From Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives to Nancy Oliver and Craig Gillespie’s Lars and the Real Girl to Spike Jonze’s Her: A Brief Illustrated History of Affective Disorders Exacerbated by Object/Technology Fetishism, or “How I Learned to Love my Phone”

Dr. Nericcio will select sequences from literature and film that explore scenarios wherein people develop pathological relationships with inanimate objects—these include novelist Ira Levin’s classic The Stepford Wives; Craig Gillespie (director) and Nancy Oliver’s (screenwriter) Lars and the Real Girl; and director/screenwriter Spike Jonze’s Her. The focus will be on the relationship between technological progress and psychological pathological phenomena. Is our relationship with our smartphones changing the nature of our neuroses, especially with regard to our libidinal drives? By providing psychoanalytic close readings of these pertinent fictions and others, a theoretical framework will emerge for a deeper understanding of these phenomena. Also, does technology impact our theories of fetishism—it is one thing to be “unnaturally” attached to a part of the body or an object, but what happens when the “object” to which we attach our libidinal drives is, itself, sentient (or quasi-sentient)? Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality posited a theory of fetish-attachment predicated on notions of substitution, of something “tak[ing] the place of the normal aim.” But what if the actual, new attachment is not a substitution, but a replacement—an outright change of direction? How does this impact the way we interpret behavior? Is this object fetishism, proper, or, as in Jonze’s Her, is the new relationship (in this case with a computer OS), more satisfying for the allegedly neurotic individual?


Friday, February 19, 2016 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
7:00 PM - Registration/Wine & Cheese



4455 Morena Boulevard, Suite 202
San Diego, CA 92117
United States
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Free for SDPC Graduate Members
non-members $30, students $20

Educational Objective(s)

  • Identify three clinical issues that are influenced by “communications” technology (cell phones, computers, and so on) and articulate how an understanding of these issues can improve patient care.
  • List two contributions that Freud’s theory of fetishism (as applied to contemporary material affected by communications technology) can make towards a more clinically effective understanding of patients’ material.
  • Describe three ways that gender, cultural, and linguistic difference affect how patients use communications technology and how such an understanding can increase the clinical effectiveness of given interventions.

Presenter Information

The Director of MALAS (the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences program), William Nericcio also is professor of English and Comparative Literature & Chicana/o Studies and serves on the faculty of the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University. Nericcio’s first book, Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America, appeared with the University of Texas Press in February, 2007. His next book, an edited anthology of playwright Oliver Mayer’s early works entitled The Hurt Business, appeared in April of 2008, and his follow-up to that, Homer from Salinas: John Steinbeck’s Enduring Voice for California, on the work of John Steinbeck (with a California perspective), appeared in March, 2009. Other essays include Nericcio’s lurid meditations on the life of Pee-wee Herman (a.k.a. Paul Reubens) in the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies and an illustrated survey of the cool graphic narrative Mestizo stylings of Gilbert Hernandez and his spiritual godmother, Frida Kahlo, for NYU Press’s Latino Popular Culture. Links to these works and more are available on Nericcio’s  World Wide Web Mothership, while his latest blog entries on stereotypes and American mass culture can be found on The Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog.