Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adam Phillips, Promises, Promises: Essays on Literature and Psychoanalysis.

 Through a reflection on the merits of psychoanalysis deployment of literature, Adam Phillips shows that literature and psychoanalysis share the preocupation of interpreting human character through language.

“Just as it became apparent to Freud that sexuality was sexual disorder, we might say something similar about eating. What would it be not to have an eating disorder? Who do we think of as being a normal eater, and what do our criteria, on reflection, seem to be for this reassuring assessment” (288).

This passage occurs in "On Eating, and Preferring Not To” in which Adam Philips return to a critical point of departure via Freud, a return prompted by his work with analysands who refuse to eat. The passage struck me because of its strategic offering of a sophisticated and challenging way of approaching eating and consumption. In asking the question, "What would it be not to have an eating disorder?," Phillips calls our attention to what is an eating disorder and the ways in which we conceive of that disorder. The juxtaposition of these rhetorical questions in the passage implies that we question the notion of disorder itself. The succession of the words, “eating disorder, normal eater, criteria for reassuring assessment” implicitly hint at the existence of an order of eating, a norm whose criteria can be easily identified. Now the question is how do we draw on the potential within this order to first identify, then classify and finally understand the operation of disorder? The possibility of “criteria for reassuring assessment” suggests that there is a code, a repertoire that enables psychoanalysis and the psychoanalyst to understand what is an eating disorder. Is that repertoire characterized what the psychoanalyst knows about the workings of the analysand’s psyche? Or is it constituted of the social, and if so, does is align, first, the appetite for food with curiosity about life itself, an interest or desire that nourishes the subject, and feeds its love of life itself?

Via this route, one may consider the range of life and death stories subjects tell themselves in eating disorder and normal eating.Phillip’s questions call our attention to think about the ways in which analysands who decide not to eat experience themselves emotionally fed or starved within a social repertoire, or narrative of order. By doing so, they enact, or literalize experiences of emotional starvation or satiation through modifying their eating patterns. For Phillips, the love of life is an appetite for nourishment, and that appetite, in turn, provides the grounds for the workings of desire and imagination to create a real life. Here, my use of the adjective "real" is to be understood as a reality created and constructed when subjects work through the dialectic between what they want and what is there (the material conditions of possibility as well as the material constraints). A reality that works with the internal conflicts, psychic and social.

Phillips’s perspective opens up critical questions about the ways different subjects balance and define their wants and limits in economically workable ways so that they create life-stories, as opposed to death-stories (narratives repeating self-destructive patterns) out of the material conditions of their objective reality, life-stories that make that same brute reality meaningful for them. As such, the flawed diagnostic tool of a supposedly "healthy" respect for the distinctness of the domains of art and life loses its cutting edge through Phillips’ s acuity in pointing to the interdependency of imagination and life-stories that enable subjects to have a life in time. Patterns of eating are just as much nutritional as they are metaphoric for Phillips since for him they are corporeal manifestations of the psyche’s embeddings in the social. Eating, understood in all these ways, is a prime mediator in creating a real life in time. Phillips's perspective loosens the hold of habitual thought processes producing both the categories and narratives of “eating disorders” as matters of common sense. Instead, if the categories and narratives of “eating disorders” have critical interest today, the interest lies not in their function as commonsensical answers to our questions, but rather as historical points of departure, or as questions, that in their own turn, now call for critical re-analysis of the historicity of the categories of order and disorder and their supporting narratives. As such, we must question tendencies to naturalize explanatory narratives about eating disorder by looking at its opposite, normal eating or orderly eating.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mladen Dollar, A Voice and Nothing More

Dolar attempts to take our focus away from the observable and empirical voice by reminding us that there is always a negative: that which is not said, not meant, the object voice that point to the other.

“Yet it never appears as such, it always functions as the negative of the voice, its shadow, its reverse, and thus something which can evoke the voice in its pure form” (152).

This passage occurs in the second final chapter of the book (chapter 6: Freud’s Voice) where Dolar turns from the individual threads that had been the focus of the first five chapters back to the questions that deal with the whole cloth, the voice. In fact, Dolar introduces his investigation of the object voice with a series: an epigraph, a joke, and an anecdote. In the rush to dig in to the treatment of the subject, the worst mistake we could make as readers would be to rush past these openings, to dismiss them as mere stylistic decoration. Therefore one could safely say that the significance of the questions and answers that Dolar works through are contained within the series of overtures which function as threads combined to make a piece of cloth. While the threads of Dolar's inquiry are all present in this series, set forth in a manner that preserves their complex inter-relationships, reading them requires that we first pulled them from the cloth and held them up for inspection, we should then reconsider them in terms of their role to hold the cloth together.  As such, my goal in this reading is to repeat the pulling of the threads that Dolar implicitly seems to suggest. I literally perform the act of pulling a thread by separating the sentence from its main clause -“Silence seems to be something extremely simple, where there is nothing to understand or interpret”- to highlights the striking repetition of the predicate nominative pronoun “it” and its possessive form. I will try to demonstrate that there is no such thing as silence in Dolar’s text; the only thing exist is voice presented in different forms.

The subject of the main clause is “silence,” its replacement by the predicate nominative, “it,” freezes its function as the grammatical subject of the sentence and turns the latter into another undetermined but speaking subject that could be read as “silence’s” other voice. Though the speaking subject of the sentence is unspecified, the repetition of “it” creates a sounding that makes the determined subject of the main clause (silence) function and resonate differently, almost as a voice. The juxtaposition of the two sentences-“Silence seems to be something extremely simple, where there is nothing to understand or interpret. Yet it never appears as such, it always functions as the negative of the voice, its shadow, its reverse, and thus something which can evoke the voice in its pure form”- effaces the function of the grammatical subject as the subject of enunciation (sujet enonciateur). As such, the predicate nominative “it” operates as the voice of the other that imposes itself upon the subject of enunciation (silence).  Beneath the enunciation of silence as the grammatical subject of the sentence lies the assumption that it is the speaking subject that voices out what the sentence holds from us. One may wonder about the effect of the absence of a vocal voice in the sentence, it may be that in the silence of presence of the voice, one is left with a subject (silence) and its other (it) whose tie clashes.

