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self-reproaches, self-hatred and self-contempt all veil battles of love and hate with a lost object which has been withdrawn from consciousness but is retained through identification, a relational mode which, because of its inherent ambivalence, inevitably includes sadism and hate.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.

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