It is certainly true that sublimation is not fashionable today – neither in psychoanalytic theorizing nor in the functioning of our profession as a whole. Perhaps this is precisely why homage should be paid to R. Valdré for the courage she has shown in daring to confront this concept, one that is as complex as much as it is “untimely”, in a work for the largest psychoanalytic community in existence today, the Anglophone universe.
But why should we be surprised! Isn’t psychoanalysis “untimely” in itself, certainly not because it is no longer fashionable or has been superseded, as many keep saying, but because, to borrow an expression from Nietzsche and his “Untimely Meditations” it has the radical tendency to “give a name” to things that do not yet have one? And isn’t sublimation the most complex concept of Freudian metapsychology? Not by chance does it appear to have disappeared, but Rossella Valdré combines acumen with tenacity to ask: has sublimation really disappeared or is does it merely seem to have disappeared?
The author, by virtue of her vast knowledge of psychoanalytic theory retraces the origins and history of this concept from its birth to the trials and tribulations it faced, both in Freud’s thought and in the developments of post-freudian psychoanalysis. In this way Valdré shows us how the concept of sublimation originated, in sequence, from the notions of “reaction formation” from “reversal into the opposite” and from “aim inhibition” to its definition by Freud as “the third and most complete drive destiny”