Psychoanalysis and the Symptom: Abstracts
Sopot, Poland (7th-9th April 2017)
Friday 7th April
Diana Caine – “Disciplinary symptomatology, plasticity and the question of subjectivity: the case of patient G”
There are a different (disciplinary) ways to tell patient G’s history, each yielding a different symptomatology. A young man who suffered a traumatic head injury at the age of 13 was thrown as violently from his life-course as from the vehicle in which he was travelling. With the consequent impact on his cognitive ability he struggled with education, with relationships and was never able to sustain productive work. Or, a young man, the younger of two brothers, who suffered incessant daily bullying on the long bus journey to and from primary school, was the only one of four family members involved in a car accident when he was 13 to sustain serious injury. A paranoid psychosis emerged: hallucinations of being called ugly, demeaning names; understanding street signs, graffiti, random events as being directed malevolently towards him. Or yet again, a 28 year old whose parents separated when he was 6, whose father was only present intermittently thereafter as a bearer of gifts but not of the Law, whose footing in the world was upended for the second time following a terrible car accident, and who complained not of this history but of the insupportable dilemma of whether or not to marry. This paper takes up these contrasting versions of one case history, each with its own set of symptoms, to ask questions about subjectivity, and to respond to the paradoxical fixity inherent in Malabou’s notion of ‘negative plasticity’ afflicting neurological patients, the so-called ‘new wounded’.
Diana Caine is Consultant Neuropsychologist and Psychoanalyst in the Department of Neuropsychology at the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London. Her published research has focused on the neuropsychology of dementia, disorders of autobiographical and semantic memory, and delusions of misidentification. More recently she has drawn on psychoanalytic theory to re-think the implications of neurological damage for human subjectivity.
Yaelle Malpertu – “Reflection about some traumatic symptoms”
Psychoanalysis is the approach that has the most thoroughly theorized the question of the interpretation of the symptom, pointing out that often, when its message has been understood, it takes less and less space as such. What about the context of the clinic of trauma, which often reverses or even contradicts certain therapeutic references? Indeed, since psychic traumas cannot be seen and understood as symbols linking to a network of meaning, reading them imposes other rules – therapeutic and even more generally regarding psychic causality.
For example, a woman who has suffered visual and auditory hallucinatory disturbances and who is medically cured for schizophrenia-related symptoms, ultimately reveals having experienced sexual abuses in her home country, as well as suffered of the context of extreme political and social violence against women in this same country of origin she has escaped from.
As the symptoms were not immediately related to these events, they had been analyzed in a theoretical context that was essentially concerned with the individual and narrowed down only to her psychic process. And thus, the impact of the family and social relations with which this person has built herself, and simultaneously the inscription of the history of the subject in History have completely been put aside.
Another situation isn’t easier to examine: the absence of symptoms or elements that can be qualified as such, after a traumatic event. When someone has undergone trauma but does not seem to express it through any symptoms, what conclusions can the psychoanalyst propose ? We propose examining the hypothesis that certain traumatic reactions express themselves precisely in an asymptomatically manner, which is, by itself, a very important symptom. The question being debated within the psychoanalytic community, we propose to state some ethical and therapeutic issues related to it.
Yaelle Malpertu has worked for 15 years as a psychologist and a psychoanalyst for the Sainte-Anne Hospital, Paris, France. She trained in philosophy at the Sorbonne and has published the monograph, A Philosophical Relationship: Therapeutic Links between Descartes and Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia (Stock Editions, 2012). She has completed a PhD on psychoanalysis and intergenerational transmission of trauma at the Psychoanalysis, Medicine and Society Research Center, (EAD, 3522), Denis Diderot’s University, Paris. She has taught at the Sorbonne Paris City University for 2 years.
David Hafner – “A Psychoanalytic Reading of Bateson’s Epistemology”
This paper explores Bateson’s epistemology of cybernetics as presented in the series of his conferences and presentations from the mid-1960s until the 70s. After extracting several paradigmatic assertions of Bateson’s structuralist position, we compare and analyze these arguments from psychoanalytic, philosophical, and scientific perspectives. The paper argues that assessment of Bateson’s cybernetics reveals its structural roots in Saussure, Peirce, and early Lacan. Though, in light of our materialist prejudices, we do take issue with Bateson’s nonspatial conception of information. Fundamentally, the epistemology that Gregory Bateson’s elaborates in Steps to an Ecology of Mind is a theory of communication. In general, one might summarize the underlying axioms as follows. No event or object is an island in several complementary manners; 1) communication is continuous, ubiquitous and irresistible, 2) each quanta of information only takes on meaning through its context, its difference from other elements, 3) when the system is appropriately delimited, its functioning appears deterministic or at least highly predictive, 4) the system resembles a fractal in that its structure possesses evolving symmetry. We propose to consider this theory of communication in the light of clinical evidence.
