Douglas Kirsner



Doctor of Philosophy


Geelong Waurn Ponds

Graduation year


Current position

Personal Chair, Philosophy and Psychoanalytic Studies


Professor of Philosophy, founder of the Deakin University Freud Conference in 1977 and a Deakin staff member for more than 38 years, Emeritus Professor Kirsner was appointed to Personal Chair, Philosophy and Psychoanalytic Studies in 2007.

Career path and highlights

Prof. Douglas Kirsner has made a prolific and ongoing contribution to the progressive humanities curriculum in philosophy and psychoanalytical studies. He continues to challenge boundaries in psychoanalytic studies and existential psychology both in Australia and overseas.

He was appointed Lecturer in Philosophy and History of Ideas in 1976 and retired as Personal Chair, Philosophy and Psychoanalytic Studies in 2014. Prof. Kirsner was made an honorary member of the prestigious American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) in 2015.

His seminal publications include Unfree Associations: Inside Psychoanalytic Institutes and The Schizoid World of Jean-Paul Sartre and RD Laing. He has also edited numerous collections and written a multitude of articles in psychoanalytic journals. Prof. Kirsner lectures widely at psychoanalytic institutes and associations in Australia and around the world.

Q&A with Douglas Kirsner

What do you love about Deakin?

I love the enthusiasm, care and creative spirit that were there at its beginnings and endure to this day. Deakin began as the major off-campus and mature open entry university in Australia. Our study guides were beautiful and enticing to students, with off-course study including weekend schools. We had a lot of mature-aged students, and often the staff were the youngest ones in a group. The students took their opportunity to study very seriously and were extremely enthusiastic. It was good because many of them were very talented and managed to transform themselves and their lives through their studies. They worked hard to create new lives for themselves.

What's your best memory or funniest story from your time at Deakin?

I remember the time a staff member climbed into the locked mail room via the roof to retrieve his mail - without being electrocuted, thank goodness. There were certainly some eccentric characters in the early days. Academics don't tend to toe the line and trying to manage them is like herding cats. There were some extraordinary people. I was among the first five appointments in 1976 and all of our appointments were reported in the Geelong Advertiser at the time. The early days were ground-breaking, with Deakin very much the leading off-campus provider. Our courses were beautiful and well edited, the study guides attractively produced and more like books. When I started out in Geelong where I worked for 24 years, nobody knew what a cappuccino was. The city of Geelong and its surrounding coastal town have all greatly changed.

What has your Deakin experience best equipped you with?

A sense of how very different people can get on together and successfully pursue common goals in teaching and research, adapting to new technology and times.

Any advice for would be Deakinites, staff or students?

Keep to the core aims of great teaching and research, and follow your own star.