A 'wall of ideas': The taboo on tenderness in theory and culture

Gavin Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dominant psychoanalytic theories in the humanities promote a myth of origins in which the infant is originally asocial, and motivated only by selfish hedonism, or by a desire to return to a state of syncretic merger with its environment. Developmental psychology, however, has demonstrated that infants are social agents, rather than selfish narcissists. Psychoanalytic theory of culture must therefore recognise the masculine "taboo on tenderness" which underlies its own early formulations, and which is apparent in a diverse range of cultural phenomena—from the eighteenth-century revolt against sensibility, to the commodification of sentiment, and the contemporary sexualisation of both love and touch.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-681
Number of pages15
JournalNew Literary History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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