David Hafner, Ph.D., Universidad de Monterrey, San Pedro Garza Garc, Nuevo Leon MEXICO
Elizabeth Hughes – “Symptoms of substance addiction, language and subjectivity”
This paper explores the relationship between symptoms of substance addiction, language and subjectivity to probe clinical approaches to meaning and diagnosis. In his discovery of the unconscious, Freud moved beyond a positivist understanding of psychopathology, based on scientific observation and the categorisation of outside objects, to the process of listening and dialectical exchange. As Rik Loose writes, ‘Psychopathology tries to find certainty in an unstable object of study and in the process it manages to ignore the relationship between subject and object and between subject (of the clinician) and patient.’ (Loose, 2002, p.269). By shifting the focus from seeing to listening, psychoanalysis has opened a space for delving into that which is hidden; dissecting our understanding about the unity of the observable object and recognising that ‘meaning is not always obvious, nor the language that produces it.’ (p.270). Following Loose’s Lacanian approach and some postmodern ideas about the constitution of human subjectivity, I want to argue that the dominant discourses and clinical practices surrounding the treatment of addiction often negate the social, familial and cultural conventions that organise and produce subjects within a matrix of knowledge/power relations. As such, the majority of treatment models tend to reduce subjects to the role of either passive victims of organically treatable problems, or morally sick subjects whose desires and responsibilities need to be managed by a ‘master who knows’. This way of separating the subject from culture and language to follow a ‘stable’ treatment trajectory ignores the social dimensions of governmentality and the notion that the human subject is constructed by a complex set of historically contingent conditions. Psychoanalysis offers an alternative space for exploring meanings that may lie at the root of symptoms and helps to provide a new language for working through repetitions and repressed material, creating new possibilities within the psychic landscape.
Laura Chernaik – “Sinthome for analyst and analysands?”
What Lacanians call the ‘sinthome’, they argue, is a way in which someone with a psychotic
structure can use artistic practice to scaffold a frangible structure. We can understand this as
separating out levels; combing and knitting RSI from the tangle that is the person, their
sinthome/symptom, and the way they world and are worlded. We can also understand this in more relationalist terms, theorising the different strands of the psyche as separating out in dialogue and interaction. But, I wonder, does sinthomatic scaffolding only sustain those with a psychotic structure? The arts scaffold all of us. Perhaps this separating out and scaffolding can also be understood in Bion’s terms, as a transition and transformation from beta elements to alpha function. If so, the relation between the arts and psychoanalysis, as practices, can help us to further theorise what Bion calls a ‘theory of thinking’ that is an ‘alpha function’ of affects as well as concepts. I discuss this with relation to a project on analytic listening in which I produce graphic designs from the recorded words of participants using the colours of what I call ‘prismatic heresy’; a more than Borromean knot. Panels from this project will be exhibited at an Exhibition in London, Draper Hall, 5th-12th March, as part of the Site Transgender, Gender, and Psychoanalysis Conference Fringe.
Dr Laura Chernaik is a trainee psychoanalyst at the Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, London. She works at the Psychosis Therapy Project, Islington, in the NHS, and in private practise. Her books, New Hope, (a queer science fiction novel) and Social and Virtual Space are available via her webpage http://www.laurachernaik.com
Ben Tyrer – “Father, Son and Serial Killer: Sinthomocide and the Queerness of Dexter”
This paper will explore the Showtime series Dexter in relation to Lee Edelman’s analysis in No Future of the conflation of homosexuality with what he calls “sinthomosexuality” – a social symptom that serves to maintain the consistency of heteronormativity – in order to explore the potentially queer dimensions of the character of Dexter Morgan. And so, where – for example – his father realises that, from an early age, Dexter isn’t like the other boys; where Dexter is presented as uninterested in the opposite sex, asexual even; and where Dexter declares, “the future has never been kind to people like me”, I will attempt to draw out the queerness of the character through, for instance, an examination of Edelman’s analysis of the characterisation of homosexuality as a “culture of death”. I will argue that Dexter embodies both Edelman’s “future-negating queer” and the social order that seeks to contain or destroy this queer. And moreover, I will suggest that, just as Dexter’s father sought to channel his son’s “dark urges” to a “socially beneficial” end – training him to become a serial killer that only targets other serial killers – so too does the programme itself seek to contain or control Dexter’s disruptive, queer potential by offering him normalising roles such as “husband” and “father”, which – nonetheless – never quite seem to fit. This paper will aim to demonstrate, therefore, that – in a gesture that could be interpreted as either high satire or grand “reproductive futurism” – Dexter is both sinthomosexual and “sinthomocidal”: radical negativity turned back on itself and against itself, a serial killer in the service of Eros. This will be achieved through my approach to Dexter, via Edelman, which will attempt to show how Dexter is indeed a “gravedigger of society” in a manner more complex than initially signified by François Abadie’s homophobic outburst in Le Nouvel Observateur.