In the sentence, the resonance of silence rehabilitates and pursues its aestheticization. I want to pose this aestheticization of the silence against Dolar’s psychoanalysis of the voice. If the danger of aestheticization is the attribution to the aestheticized object of “a meaning beyond any ordinary meanings,” then the process of aestheticization is a suspension apart from meaning. As such, the “aesthetics of voice” is the chapter missing from Dolar’s book, because he dismisses its possibilities too quickly.
I would like to add that I am thinking about blogging as adding a different level to the aesthetic implications of silence in locating the place of the voice. If the voice itself already can be considered as an always in between the medium of silence, the blogging – virtual online speaking – increases the instance of in betweeness. Similar to most of the abilities of modern and mostly digital devices it allows a remark, opinion to come in at a instantaneous and spontaneous level, which so far related most of the time only to a real-time remark, a heard voice. At the same time blog posts and comments connect to the written comment, which traditionally are considered as the captured voice of writing. Finally I would like to make here a connection between the blogging voice and the captured, disembodied voice of the analysand in psychoanalysis. Both bear marks of spontaneity which is much harder to constitute for publication of thoughts which went through the process of self-verification before being expressed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (continuous)

Part 1: The Desiring-Machines The first part subsumes Marx and Freud in the Nietzschian framework that is the desiring production by introducing desire as social and explains that the best way of exploring social desire is through schizophrenia.

Part 2: Psychoanalysis and Familialism: The Holy Family Extends Freud’s Oedipus complex beyond family and links it to capitalism, which deploys Oedipus to channel desire.

Part 3: Savages, Barbarians, Civilized Men Chapters in this part analyze the social formations that correspond to the historical development of Oedipus (savagery, despotism, and capitalism) through the exploration of notions of production and anti-production, the "body-without-organs" as a template for desiring-production, systems of political and linguistic representation and inscription, the historically changing character of the "socius," and the various investments of desire (social and psychic) that constitute it.

Part 4: Introduction to Schizoanalysis Introduces Deleuze and Guattari’s privileging of desire over power and suggests the use of Schizophrenia to interrogate capitalist production of desire.

Passage for close reading:

“(Writing does not entail but implies a kind of blindness, a loss of vision and the ability to appraise; it is now the eye that suffers, although it also acquires other functions)” (205).

Though parentheses are highly used in Anti- Oedipus, their unusual use in this sentence struck my reading eye. Though I’m claiming to have seen the bizarre construction of the sentence, its content does challenge my ability to see its function. Throughout Anti- Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari caution us against asking the question: what does it mean? (109, 206), they rather suggest that we ask ourselves how does the signifier or the unconscious work? As such, I ask myself how does this sentence enclosed in parenthesis work? What is its use in the overall argument of this part?

This sentence occurs in chapter seven, Barbarian or Imperial representation, in the middle of a paragraph that discusses the crushing of the “magic triangle” of inscription and representation (205). The tone of the paragraph is dramatic as it bears a resonance of chaos. The latter is strongly echoed in the sentence preceding the one i selected: “Then there occurs a crushing of the magic triangle: the voice no longer sings but dictates, decrees, the graphy no longer dances, it ceases to animate bodies, but is set into writing on tablets, stones and books; the eye sets itself to reading” (205). The dramatic tone of this sentence suggests a tragic rupture from a previously valued dynamic of vision and sets the sentence parenthesis as an interlude in the performance of the rupture. The transition from a state of performance (the functionality of the magic triangle) to one of non-performance (the crushed magic triangle) creates a gap, an interval, which the sentence in parentheses fills. Therefore, the previous sentence and the one in parentheses function as a chain of signifiers that acts out the rupture of the magic triangle. As such, both sentences depend on each other, most importantly; the sentence in parenthesis cannot be omitted, as it seems to be the heart of the rupture from vision to blindness and the topic sentence of the paragraph. If the sentence seems to bear the main idea of the paragraph, and if we consider the function of parentheses as introducing an after thought or an explanation in a sentence, why is it that the entire sentence is in parentheses? Are Deleuze and Guattari using parentheses in this sentence as computer scientists to code a specific function or task of writing?

My analogy of the form of the sentence to computer science which brought about explosive developments facilitates the explanation of the parentheses, the central instrument of the sentence, which becomes disembodied by the sound encyclopedic description of writing, thrown out of the magic triangle through the presence of materiality, and isolated by the excessive textualization of the sentence content. The crush of the magic triangle creates a space where consumption is the rule. Deleuze and Guattari acknowledge the chaos that originates from the crush but they also want to reduce its damages by delineating the space of the rupture in the paragraph with parentheses.

Deleuze and Guattari know that the perpetuation of society through specific modes of production depends, in large part, on the effects of discourse. How the discourse of and about a given mode of production is produced and circulated determines the form and evolution of that particular mode of production. Of course, this relationship between production and reproduction must be operative in reading and writing. By understanding the modalities of these practices, by asking who produces them, with what support, and, we can better appreciate their scope and can therefore discover their forms of oppression, that is, the pivotal places where resistance can anchor to promote change.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Deterritorializing "Deterritorialization": From the "Anti-Oedipus" to "A Thousand Plateaus"
Deleuze and Guattari theoretically and politically destroy psychoanalysis and its basic foundation and propose that the way out of the Oedipus complex is to be found in the schizophrenic who challenges the attempt to be placed into a familistic isolation.

Passage for close reading:

We no longer believe in the dull gray outlines of a dreary, colorless dialectic of evolution, aimed at forming a harmonious whole out of heterogeneous bits by rounding off their rough edges. We believe only in totalities that are peripheral. And if we discover such a totality alongside various separate parts, it is a whole of these particular parts but does not totalize them; it is a unity of all of these particular parts but does not unify them; rather, it is added to them as a new part fabricated separately. (42)
This passage bears resonance of a temporal and spatial rupture with the repetition of the verb “believe” accompanied with the adverbs “no longer” and “only’. The first sentence marks this temporal and spatial disjunction by its use of the attenuating adverb of negation, “no longer.” The combination of the adverbs “no longer” and “only,” along with the combative echo of the adjectives “dull gray, dreary, colorless” create a playful and combative language that warns us against any exclusive disjunction.  The adverbs create a connective synthesis that lays out the cartography of Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptualization of multiplicity and flux in the second sentence. The latter playfully anticipates the juxtaposition of “totality” and “whole” to suggest an open-ended series of inclusive disjunctions that pay attention to circumferences.  The third sentence does a set of multiplication with the terms “totality, a whole of particular parts, a unity of all these particular parts.” One may wonder what is the effect of these combinations in this passage?

