In Intimacies, Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips argue for our complicity against what perhaps most people think of as gratifying forms of affection. What Bersani in. intimacies – LEO BERSANI & ADAM PHILLIPS. “Imagine: a rather attractive man in his thirties persuades a young man he meets at a shopping. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Intimacies / Leo Bersani & Adam Phillips | Review: “Two gifted and highly prolific intellectuals, Leo Bersani and Adam.

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InRilke wrote in a letter to a young man, ” Forster Howards End captured the desire of connecting “the prose and the passion” in a person’s relationship with another. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die. Our desire to come together in a meaningful relationship with another — although always cognizant of the fact that we may feel ‘unutterably alone’ at times — is the crux of our persistent attempts at intimacy.

In Bersani and Phillips recent work on Intimacies, the authors want to work out a ‘new story’ about intimacy and interpersonal relationships, as one might do in an essay. Though they both want to convey to the reader that this is an attempt or trying out of a new perspective on ‘ways of being’ with another, Bersani and Phillips fall short of bringing any coherence to the ideas that they provocatively and at points intriguingly, bring to their effort.

The book is written for those with considerable understanding of psychoanalytic theory — in both its current and historical references.

Intimacies by Leo Bersani & Adam Phillips on Apple Books

Leo Bersani wrote the first three chapters, with Phillips reacting in the fourth, and a brief conclusion is offered by Bersani, which reacts to Phillips’ comments. The brief introduction by Adam Phillips notes that psychoanalysis has “misled” us in our beliefs about what ought to happen by way of psychoanalytic exploration — that is, intimacirs belief that knowledge of oneself will be one avenue toward personal development, and ultimately intimacy with another — and that narcissism is a barricade to this journey forward.


Rather, it is suggested, and attempts are made to explain, that an impersonal intimacy is the goal, and that this would help alleviate the inherent rage and destructiveness in relationships.

The book begins with a description of the film Confidences trop intimes translated as Intimate Strangersand Henry James’ work, The Beast in the Junglethe latter vaguely referred to in the movie.

These are used to demonstrate the ‘sexually neutralized encounter,’ referring to Phillips’ remark, “[p]sychoanalysis is about what two people can say to each other if they agree not to have sex.

None of these excursions allow any further intimacise of their attempt at formulating inyimacies new ‘story’ or ‘project’ about human relations.

The fourth chapter does begin to add to the conversation by articulating that the first intimacy is one of ‘becoming. The mother recognizes the potential for growth relationally in her infant, and conveys this to the infant. This idea, however, has been elucidated by Donald Winnicott many years ago, and followed jntimacies on in many psychoanalytic interpretive writings on the research that has been done on infant development.

Further, this idea has its usefulness for understanding the psychoanalytic encounter, explicitly and implicitly referred to throughout the text of this book, yet not elaborated upon by the authors. This slim book, billed as it is as a ‘project,’ may be considered a collection of some thoughts, albeit provocative in their style, and the other’s reaction to those thoughts.


Both writers are arguably good thinkers and good writers about the more interesting bits of life.

This reviewer is familiar with Adam Phillips’ work, but not Leo Bersani’s — and the content of Intimacies offers little to the psychologically or literary minded audience; nor does Intimacies seem to offer an interesting or thoughtful discourse on the idea of achieving an impersonal intimacy “without needing to personalize it. Confidences trop intimes translated as Intimate Strangers.

Rudy Oldeschulte trained in psychoanalysis with Anna Freud, and teaches psychology and ethics at a local community college.

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