Ben Tyrer is a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Out of the Past: Lacan and Film Noir (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and co-editor of Psychoanalysis and the Unrepresentable: from Culture to the Clinic (Routledge, 2016). He is co-coordinator of the Psychoanalysis in Our Time international research network, and a member of the Board of the Nordic Summer University.
Adrian Price – “Cipher ~ Notatation ~ Parse”
Psychoanalyst Adrian Price trained in London and Paris. He is the former editor of Hurly-Burly, the Journal of the New Lacanian School, and the translator of Lacan’s Seminars X, XIX, and XXIII. He lives and works in San José, Costa Rica.
Saturday 8th April
Michał Żerkowski – “The Fall of “the House of Wasiak”: Symptom and the Practice of an Ethnopsychoanalytic Theory”
Undescribed until now a case of a ruined Łódź villa from the thirties of the twentieth century, known as the so-called the House of Wasiak, binding with different images, still operates in the narrative of the residents of the Marysin area, and “the House of Wasiak” itself as a link in the local discourse, link defined by semiotics as a floating signifier – an element whose meaning is conditioned by the existence of another powerful signifier in the point de capiton – should be regarded as the key to understanding the mechanisms shaping complex picture of local antagonised relations. Relations that are standard for the Polish context of social, political and urban changes in as far as being today a result of truly palimpsestic buildup of stories and traumas. In the light of the conducted ethnopsychoanalytic research, being a consequence of a synthesis of methods and concepts of cultural anthropology and Lacanian psychoanalysis, the history of rise and fall of the House of Wasiak can be properly understood, when in the post-transformational development of Polish new middle class we will retroactively notice the symptom understood as a signal carrying the message that does not come from the deep past of ancient traumas, but from the future of a social subject.
Michał Żerkowski studies at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Łódź. His fields of interest include the psychoanalytic and symbolic anthropology, psychoanalysis and the history of ideas. He is a member of the Polish Ethnological Society.
Guillem Pujol – “The squatter movement as a symptom”
By the end of the 1960s (a) social collective phenomenon emerged in some of the biggest European cities in Spain. This phenomenon, linked to libertarian ideologies and the anti-globalization movements, claimed to occupy unused properties and lands in order to collectivize their usage (Herrero, T: 2000). What has been labeled as the “Squatter movement” – granting a certain homogeneity to what actually has been a series of independent cellular actions – will be considered as the symptom that came to interrupt the hegemonic discourse on housing. Whilst several disciplines have attempted to explain this phenomenon, few attempts have been built from psychoanalysis approaches to tackle the subject. Drawing from a Nietzschean and Foucauldian conception of discourse, this paper aims to incorporate the Lacanian concept of the symptom (le symptôme est l’envers d’un discours (p. 368: 29 juin 1955) in order to overcome the totalizing effects of Foucault’s notion of biopower. The introduction of the lacanian notion of symptom will generate a space of intersubjective resistance which is lacking in the Foucauldian analysis. The analysis will be sustained over the case study of the squatter movement in the city of Barcelona, Spain.
Guillem Pujol (1988, Barcelona, Spain) holds a degree in Political Science for the Universitat
Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, and an MSc in European Politics and Policy at the University of
London, Birkbeck College. He is currently doing a PhD at the Universitat Autonoma de
Barcelona (UAB) in the Department of Philosophy. His PhD thesis, which is overseen by the
former President of the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis Antoni Vicens, holds the title of:
“Discourse, power, property: the squatter movement as a symptom”.
