Between the psychical and the material: body language in Freud's Dora

Jacqueline Clare Dalziell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Feminist theories of embodiment, particularly those that have emerged from corporeal feminism, have been influenced by the psychoanalytic distinction between the hysterical body and the anatomical body [Wilson, Elizabeth. 2015. Gut Feminism. Durham: Duke University Press]. Following Freud and his concepts of the body ego and somatic compliance, psychoanalytic assertions that the way the body is lived is psychically informed have proven productive to feminist aims. Freud proposes the notion of somatic compliance as the explanatory rationale for hysterical symptomatology’s strange ability to express itself in a manner incommensurable with medical explanation. This article opens and extends those questions raised by the anatomical body that originally perplexed Freud in the case of Dora. In particular, it queries the notion of somatic compliance by asking: what is the character of anatomy such that it can defy and revise its own apparent limits? How can the hysterical body achieve feats that the non-hysterical body cannot? And lastly, what does it mean to comply somatically? In this way, the article responds to the anti-biologism that continues to feature in much feminist scholarship on corporeality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-404
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
Issue number106 (2020)
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • corporeality
  • embodiment
  • feminism
  • Freud
  • hysteria
  • new materialism
  • psychoanalysis


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