Who Do You Think You Are?


January 31 – February 2, 2020

“Class functions as a kind of ‘thirdness’ that is surprisingly neglected
in the psychoanalytic literature.” — Stephen Hartman, Ph.D.

In a 1991 interview, writer   Alice Munro recalls being pummeled with the rebuke, “Who do you think you are?” whenever she exposed something of her creative self within her working-class community. Munro describes the censure being issued “the minute you begin to let out a little bit of who you would like to be, as soon as you start sort of constructing somebody that is yourself.” “I was brought up to think that that is absolutely the worst thing you could do.”

While poverty is widely understood as constituted by interrelated deficits in economic, social, and cultural capital, what remains more difficult to grasp are the ways these absences converge to create a classed sensibility that experiences itself as not only stigmatized from without, but also shamed and undermined from within.

Through the lenses of lived experience, literature, sociological research, psychoanalytic theory, and clinical practice, participants will be offered opportunities to explore the means by which classed pain and shame may be embedded within the relational dynamics of the family. Together we’ll examine how everyday legacies of structural inequality and marginalization may produce debilitating psychic conflicts within working-class parents that are too often intergenerationally reproduced in ways that inhibit the development of a child’s subjectivity.

Coordinator: Karen Earle, MFA, MSS


Marshall Alcorn, PhD, is Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at The George Washington University.  He is the author of Narcissism and the Literary Libido, NYU, 1997;  Changing the Subject in English Class, SIU, 2002 (which won the Ross Winterowd Prize),; and Resistance to Learning, Palgrave, 2013.  He graduated from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute in 2006 and now teaches in the Center’s PSP Program.

Christine Maksimowicz, Ph.D. in English, is currently completing a book entitled Who Do You Think You Are?: On the Still Hidden Injuries of Class Within the Family, a work that explores unrecognized classed injury in fiction and the pivotal roles imagination and self-narration may play in recuperative processes. Christine has been an American Psychoanalytic Association Fellow and a Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, as well as the recipient of the CORST Essay Prize in Psychoanalysis & Culture and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute’s Julius Silberger Prize.

Donald Moss, MD, in private psychoanalytic Practice for 40+years, has written four books– most recently At War with the Obvious and I and You.  Currently working on issues of “Whiteness” and “Free Speech.” He is a founding member of Green Gang, a group of psychoanalysts and scientists focusing on humans’ relations to their natural surround.

Mari Ruti, PhD is Distinguished Professor of Critical Theory and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the author of thirteen books, most recently Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings: The Emotional Costs of Everyday Life (2018); Distillations: Theory, Ethics, Affect (2018); and Critical Theory Between Klein and Lacan: A Dialogue (2019; with Amy Allen).