 The temporal and spatial opposition between the first two sentences of the passage along with the deceitful juxtaposition of synonyms (whole, unity of, totality) performs the fundamental opposition between the Anti- Oedipus-paranoia and schizophrenia. The opposition is re-located in the passage and had its own way of undermining the binary opposition between paranoia and schizophrenia. As such, the passage performs a mode of discourse that is paranoid and schizophrenic at the same time. As such, I suggest that we read this passage about multiplicity and flux as a condensation of the gap between paranoia and schizophrenia.  One can think of condensation in Freudian term where two elements that occupy opposite ends in the libidinal spectrum designate the freeing of desire. The condensation of the “w/hole of these particular parts of totalities” produces a kind of revolutionary unified field for the passage, while at the same time the "schizophrenic tendencies" of the language reduces such an apparently all-encompassing reading to a set of playful signifiers from which it is difficult if not impossible to draw any definitive conclusions. This characteristic of the passage echoes one of my main questions while reading Anti-Oedipus as well as Deleuze and Guattari’s implied question in the following quote: “It is often thought that Oedipus is an easy subject to deal with, something perfectly obvious, a “given” that is there from the very beginning. But that is not so at all: Oedipus presupposes a fantastic repression of desiring-machines (3). The implicit questions raised in this quote and the accompanying footnote is: How did Freud appropriate the authority of the Greek tragedy to legitimize his psychoanalytic concepts? How does this relate to the second chapter's critique of the institution of psychoanalysis as a new secular religion set up by the followers of Freud and institutionalized by the industrial-military complex? I also wonder whether Deleuze and Guattari’s appropriation of Freud’s Oedipus complex is a condensation or a displacement of Freud to fulfill their wish for social theory of desire?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Teresa De Lauretis and Freud’s Theory of Drives


Freud’s Drive: Psychoanalysis, Literature and Film
Rereading Freud’s theory of the death drive with fictional narratives, Delauretis, suggests that Freud’s metapsychology creates a figurative language that translates the subject’s unconscious.

In “Desire in Narrative,” De lauretis historicizes the concept of desire and criticizes structuralist model of reading for their inability to disclose the ways in which narrative operates, through the desire it excites and fulfills, to construct the social world as a system of sexual differences.

“What fiction is to literature, fantasy is to psychic reality” (Freud’s Drive, 146).

This sentence occurs in a section entitled “Figures of Translation”, which is in chapter five, “The Order of Memory.” The sentence is striking because of its figure of speech. It is a simile that juxtaposes and even equates two completely different things, literature and psychic reality, fiction and fantasy.  We cannot start our reading without pointing out that De Lauretis repetively uses this figure of speech throughout her analysis. As such, our reading seeks to analyze the rhetorical role of this simile in a section about  “figures of translation.”  How does the simile in this sentence confirm or resist the very idea of translation, transportability, or intertextuality of meaning? What will the sentence reveal about literature and psychoanalysis translation if we rewrite the simile as literature to psychic reality is like fiction to fantasy?
In this sentence, De Lauretis weaves fiction and fantasy together for them to act in defiance to the divide between literature and psychic reality. The comma in the middle of the sentence accompanies the weaving and insists on the process. As such, it carries on working and facilitating the equation of literature to psychic reality. At the same time, the comma also creates a spatial divide as it marks the grouping of two different categories, we want to name episodes. The spatial divide created by the comma, established a place of resistance, which marks the flight of two episodes of the sentence from the equating demands of the simile into the story of difference. The simile can then be read as depicting the desire for, and yet the impossibility of, the perfect weaving of the two parts of the sentence. But the simile itself has pointed out how the comma has an influence on the sentence, so that although the divide is implicitly present, it is absent in the movement of the sentence toward meaning.  At this point, I wonder to what extent can we complicate this reading if we replace meaning by its French equivalent, sens(e)? We may perceive the simile in two ways as sen(se) (bodily feeling and/or perception) and as meaning. For example, though we may sense two different episodes in the sentence (literature to fiction and fantasy to psychic reality), De Lauretis -the subject of the sentence, or as Lacan may call her, the subject of enunciation- is concerned with making us perceive the blurring of boundaries between literature and psychic reality, between fiction and fantasy. The inter- and intratext play of the simile incorporates an eclectic mix of elements from literature and psychoanalysis. The effect of the simile is also its cause, in the sense that it generates the enunciation of the sentence. This circularity makes it difficult, if not impossible to separate the resistance of the simile to a straightforward linear model of cause and effect that can be recognized as an unsettling dynamic throughout the Metamorphoses from literature psychic reality, fiction to fantasy.  Therefore what the simile does not tell us is: it is particularly troublesome when it comes to forging connections between the world depicted by literature and the world outside of it, whether the latter is the world of Psychoanalysis or the reader’s.

Throughout the text, De Lauretis mafinests a compulsion to repeat similes in order to discuss two possible ways of interpreting the sentence that link the process of forging such connections with the judgment made about the final outcome of each metamorphosis. He argues that if the reader chooses to focus on the form of the new shape, the process of metamorphosis is normalized because the fantastical event is subordinated to the familiarity of the end product in the present. De Lauretis concludes her reading of Barnes’ Nightwood with this observation “I tried to show, in my reading, how certain words or phrases revive the sense of another scene, half away between a memory and a sensation, the feeling of something unremembered and yet having occurred, (..) something made active but not made visible” (148). Perceived from De Lauretis’ perception, “What fiction is to literature, fantasy is to psychic reality” perpetuates as well as resists order and stability. If the reader concentrates on its resistance of the metamorphosis, its entire process becomes much more disturbing; each transformation appears less a stage in the structure of the sentence than the shutting down of an individual subject of enunciation, locked in opposition.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bersani Leo, The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art


Bersani explores the relationship between literature and Psychoanalysis through detailed readings of literary and Art works that uncover the way in which sexuality ceaselessly works to undo the conventionally narrative strategies of Freudian texts such as Three Essays on Sexuality, Civilization and Its Discontents, The Ego and the Id, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Desire and Death
Through a reading of sadomachism in Baudelaire’s poetry and Freud’s texts, Bersani explores the relationship between desire and destruction.

Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Extrapolating from his conclusions on perversion, Freud formulates a theory of mind in which sexuality is viewed as central and active from infancy on.

Passage for close reading:

“The moves in Freud which we have been trying to replicate are, I believe, an exceptionally visible model of the moves by which consciousness abolishes this process without being implicated in it – that is, without the description itself being a kind of enfolded, or ‘internalized-within-it’ moving away”(65).

This sentence appears in the third chapter of the book in the middle of a discussion on the deformation of Freud’s thesis in Beyond the Pleasure Principle by what Bersani calls: “a hidden corruptive force” (65). While reading this sentence, I was strike by the connotation of a tension between mobility and immobility. As such, my reading seeks to explore how this trope of mobility and immobility allows Bersani to stay with Freud but at the same time slip out of Freud’s texts and undertake a theoretical expansiveness which effect is a rapprochement of Bersani to his contemporaries.
The sentence bears echoes of deceitful movement. The latter is initiated by the repetition of the word “moves” and the commas enclosing “I believe.” The Commas and the repetition of “moves” in the main clause produce a circumferential expansiveness of the first segment of the sentence while also indicating a shift in the argument being made in the sentence. This shift is indicative of Bersani as well as the consciousness failure to move away from deconstructing what Freud’s moves are creating.  Though Bersani’s project is to how the Freud’s methodology interferes with his own approach of literary criticism and theorization, he fails to do that in this sentence. In the same way as the last section of the sentence “moving away” is distanced from its modifier by the dashes, Bersani moves away from Freud by his failure to “replicate” his methodology.

Unlike Freud moves, Bersani’s moves are not therapeutical, for they do not seek to analyze the ways in which the unconscious of consciousness challenges his enterprise. As such, Bersani’s therapeutic failure reflects a post-Lacanian devaluation of consciousness. Like Julia Kristeva in The Revolution in Poetic Language (1974), he persists in celebrating the semiotic processes. The moves Bersani sets himself is similar to Kristeva’s concern with putting forward a "theory of signification" that will take into account the formation of the subject (Kristeva,78) at the intersection of “corporeal, linguistic and social” forces (Kristeva,15).
The other issue that concerns Bersani in this sentence and that is similar to Kristeva semiotic theorization is the concern with moving from the notion of beginning. If beginning is concerned with a passage from the biological organism to the social, speaking subject. What is at stake here is how we conceive of this passage that renders possible the order within which we live.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman and Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Translated by C. J.M. Hubback

In Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, Laplanche inquires into the terminological and interpretive consequences of Freud’s text by centering his interest and method on the themes of sexuality, ego, and death instinct.

Beyond the Pleasure Principle sketches Freud’s theory of instinctual drives in which he evokes traumatic neurosis, the death instinct, and the compulsion to repeat.

Sentence for Close Reading:
"At such moments, we are faced with a “terminological” problem that engages the thing itself: in our view, the slippage that Freud allows to occur within conceptual oppositions that he is perfectly aware of and that even serve a the guiding line in his argument is nothing else than the slippage effected, within the genesis of the sexual drive, by movement of anaclisis or propping" (Laplanche: Aggressiveness and Sadomasochism, 87).

This sentence occurs in the third page of chapter five, Aggressiveness and Sadomasochism, in the middle of a long paragraph that poses the problem of providing evidence for the notion of propping in formulating instinctual dualism in the theory of sadomasochism. Laplanche starts with locating his method of interpretation or reading practice of Freud with a marker of time and space (“At such moments, we are faced with”). Through these markers, Laplanche posits the problem of  Freud's terminolgy, which at the same time poses the problem of psychoanalytic derivation of its terminology from linguistic categories . The quotation marks in the adjectif “terminological” encloses the term in Laplanchian terminology. The latter pushes Laplanche's readers to pause on the meaning of the word "terminological" in Laplanche’s text and to wonder whether the "terminological problem of the thing"  implies a vocabulary or language specific to Laplanche's psychoanalyzing of Freud's terminology.

While elucidating the terminological problem of Freud's "thing itself," Laplanche proceeds to define this terminology in a referential way. This "referentiality" causes his terminology to call into question Freud's terminology so that the two distinct terminologies derive from each other. While these terminologies expose a certain conflict, their derivation comes to focus all the reader's attention on their conflict and their opposition, so that their schematic construct displaces the attention from the context of their emergence and their differentiation throughout Laplanche's reading. A certain opposition between the terminologies is constantly reinforced, since it is that very tension that supports Laplanche's method. The colon following the clause, “At such moments, we are faced with a ‘terminological’ problem that engages the thing itself”(which looks like a sentence that could exits on its own), enables Laplanche to linger on the sentence so as to explain and illustrate the terminological ambiguity any reader faces when in contact with Freud’s terminology. Laplanche’s illustration is fully displayed to the reader by the pause resonant in the colon, which along with the comma establishes the agency by which Laplanche reveals and specifies the terminological "referentilality" of Freudian concepts. The opinion marker, “in our view,” enclosed between the colon and the comma, enables Laplanche to establish his agency by going beyond facing Freud text and by touching the language that constructs and structure the concept formulated in the text.  In doing so, he effects a turn into the sentence that allows him to inhabit a place from which he exerts the double action of undoing and redoing Freud’ terminology so as to establish the "referentiality" between his method of interpretation and Freud's terminological procedures. In embedding himself in the sentence through the "objective" expression of his opinion which is illustrated by the possessive personal pronoun “our,” Laplanche chains Freudian terms with his own in conceptual pairs. This binary operation is performed and at the same time destroyed by the colon, which signal an apposition between the two independent clauses of the sentence. As such, the tension orchestrated by the binary operation of the sentence has as its result the effect of erasing the speculative nature of Laplanche's derivation from Freud. The sentence soothes the tension created by its binary structure in the second clause into an economy, where Freud’s controlled and intended “conceptual oppositions” function systematically within the general economy of Freud's works. The structural apposition of the two terms, "thing" and "slippage," resembles and to a certain degree repeats the production of a specific vocabulary, where the placement of the terms determines not only a synchronic dimension, but a diachronic one, as well.

