Stealing Desire

A Kleptomaniac Reading by Alice Butler.

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3 August, 2019, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

£8 – £10

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Sophie Calle, the Wedding Dress

Defined by the compulsive urge to steal often-useless things, kleptomania was first medicalized as a condition in the nineteenth century and was often gendered as a ‘feminine’ disease, much like hysteria.

To celebrate the end of her residency with the Museum, Alice Butler will perform a series of readings that look to reimagine the figure of the kleptomaniac in feminist art and writing. Many kleptomaniacs are resurrected: from Jane Austen’s aunt, who got caught stealing a strand of white lace from a haberdashery shop in 1799, to the artist Sophie Calle, draping her white wedding dress across Sigmund Freud’s couch, two centuries later.

As the kleptomaniac destabilizes the norms of gender, sexuality and authorship, she emerges as a deviant, perverse and powerful figure. This afternoon reading offers an unexpected, visual history of the impulse control disorder known as kleptomania.

Alice has been researching and writing feminist approaches to kleptomania in collaboration with the museum, publishing essays, fragments and letters on the Writer in Residence blog.


Alice Butler is a writer and academic based in London. She has recently been awarded her PhD—for the thesis titled “Close Writing: Touching Kathy Acker and Cookie Mueller”—from the University of Manchester. She is currently the Freud Museum Writer-in-Residence, where she is working on kleptomania and feminist art. Her art writing has been published in friezeCabinet and Art Monthly, amongst other publications.

Members and Patrons of the Freud Museum can attend this performance for free. Join today!


3 August, 2019
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
£8 – £10
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Freud Museum London
20 Maresfield Gardens
London, NW3 5SX United Kingdom
020 7435 2002

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