Probably the most straightforward Lacan I've read, although much of it sailed over my head . . . it's interesting to see him respond to typical critic...moreProbably the most straightforward Lacan I've read, although much of it sailed over my head . . . it's interesting to see him respond to typical criticisms, that he ignores sexuality or the drives . . . although he complicates things by spending a lot of time on the "scopic" and "invocatory" drives . . . (less)
This book seemed unusual to me in that it's a detailed transcript of an analysis. It doesn't seem to have a very auspicious beginning - at the start i...moreThis book seemed unusual to me in that it's a detailed transcript of an analysis. It doesn't seem to have a very auspicious beginning - at the start it's noted that the patient, who has suffered a psychotic break, tends to fall asleep during sessions and his major symptom is that he's boring! But as the book continues I did find it interesting. The patient is depressed, de-personalized, dissociative and disintegrated, has feelings of unreality and is unable to play, be spontaneous, feel excitement and emotion etc. I won't give away the details but the sleeping is a form of withdrawal and regression, during which Winnicott must "hold" him, and much turns on his hidden rage, his ambivalence towards rivalry, his father's death, and his hopelessness about being loved for himself. By recognizing the patient's need for dependence, Winnicott seems to bring him closer to independence and the capacity for initiative and originality.(less)
What if the initial spark and kernel of the human psyche were anxiety? What if "Western" culture was predicated on a vast repression of the maternal-f...moreWhat if the initial spark and kernel of the human psyche were anxiety? What if "Western" culture was predicated on a vast repression of the maternal-feminine? Can one be "re-born" in analysis, are all "higher" strivings based on a re-experience, denial, or reaction to the primal detachment of birth? Rank has a one-track mind but somehow his speculations are productive.(less)
I have the impression, maybe mistaken, that despite a ton of recent writing about gender, little of it uses psychoanalysis, even though use is made of...moreI have the impression, maybe mistaken, that despite a ton of recent writing about gender, little of it uses psychoanalysis, even though use is made of postmodernism and Marxism (!). It’s too bad too many analysts have been so conformist (probably the reason psychoanalysis is viewed with suspicion), because as a description of a patriarchal, repressive society where neurosis runs rampant and the nuclear family forms the hinge between private and public, Freudianism is pretty on the mark. Obviously Freud and other analysts could be quite conservative and patriarchal themselves, but in the essentials their work points in the right direction. To me it seems obvious gender would have to do with early personality development, sexuality, a deep emotional life, conflicts and anxieties, fantasies, identifications, projections and introjections, etc. You don’t find that in Marx.
Anyway, Chodorow argues that women mother because they were mothered by women, which is very unsurprising, but when she goes into the details she constructs an interesting and plausible account. Having one primary caretaker that identifies as the same gender as the daughter leads to a long pre-oedipal phase and a different affective life and psychical structure compared to those children who are identified as other than mother, the men who are prepared for the capitalist world of work, and whose tremendous unconscious dread of mother provides an endless resource for ideologies of male domination.(less)
Probably a good introduction to Winnicott; public lectures he gave throughout his career, but mostly towards the end, in the 1960s. He has a very grac...moreProbably a good introduction to Winnicott; public lectures he gave throughout his career, but mostly towards the end, in the 1960s. He has a very graceful way of expressing himself and is a pleasure to read. He covers all kinds of themes, but often comes back to the idea that psychoanalysis doesn't focus just on the individual psyche, but because of its developmental perspective, must consider the environment - i.e., the mother or whatever acts as mother, which leads on to the family and society. If health, maturity and integration are to be reached - and Winnicott is too smart to think this is a simple matter of passing through stages and coming to an end - the mother must be "good enough," adapt to needs, including the need for independence, and survive the primitive love that destroys the object. The "result" is a whole that accepts and contains conflict, paradox, and the ability to be depressed. In some essays, Winnicott draws parallels between this and society - sometimes with fairly conservative, if humane, results. But his emphasis on play and creativity would be recognizable to any anti-work anti-capitalist, only he enriches these concepts by placing them in that mysterious "transitional area" that he likes to return to, between subject and object, sleep and wakefulness, dream and reality etc. His take on the youth rebellions of the 60s is interesting - a matter of life and death, as he says.(less)
I can't say I managed to extract much from this difficult book. It supposedly contains Lacan's response to the events of May 1968, but the oblique ref...moreI can't say I managed to extract much from this difficult book. It supposedly contains Lacan's response to the events of May 1968, but the oblique references to Kojeve's master-slave dialectic, Marx, and capitalism tell me little. I seemed to glean that surplus value is really surplus jouissance. It is supposedly Lacanian doctrine that the signifier can't be pinned to the signified, and he seems more than willing to demonstrate that here. He wanders through different registers, philosophical, psychoanalytic, political, historical, without pausing long in any one and remaining elliptical.