The  italic part of the sentence culminates and renders more precise the methodological tension that have been raised regarding Laplanche's derivation from Freud, as the major axe of the structural system of the sentence. The italic tones the Freud's conceptual oppositions to their function in relation to the slippage of Laplanche method of derivation, by their simultaneous function of movement and support.  Within the terminological derivation engendered by the movement of anaclisis or propping, there seems to be a paradoxical movement. On one hand, the use of a term such as propping, which both structures and moves the derivation, implies that the relation of the two terms while conflictual is not at the same time dialectical. The value of propping seems to lie exactly in its avoidance of a strictly dialectical opposition. The very notion of propping suggests that the leaning of derivation and propping on each other does not constitute a dialectical opposition in the traditional sense. The advantage of using propping, of putting emphasis on it in Freud's text is clearly apparent in the discussion of the genesis of sexuality that is envisaged by Laplanche as a movement of deviation from the instinctual processes. Laplanche's insistence on developing the implications of propping underlying Freud's text gives important results, insofar as it qualifies the derivation of the drive in relation to the vital instincts: "the fact that emergent sexuality attaches itself to and is propped upon another process which is both similar and profoundly divergent: the sexual drive is propped upon a nonsexual, vital function or, as Freud formulates it in terms that defy all additional commentary, upon a 'bodily function essential to life' " (16).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Ann Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation and Hidden Grief

Summary: Through pausing on the important psychoanalytical distinction between grief and grievance, Anne Anlin Cheng proposes a vocabulary for the re-theorizing of the terms through which race is represented as well as experienced.

Passage for Close Reading:

The World of theatrical performance is the dynamic struggle between performance and performativity (59).

This passage occurs in the second chapter and has a high resonance of theatricality, staging, and acting out. The latter is carried out in this sentence and throughout the text on a stage characterized by frictions.
Though the structure of the sentence is simple (subject, verb, complement), the complement, “dynamic struggle between performance and performativity,” seems to point to the complex nature of its subject. The subject of the sentence “the world of theatrical performance” points to a stage, which the adjective “dynamic” qualifies as a place where the two objects of the complement of the sentence, performance and performativity, friction. This friction is played at the semantic constitution of performance and performativity. The word “performance”, which, points to the actuality of acting, distances itself from its derivative, performativity, by its embedding in the subject of the sentence and its intrusion in the theatrical world. The repetition or rehearsal of performance as an object complement creates a tension that revives performativity and projects it as it acts out a particular performance. Therefore, perform[ativity] appropriates the action embodied by performance and reclaims it in a way that it echo an activity. The latter is stressed by the double suffix [ati-vity], which points to a state of transformation and becoming. As such, perform[ativity] becomes a narrative activity that was once performance and performative.

In embedding theatrical performance in a stage of narrative where performance and performativity change the place of acting out to a place of acting through, the sentence scenario of articulation indicates that there is not a spatial disjunction between performance and performativity. The friction between performance and performativity creates a visible fissure on the stage of theatrical performance. The fissure causes one to project itself into the other so as to avoid fading in the crack created by the friction. Hence the site of acting out is a site of displacement of narratives, which generates a site of hybridity where different narratives intersect to form a new meaning.

Cheng performs this intersection by performatively reviving Freud so as to articulate the performative act of reading Freudian performance. Cheng’s theory is built on the stage of Freud’s performance; throughout the text she seizes Freud’s character or ghost to perform what looks like a ritual of self-possession. As a piece of performance staged in the theatrical world of Psychoanalysis, Cheng enacts Freud’s theory on mourning and melancholia to enable herself to stage racial fantasy into identification. To increase the degree of frictions, Cheng perforates Freud theory with Louis Althusser’s notion of identification as that which combines the individual (psyche) with the social (ideological state apparatus). Locating racial fantasy as the bridge between individual and state allows Cheng to supplement Althusser's theory of interpellation with a needed accommodation of the specificity of racialization.

Cheng is apt in acting out because her performance is frictional, that is her reading or masquerading and parading of Freud, Butler, Spivak, and Bhabha’s theories resist any idea of delineation or boundary making. She examines the various intersections between these works and hers closely, and avoids simply listing them. What is evident, especially in the moments when the space of theatrical performance is implicitly linked to racial subjection, is that Cheng is not merely applying psychoanalysis to perform her own intellectual prowess. Cheng sincerely wants psychoanalytic performance to accommodate any racialized experience.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Abraham Nicolas, Maria Torok. The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis


Through their reflection on introjection versus incorporation, women’s “penis envy”, symbol and anasemia, endocryptic identification as well as trauma, Abraham and Torok discuss theoretical axes around the focal point constituted by the authors’ conception of introjection as the human mode of appropriation of the external world, which is crucial to the expansion of the ego through symbolization.

In ”Mourning and melancholia,” Freud describes how the melancholic’s self-reproaches, self-hatred and self-contempt all veil battles of love and hate with a lost object which has been withdrawn from consciousness but is retained through identification, a relational mode which, because of its inherent ambivalence, inevitably includes sadism and hate.

Close reading:

From the psychoanalytic point of view an institution does not emerge, nor does it stay alive, unless it resolves a problem among individuals. In principle the institutional solution brings advantages for the parties involved in relation to their prior situation. Our task is to display the advantages resulting, for both men and women, from the institutional inequality of the sexes, at least as far as this obtains in the area available to psychoanalytic study, that is within the affective realm. (Abraham and Torok, 70).

This passage occurs in Maria Torok’s “The Meaning of ‘Penis Envy’ in Women” after her questioning of women’s acceptance of a dependent position and after her decision to psychoanalyze the question. In the above passage I am interested in understanding how Torok’s re-conception of a psychoanalytic point of view institutes and at the same time reverses a certain type of psychoanalytic reading.

