Thought this passage from one of Erikson's later works might stimulate some discussion. Reactions?
Erikson wrote this essay in response to a request by a former student, Jean Strouse, who was editing an anthology of psychoanalytic essays on women, from Freud's early writings on. Strouse asked Erikson to write his own critique of his 1963 essay "Womanhood and the inner space."
Erikson, E.H. (1974). Once more the inner space. In Life History and the historical moment. New York: Norton, 1975.
For example, I was asked:
One of the chief points which feminist writers take issue with, in your formulation about womanhood, has to do with the old controversy about nature vs. nurture. You write that, "The basic modalities of woman's commitment and involvement naturally also reflect the ground plan of her body; and that anatomy, history, and personality are our combined destiny." Anatomy, feminists would argue, is only destiny insofar as it determines cultural conditioning . . . "Erikson's whole theory," claims Kate Millet, is built in psychoanalysis' persistent error of mistaking learned behavior for biology." What is your answer to this charge."My answer is that if even staunch feminists concede that anatomy, to some extent, "determines cultural conditioning," then we really have no basic argument. We could start here as well as anywhere; the question is only, where do we think we are going? To clarify my direction, I need only ask readers (if in an uncomfortably professorial manner) to take another look at what I am quoted as saying and to mark the little words "also" in the first part of my sentence and "and" in the second. "Also" means that the modalities of a woman's existence reflect the ground plan of her body among other things -- as do men's modalities reflect that of the male body. "And" says that history and personality and anatomy are our joint destiny. And if we should go all out and italicize "combined," too, then an all-round relativity is implied: each of the three aspects of human fate -- anatomy, history, and personality -- must always be studied in its relation to the other two, for each codetermines the others. Such "systematic going around in circles" (as I have called it, so as not to overdo the word "relativity") takes some thought which is indispensible to the study of human facts (p. 228).
Strouse, J. (1974). Women & analysis: Dialogues on psychoanalytic views of femininity. New York: Grossman Publishers.)
Millett, Kate. (1970). Sexual politics. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.