Life and career
Mitchell was born in New Zealand in 1940, and moved to England in 1944. She attended St Anne's College, Oxford, where she received a degree in English, as well as doing postgraduate work. She taught English literature from 1962 to 1970 at Leeds University and Reading University. Throughout the 1960s, Mitchell was active in leftist politics, and was on the editorial committee of the influential journal, New Left Review.
She was a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge and Professor of Psychoanalysis and Gender Studies at Cambridge University, before in 2010 being appointed to be the Director of the Expanded Doctoral School in Psychoanalytic Studies at Psychoanalysis Unit of University College London (UCL).
Psychoanalysis and Feminism
Mitchell is best known for her book Psychoanalysis and Feminism: Freud, Reich, Laing and Women (1974), in which she tried to reconcile psychoanalysis and feminism at a time when many considered them incompatible. Peter Gay considered it "the most rewarding and responsible contribution'" to the feminist debate on Freud, both acknowledging and rising beyond Freud's male chauvinism in its analysis. Mitchell saw Freud's asymmetrical view of masculinity and femininity as reflecting the realities of patriarchal culture, and sought to use his critique of femininity to critique patriarchy itself. By insisting on the utility of Freud (particularly in a Lacanian reading) for feminism, she opened the way for further critical work on psychoanalysis and gender.
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A substantial part of the thesis of the book is that Marxism may provide a model within which non-patriarchal structures for rearing children could occur. The lack of the 'family romance' would remove the Oedipus complex from a child's development, thus liberating women from the consequences of penis envy and the feeling of being castrated which Mitchell contends is the root cause of women's acceptance that they are inferior. According to Mitchell, children are socialized into appropriate gender roles. Therefore, women grow to be equally socialized into becoming the caretakers of their households.
In her introduction to Lacan on feminine sexuality, Mitchell stresses that "in the Freud that Lacan uses, neither the unconscious nor sexuality...[are] pre-given facts, they are constructions; that is, they are objects with histories".
- Woman's Estate, Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1971
- Psychoanalysis and Feminism. Freud, Reich, Laing and Women, 1974, reissued as: Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Radical Reassessment of Freudian Psychoanalysis, Basic Books 2000
- Women: The Longest Revolution, Virago Press 1984
- (editor), Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne, W. W. Norton & Company 1985
- (editor), Selected Melanie Klein, The Free Press 1987
- (editor, together with Ann Oakley ), Who's Afraid of Feminism?: Seeing Through the Backlash, New Press 1997
- Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria, Basic Books 2001
- Siblings, Sex and Violence (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003)
- Benewick, Robert &, ed. (1998). "Juliet Mitchell 1940-". The Routledge dictionary of twentieth-century political thinkers. Psychology Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-415-09623-2.
- UCL: Juliet Mitchell
- Juliet Mitchell Archive at marxists.org
- Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (London 1989) p. 774
- Judith Van Herik, Freud on Femininity and Faith (1985) p. 15
- N. Tandon, Feminism: A Paradigm Shift (2008) p. 83
- Juliet Mitchell, 'Introduction' J. Mitchell/J. Rose eds., Feminine Sexuality (1982) p. 4
- Jesus College: Juliet Mitchell
- Women's Rights: Radical Change – video of Mitchell appearing in a BBC debate first televised in 1974
- A Conversation with Juliet Mitchell