The paragraph starts with the preposition “from” which houses “the psychoanalytic point of view.” The preposition indicate the starting or focal point of Torok’s re-conception activity, at the same time, it has a resonance of indicating a physical separation, a differentiation. In fact, the absence of a comma after the prepositional phrase “from the psychoanalytic point of view” allows Torok to implicitly say when, where and how psychoanalysis cannot institute or house a reading practice solely based on the conflict within and between sexes. Even if the institution tries to “emerge” from Freud’s institutionalization/building of “penis envy,” because of its incapacity to inhabit the solution to women’s penis envy, the institution won’t be able to sustain its establishment. As such, the institution or establishment/ building (Freud’s psychoanalysis and “penis envy per se) as a solution implicitly offers “advantages for the parties involved in relation to their prior situation.” If the latter has been characterized by psychoanalyst male individuals’ hold of the keys to the building of psychoanalysis, it forgets to open the doors to the female inhabitants of the psychoanalytic building.

Without being aware of it, “penis envy” as a steward to the Freudian building, acts as the protector and spokesman of the subordinate inhabitants. He acts as such so as to give form and meaning to such enigmatic messages that emanate from the ignored group of female psychoanalysts. While Freud’s steward sleeps in the front door of the building because of the illusion of the “institutional solution,” Torok and other female psychoanalysts take advantage of the affect the illusion and smuggle the institutions’ keys to open the theoretically closed institution. Hence, their task/our task as female psychoanalysts and critic is “to display the advantages resulting” from a trait of resistance to all doctrinaire tendencies in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. As such, Torok’s task, our task, Psychoanalysis’s task is to explicitly conceptualize a radicalization of psychoanalytic thinking that reverses the authoritarian trading of knowledge of psychoanalytic schools.

Monday, February 14, 2011

“Literature with/or Psychoanalysis”

Literature and Psychoanalysis the Question of Reading: Otherwise. Edited by Shoshana Felman
First published in 1977 Literature and Psychoanalysis is collection of thirteen essays that explore the intertwined relation between literature and psychoanalysis while respecting the position of each one of them.

Shoshana Felman, “To open the Question”
Felman discusses the interconnectedness between literature and psychoanalysis by reflecting on the function of the coordinate conjunction “and” in the title “Literature and Psychoanalysis.”

Jacques Lacan,“Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet”
Lacan deploys his theory of the phallus to show how desire determines the characters interaction in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Shoshana Felman, “Turning the Screw of Interpretation”
Felman discusses Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw, to draw attention to the ways in which the meaningless can be made meaningful without closing up the language of the unconscious.

At first glance at the title, Literature and Psychoanalysis the Question of Reading: Otherwise, one may think that the book is an attempt to bring literature and psychoanalysis together. However, in her programmatic introduction, Shoshana Felman warns the reader against the tendency to take one for the other very quickly. She warns us that psychoanalysis involves a linguistic relation between two persons, the analyst and the analysand. She contends that unlike the analysts, the literary critic is in the middle of the two functions, between being tempted to assume the authority of the analyst and being subserviently submissive to the text. Felman comments that:

“Like the psychoanalyst viewed by the patient, the text is viewed by us as a ‘subject presumed to know’- as the very place where meaning, and knowledge of meaning, reside” (07)

The critic/the analyst, and the text form a relationship built on tree parties. Though the critic may sometimes be assimilated to the analyst under the formula: critic equals analyst divided by text plus narrator(C= A/T+ N), the critic can also assume the divided self of the analysand. The critic assumes that the text implies a hidden knowledge; hence its perception as a subject presumed to reveal” As such, adopting conceptions of the relations between critic/analyst and text drawn from psychoanalysis may cast doubt on the authority of the text. Within this tension, neither the critic nor the text will achieve an assimilatory supremacy over the other; rather, each will serve as a check, as a subversion of the other's desire to attain complete meaning and knowledge. As such, the narrator, the reader and the critic are each drawn into acting out the systematic division of responsibility for the appearance of the unfamiliar that erupts on each text. Attention to the text, as Felman demonstrates it in “Turning the Screw of Interpretation,” drives back to the analyst and critic’s question of how can one decipher and even stitch the holes of discourse in order to make meaning. In psychoanalysis, the analyst would reflect on how to achieve this without closing the holes unconscious’ language, as it is from them that the veiled meaning of the analysand’s discourse will resurge. However, can the literary critic wear the analyst white gown, sit on his or her sofa and uncover the unsaid without closing up the possibility for a multiplicity of meanings? Felman propose that as the literary “critic is viewed by the text a subject presumed to know,” he or she has to act as a “won’t tell.” As such, the text will then hold intact its locus as an object presumed to reveal itself through the punctuation/cuts of its narrative.
My reading of Felman’s sentence goes against her warning as it is bound toward assimilating psychoanalysis to literature based on the simple fact that both of them produce narratives or texts. The consequence is the temptation of treating all texts as subject to the same framework that Freud sketched out for the defenses, and for the course of the treatment.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Working and Walking in the Wall of Language: Lacan’s Linguistic Re-conceptualization of Literary Studies.

Ecrits, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.”
Lacan discusses the mirror stage as stage in which the external image of the child’s body reflected in the mirror establishes a relationship between the “I” and its image of itself which is an illusion perceived as an ideal reality toward which the subject will perpetually thrive throughout his or her life.

Ecrits, “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis”
Lacan re-conceptualizes Freud in Linguistic terms to propose a solution to the problems that limits psychoanalysis.

Ecrits, “The Signification of the Phallus”
Lacan moves beyond biological misrepresentations of the phallus and establishes it as a symbol that signifies the desire of the other.

Having read Lacan for the last three weeks, my observation is that his most valuable contribution to the Humanities is his destabilization of the latter. By elucidating the consequences of training a subject supposed to find “concrete” meanings and solutions, Lacan opens up ways that allow the reader to reflect on the issue of language in any given field. In his attempt to revise psychoanalysis, in “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” Lacan’s emphasis on language does not only rejuvenate psychoanalytic practice, but it also re-grounds the humanist liberal subject, especially the literary critic, to the foundation of her or his field. In his Ecrits, Lacan problematizes the necessity to rethink and re-conceptualize the meaning and role of language is any interpretive practice. He warns the analyst as well as the literary critic that it is their responsibility to move the subject beyond the illusory image of truth that he or she perceives in the mirror or in discourse.

