanalysts or scholars have considered how, through the language of “reparation,” Klein’s psychoanalytic theory sutures aesthetics to a thoroughly politicalgrappling with the limits of justice. In this article, I therefore re-orient previous critical engagements with Kleinian psychoanalysis and aesthetics by locating reparation as a critical axis within Klein’s work that bridges aesthetic and political concerns, thereby bringing aesthetic scholarship on Klein into conversation with incisive political readings of her work by critics like Jacqueline Rose (1994), Eli Zaretsky (1998), and Michal Shapira (2013). As a distinctly twentieth-century framework for negotiating global, political claims to and for justice, “reparation” is far from simply—or indeed originally—a psychological operation. Thus, that Klein would adopt the language of “reparation” to name the psychic process she understood as paramount to creativity is not only aesthetically but, I argue, politically salient[1] Although psychoanalysis does not always make careful distinctions between related terms like “aesthetics” and “creativity,” it is worth pointing out that throughout this article I do not use them interchangeably. In my use of “creativity,” I mean to name a principally psychological (rather than, for instance, ontological) process. This usage is consistent with most psychoanalytic approaches to creativity since they attend first and foremost to the realm of subjective experience, emotionality, and intentionality. Creativity, then, names the interior, psychic disposition from which one creates, not the ontological novelty of the object or ideation in itself. In contrast, my use of “aesthetics” is admittedly less precise. “Aesthetics,” as I use it, mantles both an internal subjective disposition or sensation in relation to the creation and apperception of (art) objects and a potential quality inhering in the art object itself, even as I strongly agree with Jacques Rancière’s (2013) account of how historical, political conditions structure the legibility and recognizability of any object or event as “art” in the first place. Creativity, as I use it, is therefore just one potential aspect of aesthetics, albeit one that has been of major interest to psychoanalytic aesthetics. I leave aesthetics as a broader concept in an attempt to expand, rather than limit, what we imagine as the proper field of “the aesthetic” in the first place. 




How to Cite

Laubender, C. (2019). Empty Space: Creativity, Femininity, Reparation, Justice. Free Associations, (75), 27–48. https://doi.org/10.1234/fa.v0i75.260




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