Skip to main content

Incest: A New Perspective



Incest: A New Perspective

Mary Hamer

ISBN: 978-0-745-62416-7 May 2002 Polity 200 Pages

Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description.


In this major new book, Mary Hamer offers a new perspective on incest, making a link with the scandal of sexual abuse on the part of priests. She places sexual abuse in the context of the whole social order. Hamer's novel and innovative approach challenges the taboo on clear thinking around the subject of incest. She demonstrates the inherent contradictions in official accounts of the subject, from genetics and anthropology to law.

Drawing on the work of American psychotherapist Judith Herman, she invites readers to focus on the neurological damage caused by traumatic experience, arguing that it is the overwhelming of one person by another that constitutes abuse, and it is this which causes the damage, not the fact of a close relationship.

She brings together, in accessible form, key descriptions of the effects of abuse from analysts Sandor Ferenczi, Estela Welldon and Valerie Sinason

She revisits the two real-life cases of Father Porter from Massachusetts and Sappho Durrell, daughter of the British writer Lawrence Durrell. She also draws on the work of artists and filmmakers to explain the way film and literature have helped to preserve our understanding of abuse and of its place in the world

Films and novels featured: Murmur of the Heart, Art for Teachers of Children, Suddenly Last Summer, Through a Glass Darkly, Lolita, The Bluest Eye, The God of Small Things.

Includes 16 film stills





Intimacy and pleasure.



Louis Malle: Murmur of the Heart.

Jennifer Montgomery: Art for Teachers of Children.

Sappho Durrell.

Father James Porter and Cardinal Law.

Sandor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud.

Valerie Sinason and Estela Welldon.



Suddenly Last Summer.

Through a Glass Darkly.


The Bluest Eye.

The God of Small Things.




"Hamer's book plunges into the thicket of our scandals and blindness about incest, to tell us that abuse is the price paid by a society that insists on clear norms of masculinity and femininity. It is not possible to speak of incest, in other words, says Hamer, without addressing the entire social order. And this is what she does, in this clearly written, energetic, and powerful book." Antonia Lant, Department of Cinema Studies, New York University

"A personal journey of significance to us all. This account of the routine withdrawal of tenderness from close relationships will go against the grain of much formal cogitation. But it slides along the grain of an important kind of emotional knowledge. Agree with it or not, the effect is uncanny. Its echoes will reverberate a long time." Marilyn Strathern

"A brave and original book. Mary Hamer's Incest combines autobiography, literary criticism and psychoanalysis to break down embedded formulae about love, masculinity and tenderness." Terri Apter, Newnham College, Cambridge

  • Controversial argument that incest is a product of social organization not just individual pathologies

  • Uses the voices of artists, filmmakers and therapists to develop an argument

  • Includes examination of the Father Porter case and the example of Sappho Durrell, daughter of writer Lawrence Durrell

  • Features 16 film stills e.g. from Lolita (x2), Ingmar Bergman's Through A Glass Darkly and Suddenly Last Summer with Elizabeth Taylor