February 26 – 28, 2021
Before women had access to capital in the public sphere, powerful sibling bonds and deep female friendships were captured in the literary imagination. Now, on the streets and in blog communities, feminist collectives of all genders inspire resistance projects that are reshaping the meaning of sisterhood. This conference will consider the representation of sisterhood across psychoanalytic and literary canons. Shifting the focus away from the historical role of women as muse, damsel, or mistress – or as the inferior sex plagued by penis envy – this weekend will cast light on artistic literary collaborations among female-identified people.
We’ll also explore female envy and competition in a male-dominated literary world, in which women who write defy a long-standing reputation as “scribblers,” as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to a publisher in 1855. We’ll consider the persistent expectation that a woman “write like a man,” in order to be taken seriously. Alternatively, we’ll explore whether this posturing of masculinity is the flip side of “womanliness as masquerade,” described by psychoanalyst Joan Rivere in 1929 as a creative solution for dealing with conflicts – within oneself and in the culture – about female power, ambition, and aggression.
If women’s writing is still received differently in contemporary publishing, how does this marginalization show up in women’s writing lives? If women have earned their entitlement to money and a room to write, what more do we need? And how do broad social movements, like the #metoo campaign, influence women’s self- expression and ability to put pen to paper? How does the queering of the categories of “male” and “female” reshape how the gendered social order is represented, and how writers bring to life the complexity of gender and subjectivity? These questions and more will stimulate lively conversation during our weekend together about the vast meanings – including the awesome potential and perils – of sisterhood.
Coordinator: Catherine Baker-Pitts, Ph.D., LCSW
CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, “Christina’s World.” Kline has written six other novels —Orphan Train, Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Bird in Hand, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water — and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, LitHub, and Psychology Today, among other places. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.
LUISE EICHENBAUM, LCSW, is co-founder of The Women’s Therapy Centre in London (1976) and The Women’s Therapy Centre Institute in New York City (1981) where she is on the faculty and Board of Directors. She has written and lectured widely on feminist relational psychotherapy and co-authored with Susie Orbach Understanding Women, What Do Women Want and Between Women. Luise lives in New York where she is in private practice.
Additional faculty will be announced at a later date.