“Here it is a wall of language that blocks speech, and the precautions against verbalism that are a theme of the discourse of “normal” men in our culture merely serve to increase its thickness” (Ecrits, 233).
This sentence is a paragraph that appears in the second section of “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis.” In this section entitled “Symbol and Language as Structure and Limit of the Psychoanalytic Field,” Lacan discusses the limits of a Psychoanalytic interpretive analysis that is centered on the reality surrounding the subject. In this sense, according to Lacan, “the subject is spoken instead of speaking” (232). Without indulging in the analysis of the section mentioned above to the cost of deciphering the sentence I pointed out, one may ask what constitute the “wall of language?”

The sentence starts with the adverb “here” followed by “It is” to intensify or to point to a condition posed in the previous paragraph. The condition is “if the subject did not rediscover through regression –often taken as far back as the mirror stage [stade]- the inside of a stadium [stade] in which his ego contains his imaginary exploits, there would hardly be any assignable limits to the credulity to which he would have to succumb in this situation” (233).
To push Lacan’s hypothesis further, I ask if the mirror is the stadium/field through and in which the subject admires the performance of its self as a fan and at the same time performer of its favorite game, can the same stadium be the locus that blocks its acting out its performance/acting out?
Lacan plays with the double meaning of the French word “stade,” which may mean stage as a well as stadium. Lacan schematizes how the body is caught in the play of meaning-formation between subjects, and expressive of the subjectivity that “lives” through it, as well as being an objectificable tool for the performance of instrumental activities. Lacan stages his play with words to reiterate that the “cogitation of discourse”(676) through the “ideal I” only points to some parts of the mental apparatus that do not reveal much about the “history” of the subject. As such, it creates a transparent wall similar to the mirror through which the subject misrecognizes itself. As a result one may draw the conclusion that the wall of language is the unified image the subject perceives in the mirror. It only names the body’s motions and identifications with others and “external” objects that insist on his/her conscious control.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Entangled in Lacan’s Humor: Misreading Ecrits as a “Letter to Letter” Discourse

“The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud”

In “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud,” Lacan modifies Saussure’s linguistic sign (signifier and signified) and calls it an algorithm upon which he builds his theory about the place of letter (the place of the subject in the relationship between language and speech).

Elaborating on Hegel’s master slave dialectic, “The Subversion of the Subject or the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious” sketches Lacan’s analysis of the ways in which desire shapes the subject’s attainment of self-consciousness.

When reading “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” Bruce Fink commented that the text “opens with a astonishing rhetorical opacity (…) the first sentence is utterly inscrutable” (Fink, 63) Fink has examined the rhetorical opacity of Lacan’s style suggesting that it is the analysand’s discourse which aim is to train the reader to listen to the obscurity of his discourse. Having read “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” my sense is that through his almost inaccessible language, Lacan is striving to create a readership of analyst and literary critics who are able to decipher any ecrits/writtens/texts from a position of a subject supposed to be confused (to paraphrase Lacan sujet suppose etre confus). Lacan opens "The Instance of the Letter" by warning the reader that his writing could not be put in a straight jacket:

“Writing is in fact distinguished by a prevalence of the text in the sense that we will see this factor of discourse take on here - which allows for the kind of tightening up that must, to my taste, leave the reader no other way out than the way in, which I prefer to be difficult. This, then, will not be a writing in my sense of the term” (413).

These two sentences come after the opening paragraph of “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious” and function as a paragraph which situates the position of the reader vis a vis “the prevalence of Lacan’s text” and vis a vis the fictive discourse of the analysand. As an analysand, Lacan uses the figures of speech that characterize the signifying elements of the unconscious to resist the limitations of the Psychoanalytic rhetoric of his time.The italic word text, which one may replace by "ecrits," points out to the reader and suggests that it is the home in which Lacan and the fictive character of the analysand will train the reader to follow their rhetorical moves. The dash that separates writing "the prevalence of the text" from its characteristic as a “tightening up of discourse” functions as an illusory hole from which Lacan or the analysand traps his reader or listener. This illusory hole or "cut," to speak in Lacan's term, accomodates the joke deployed by Lacan to trap the reader in his letter to letter text. Once the reader leaps into the dash/hole and gets trapped by the letter to letter joke, she experiences the sarcastic restriction of having to misread Lacan word by word. As such, assuming that she should read Lacan literally, the reader becomes entangled in Lacan’s obscure rhetoric.

Though Bruce Fink has observed that “Lacan seems to be suggesting that, in writing, he can close up all the holes in his discourse, leaving only one point of entry, only one hole or orifice, so to speak; the reader can either enter and leave by the same opening or not enter or leave at all” (65), my sense is that once the reader falls into the hole of Lacan’s rhetoric, there is no way out. As a result, she is deprived from the freedom of dwelling in Lacan’ s text, as the latter would want her to. In order to free herself from the trap in which her misreading of Lacan's joke has drawn her, the reader has to accept letting herself walk on Lacan’s steps. That is to say the reader must be able to figure out the "structural conditions that define the order of the signifier's constitutive encroachments"(418). As such, the second sentence "This, then, will not be a writing in my sense of the term” functions as a complementary clause that complete the "encroachment"of Lacan's discourse. The commas after "this" effects the link by which the joke of the first sentence hooks onto the comma after "then" to unveil the true meaning of the joke.

