save the date!

April 29-30, 2006
New York, NY

The Dead Father

a two-day international symposium


What has become of the Father?

One place America turns for answers is television. There, a Father is “Six Feet Under” and a family negotiates his absence. Another drama, Crime Scene Investigators, scrutinizes and dissects corpses for clues. Is there really a poverty of “Law and Order” in our culture?  In ‘reality’ shows, the Father is notoriously absent.

In western theory, even the ethereal life of a famous dead Father such as the ghost of Hamlet’s father has eventually been threatened by the pronouncement that “God is dead” (Nietzsche). And psychoanalysis itself has been indicted for the alleged ‘death of the author’ (Barthes) and ‘death of the subject’ (Althusser), leading some psychoanalysts to insist that “Freud is dead” (Lear).  In American psychoanalysis, Green’s seminal paper on “The Dead Mother” has been superceded by the statistical study of maternal function, leading in many circles to neglect of the study of paternal function and obviating a conception of the third.

One might think, from listening to the discourse of the street—in which “big-” and “sugar-” ‘daddies’ are invoked*—or at the baseball stadium—where victory has come to mean being “daddy”, and where a game dominated by rules but unmarked by time and played by men wielding clubs was vitally therapeutic for a traumatized nation**—that the symbolic Father is alive and well. Or, one might think, from the alignment of science with law and order on television, and from the replacement of theory with ‘science’ in psychoanalysis, that the Father’s symbolic demise demonstrates progress.

Yet there are signs that we should not jump to such conclusions. From the clinic, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued in 2004 a position statement noting the changing role of, and the relative absence of, the Father in American family life, including alternative parental couples, and detailing ways for pediatricians to re-engage fathers in the care of their children. Separately, two independent information campaigns***, speaking for children on public buses, recently reminded us that “my mommy can’t be my daddy too” and “fathers matter.” On a larger scale, fundamentalist ideologies across the globe wage war ‘in the name of a Father’ in order to reestablish his position in culture.

This conference intends to raise and address questions deriving from clinical experience and observations such as these above. What are corporeal aspects of Fatherhood? How does the Father’s body function in the mind? What is the role of the Father in theory in a so-called ‘postmodern’ era? On a symbolic level, is the Father still present in western culture and how does he function in the 21st century?

The conference will take place on April 29-30, 2006 in New York City, and will include contributions from internationally recognized clinicians and scholars.

* and who, exactly is that ubiquitous “motherfucker” anyhow? Is it still the father? What is the psychological significance of this construction/expletive?

** see:

*** see:

Reading list (in progress):

Aisenstein, M (2003), “Does the Cure Come as a Byproduct of Psychoanalytic Treatment” Psychoanalytic Quarterly LXXII(1).

Aisenstein, M (2005), “The Psyche-Soma and the Psychoanalytic Cure: The French School of Psychosomatics” 1/28/05
see notice at:

Britton, R. (1998)  Subjectivity, objectivity and triangular space, in Belief and Imagination, London: Routledge, pp 41-58.

Coleman, WL, Garfield, C and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (2004), “Fathers and Pediatricians: Enhancing Men’s Roles in the Care and Development of Their Children", Pediatrics 113(5):1406-1411, 5 May 2004.

Fonda, P (1971) “The Hired Hand” (DVD), Sundance Channel LLC, #SHO-9025, 2003.

Freud, S (1929) Civilization and Its Discontents, SE XXI, London: Hogarth Press.

Gardner, R (2003) “Alpha Women, Beta Men”, New York Magazine, 17 November 2003.

Green, A (1983) “The Dead Mother” in On Private Madness, London: Hogarth, 1986.

Andre Green, Daniel Stern, Rosine Jozef Perelberg, et al (2000), in Clinical and Observational Psychoanalytic Research: Roots of a Controversy, London: Karnac.

Kalinich, L (1985), “The Phallic Burden”

Klein, M. (1930) The Importance of symbol formation in the development of the ego, in Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works 1921-1945 (The Writings of Melanie Klein, Vol 1), New York: Free Press, 1984.

Kohon, G (1999) “The Greening of psychoanalysis: Andre Green in dialogues with Gregorio Kohon”, in The Dead Mother: the work of Andre Green, London: Routledge / New Library of Psychoanalysis.

Lacan, J (1969-70) Seminar 17: Psychoanalysis Upside Down, tr. C Gallagher, London: Karnac, 2001. 

Lacan J (1969-70) Seminar 17: The Other Side of Pychoanalysis, tr. R Grigg, New York: Norton, Spring 2005.

Lear, J (1998), “Knowingness and Abandonment: An Oedipus for Our Time” in Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, Cambridge: Harvard.

Lifton, RJ (2003) “American Apocalypse” The Nation, 12/22/03
see at:

McDougall, J (1989) “The dead father: on early psychic trauma and its relation to disturbance in sexual identity and in creative activity”,  International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 70(part2):205-19.

Segal, H. (1993)  Symbolism (Chap. 3) and Mental space and elements of symbolism (Chap. 4) in Dream, Phantasy and Art, London:Routledge.

Shakespeare, W, Hamlet

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus

Taylor, S (2004), “Commmentary on ‘The Hired Hand’”

Vanier, A. (2001), Some remarks on adolescence with particular reference to Winnicott and Lacan, Psychoanalytic Quarterly LXX:579-97.

 Stuart Taylor, M.D.
Chair, Symposium Planning Committee