The book centers on Lacan's theory of the four discourses that condition all that is sayable - the "other side" is apparently the master's discourse, along with the university's, the hysteric's and the analyst's. Each discourse is in turn made up of four algebraic elements, the a - cause of desire; S1, master signifier; S2, field of knowledge; and $, the divided subject. As these elements rotate and make a "revolution," Lacan muses on them. Apparently it has been claimed, in Zizekian style, that Lacan is arguing that the university discourse is replacing the master's discourse, technocracy is replacing patriarchal authority, and we are becoming compelled to enjoy rather than experience shame. While this isn't implausible, I'm baffled that I found no such straightforward thesis in the book, unless it has to do with the sections where Lacan points out the father is impossible and castrated.
I'm going to read some commentaries on this seminar and see if I can make heads or tails of it.(less)
On the one hand, it was kind of satisfying that these presumed experts on Lacanian theory admitted that his concepts in Seminar XVII are slippery and...moreOn the one hand, it was kind of satisfying that these presumed experts on Lacanian theory admitted that his concepts in Seminar XVII are slippery and inconsistent, or obviously interpreted them according to their own inclinations and interests. On the other hand, the book therefore shed very little light on the seminar.(less)
Surprisingly often, it happens that arguments from someone claiming to work in a deconstructive, "queer" etc. vein, supposedly rejecting any essential...moreSurprisingly often, it happens that arguments from someone claiming to work in a deconstructive, "queer" etc. vein, supposedly rejecting any essentialism, reductionism, or binaries, present us with a good vs. evil fairy tale, lacking all nuance, throwing out all kinds of babies with the bathwater and reveling in simplistic black-and-white dogmas and taboos, hectoring people from a very high horse and indulging in psychobabble. I was relieved that this book wasn't in that vein, and though it takes Freud to task for having an interest in archaeology and anthropology, it's a fairly sophisticated account. There is something to the idea that the Freudian unconscious is a bit of a "primitive Other."
Dark Continents also looks at Sartrean "existential psychoanalysis" in the context of post-WW2 decolonization, and writers like Fanon, Memmi, and Mannoni. Then it goes on to propose a transnational postcolonial feminism, which seemed a little light on substance to me. "It is only with categories as abstract as those of justice that feminist transnational politics can take place." The discussion becomes so abstract that it's hard to know where the author stands, however.
The book uses psychoanalytic/deconstructive concepts like melancholia, introjection and incorporation, affect, trauma and memory, haunting and spectrality etc., to analyze postcoloniality and its critical, melancholic attitude to the nation-state, which comes across as similar to a lost object, an incorporated ego-ideal that is mourned and hated. Some of it works, some seems a bit of a stretch. But it's all interesting enough if this is your kind of thing.(less)
What is a group? What is the "group mind"? Or, this being Freud, what is its libidinal structure? It seems Freud didn't have a very high opinion of gr...moreWhat is a group? What is the "group mind"? Or, this being Freud, what is its libidinal structure? It seems Freud didn't have a very high opinion of groups. Why are they so thirsty for leaders, intolerant of outsiders, conservative and stupid? We're taken through some weird dialectics; outer changes places with inner, the ego takes itself as object, narcissism becomes submission, envy becomes affection, fear changes into love, hatred into guilt, the erotic and the tender intertwine, and over it all hovers the figure from the "scientific myth," the castrating Father of the Primal Horde. Throw in the uncanniness of hypnosis, the roller-coaster mechanisms of identification and introjection, the epic poets and their heroes, and we have quite a picture.(less)
Sometimes Freud forgets to put quotation marks around "normal" or "civilized," but I feel like his main delight in writing this book was in pointing o...moreSometimes Freud forgets to put quotation marks around "normal" or "civilized," but I feel like his main delight in writing this book was in pointing out that at bottom we're all polymorphously perverse.(less)
A pleasant read, loose, jocular, witty. In these three short lectures Lacan jumps around and makes a big deal of the fact that he never says the same...moreA pleasant read, loose, jocular, witty. In these three short lectures Lacan jumps around and makes a big deal of the fact that he never says the same thing twice. Not sure it's much of an introduction; when it comes down to the content, he mostly just reminds us that it's all about "language" and telegraphs some formulas: the unconscious is structured like a language, desire is the desire of the Other, the signifier represents the subject for another signifier, etc.
I always felt like Lacan just intellectualized psychoanalysis; Freud was absolutely clear that there were no words in the unconscious. Yes, he looked at symbols, puns, homonyms, etc., but he really wanted to talk about sexuality, anuses, penises and breasts, shit and piss, murderous hatred and narcissistic love, human tragedies, truths that make you tear your eyes out and wander the countryside . . . when Lacan comes along and says it's all about Heideggerian dwelling in the house of language, mathematics, linguistics, logic and science, formal structures and splits, something seems lost in the mix.(less)