In my reading of Freud’s case histories, I observed that Freud accommodates the reader and enables her to inhabit the place of the analyst and to listen to the discourse of the analysand. However, with Lacan, one has to follow the steps he elucidates in order to understand the analysand. Like the analysand, Lacan confuses the reader in order to make her work through his text. By confusing the reader and allowing her to embrace his ironic letter to letter adventure, Lacan gives room to literary critics’ claims about the death of the author. Lacan performs but at the same time resits this disappearance by repeatedly reappearing and taking authority on what he is saying. Though Lacan lets the reader hear that he is reading Freud to the letter, he also reduces freudian conceptualization to his own. As such, Lacan methodically silences Freud to let his voice resurface in the ears of the reader.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jacques Lacan, My Teaching

Bruce Fink, Lacanian Technique in “The Direction of the Treatment”
In the first chapter of Lacan to the Letter: Reading Ecrits Closely, Bruce fink tries to shed light on Lacan’s technical writing by laying out Lacan’s thesis of the ego as imagery and his warnings against misinterpreting transference and countertransference

Jacques Lacan, My Teaching

My Teaching is a collection of three lectures (Place, Origin and End of My Teaching, It’s Nature and Its End, So, you will Have Heard Lacan) that sketch Lacan’s theory of subjectivity which finds its essence in the Freudian discovery of the operations of the unconscious and the structure of language.

“So when I talk about a hole in truth, it is not, naturally, a crude metaphor“ (My Teaching, 22)

This sentence is the beginning of a short paragraph comprised of three sentences that conclude Lacan’s analysis of the place of sexuality in psychoanalysis. The sentence begins with the coordinating conjunction “so” which connects Lacan’s observation on the previous page that “sexuality makes a whole in the truth” with his qualification of that metaphor. The clause “so when I talk about a hole in truth” seems to be independent, but it is dependent on the previous paragraph as it sums up Lacan’s strategy of dislocating and relocating sexuality in psychoanalysis. The coordinator “so” does not only enable Lacan to reposition his statement about sexuality as “a hole in the truth,” but it also produces the effect of a whiff. The latter enables Lacan to determine with authority the role and place of sexuality in psychoanalytic theory. Though Lacan has already told the reader “the hole in truth is the domain where no one (…) knows what to do about what is true” (21) he insists that “a whole in truth” is not any metaphor. Therefore, the sentence implies the key concept of being able to talk about the metaphor, “a hole in truth”/sexuality in a symbolic/metaphoric way. As a result, in Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory, sexuality is an element in the structure of language that might be a word or part of a word that refers to a network of other elements (or words) within it. As an element of language, sexuality, and “a hole in truth” constitute the microscopic glass through which psychoanalysis deciphers and interprets the truth about the subject as it is produced in language.

At different moments in Place, Origin and End of My Teaching, Lacan juxtaposes language with truth. While discussing the origin of his teaching, he states: “It is because there is language there is truth (…) truth begins to be established only once language exists” (29). Lacan has observed that he task of a psychoanalyst becomes not so much to get his patients to lie on the couch and reveal their secrets, which to a greater or lesser extent, the analyst will seek to divine, but rather to allow them to produce signifying material (truth) through speaking freely. This procedure will reveal a meaning or signification that might be surprising, new or alien to them. Lacan’s theory avoids the performative contradiction that the content of his theory conflicts with the position of the subject of theory because it takes the signifier as the starting point that generates meaning, and therefore it reverses the relation between the signifier and the signified. What constitutes the person and its identity can now be read as a text, and the author is not the subject, but the trajectory of the signifiers that represent the desire of those who occupy the place of the Other for the subject.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sigmund Freud, "Three Case Histories

In Three Case Histories, Freud uses the case study genre to present his theory of reading and interpreting the complex language of the unconscious.
 “Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis”(Rat Man Case) as well as “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (Wolf Man Case) develops techniques of interpreting obsessional neurosis by weaving the patients’ stories and explanations with the analyst’s own speculations.

In “Fragment of an Analysis of Hysteria” (Dora), Freud analyzes the impact of analyst-analysand emotions on analysis by developing the concepts of transference and counter transference.

Freud’s case histories raise some interesting questions about the ways in which language is represented through the patients'discourse.  At the opening of Dora, freud remarks: “to begin with a complete and rounded case history would be to place the reader in quite different conditions from those of the medical observer from the very first” (Psychology of Love, 12). The use of the conditional “would be” in the sentence creates a space from which Freud invites his reader to inhabit the context of the communication between the analyst (Freud) and the analysand (patients in the different case studies). As such, like the analyst, the reader has to work through the meaning of the story she/he is attending, listening to, and reading. In another Instance in the Rat Man case, Freud reiterates to the reader the necessity to move into the patient’s field of communication in order to be able to decipher the complex language of obsessions. He contends, “the reader must not expect to hear at once what light I have to throw upon the patient’s strange and senseless obsessions about the rats. The true technique of psychoanalysis requires the physician to suppress his curiosity and leaves the patient complete freedom in choosing the order in which topic shall succeed each other during the treatment” (33).  From the first sentence to the second one, the reader is integrated into the narrative and becomes substitute to the physician; the practice of reading becomes a meditation on the process of interpretation. As such, one may ask how is the discourse between Freud, the Rat Man and the reader framed ? How do the three of them inhabit the territory of the case history, with its persuasive power, claim to knowledge, and “openness” to subsequent interpretation?

As the Rat Man’s case history begins with detailed accounts of the first seven sessions in the Rat Man's treatment, Freud breaks off his narration, and introduces analytic sections on the patient's obsessional ideas; the cause of his illness; the father complex; and the solution of the rat idea, which is actually resolved in a long footnote. In the second "Theoretical" section of "the case history,” the topic is obsession or “compulsive ideas.” The evolutionary angle of the Rat Man case becomes then a movement from circumstantial record, through analytic summary, to generalized analysis. The main narrative device in the opening section is the patient's speech, related to the reader as it was presumably spoken to the analyst. As a result, the Rat Man’s case history establishes the field of communication between the analyst/ reader and analysand as a reading practice that foregrounds self reference. The latter gives room to displacement-the metonomy between reader and patient- which enables analyst/ reader and patient to work through patient’s memories and figure out their symbolic significations. As such Analyst/reader and patient play the role of signifiers. 

From reading Freud's Case Histories, i have come to realize that as a reader, my ability to understand and interpret psychoanalytic theory is to take the place of the analyst. Though Freud suggests it but does not seem to allow it, my task as a reader is to produce a subsequent analysis of Freud's interpretation of his patients' language.