Marie Sund & Joonas Honkimaa – “The Finnish core curriculum as a biopolitical tool”
Aim of study: The aim of this study is to explore how ideologies are presented explicitly and
implicitly in the Finnish national core curriculum. In Finland, education is compulsory for nine years and publicly funded. The national core curriculum is drawn up by the Finnish National Board of Education and includes the core contents of studied subjects, as well as the principles of assessment and educational guidance. As the core curriculum states the framework for all compulsory education in Finland, it can be seen as a biopolitical tool, acting as a possible control apparatus over the population as a whole. Thus, we are interested in exploring how the ideological choices are addressed in the text. We are interested in which symptoms arise when the curriculum at the same time embraces diversity as well as tries to keep it uniform with the idea of Finnish culture and western humanism.
Methods: On a macro level, we study the text from a post-marxist theoretical framework. We focus on the concepts of symptom and biopolitics, with a specific interest in how the text presents the desired outcome of the educational process. On a micro level, we use systemic-functional grammar (SFG), according to which language is composed of three metafunctions. In the ideational metafunction language constructs the experience of the outer, as well as the inner, world. In the interpersonal metafunction language is used for interaction between individuals. The textual metafunction organizes utterances in a meaningful manner in the specific linguistic context. In SFG, language is seen not only to express meaning but also to create it.
Results: The analysis reveals an interesting contradiction between a seemingly neutral surface level and strong ideological implications. The text seems to contain a desire of shaping the multitude towards uniformity, while still emphasizing individuality and a multicultural approach.
Joonas Honkimaa holds a Master’s Degree in social sciences, major social policy. He is working as an outreach youth worker in Lapinjarvi, Uusimaa. He is interested in post operaist theory and antagonism between labour power and capital.
Marie Sund holds a Master’s degree in Scandinavian languages and literature and a Master’s degree in psychology. She is working as a clinical psychologist in family services. She is a doctoral student in Scandinavian languages, University of Turku.
Pia Hylen – “Women – Is Their Sexuality Real?”
Both Carl Theodor Dreyer and Lars von Trier have women protagonists in their films. Dreyer’s often die. Through this act he is illustrating oppression and injustice. Half a century passes and when von Trier has the woman protagonist die, he is illustrating this injustice as an act executed by the suffering, or shall we say the inability of man to justify himself in any other way. The injustice is the hand of the man. When Lacan talks about Medea and says she is “La Vraie Femme”. The Real Woman is what Lacan calls Medea. Why is she a real woman? Is it her acts that classifies her as such? How is that so? How can killing your children be defined as an act of a real woman? Well – for one she does not mess around; she is fully aware of her lack, and as a consequence of Jason abandoning her, she acts accordingly, appropriately and womanly. There is truth in women, but that truth can never be appropriated – it belongs to the woman and she does with it what she wants. Medea goes as far as killing her own children. Why is Lacan calling her a real woman? Is that because she is true to her feelings? To her promises? To the woman who loved Jason and gave him everything there was to give? Medea does not under any circumstance want Jason to “jouir” from that which she has given him. If he loves her, lives with her, she gives him all – or the deal is off – no more love, no more fantasy – “bref” no more. This relates to what Freud in 1931 named “The Dark Continent of Female Sexuality” – the woman is, the man has. Consequently the woman decides – she identifies the symptom by insisting on the Real.
Pia Hylén is a psychoanalyst and a psychologist and the current Vice President of Antena do Campo Freudiano, Center of Psychoanalytic Study in Lisbon. She was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Copenhagen. She did her psychoanalysis at École de la Cause Freudienne in Paris and has trained as a TFP therapist with Dr Kernberg at Cornell Medical Center. She has written numerous psychological and psychoanalytical articles, lately in Drift (Journal for Psychoanalysis) and Afreudite (Revista Lusófona de Psicanálise Pura e Aplicada) . She is an artist and a poet and has published Au bord du continent , a collection of poetry illustrated with her aquarelles and croquis. Pia Hylén is a member of AMP, EFP, NLS and CEP and has her private practice in Lisbon.
Carin Franzen – “Femme-symptôme, homme-ravage – the example Ninon de Lenclos”
In his twenty-third seminar Lacan argues that woman is a symptom of man in the sense of “le sexe auquel je n’appartient pas”. This observation is relevant for everyone who tries to assess the emergence of a feminine subjectivity in premodern texts. Male writers throughout Western literary history has represented women’s desire and jouissance as a projection of their needs, fears and dreams, and when historical women are speaking as subjects they are doing this from positions that are already prescribed by a patriarchal symbolic order. In this sense, the name Lacan proposes for what a man is for a woman – something worse than a symptom, namely a “ravage” – can be understood as destiny that is more determining than any anatomy. However, if woman are the symptom of man, this sex that not belongs to him is also defining him. Representations of femininity are constituent of male subjectivity, which in addition make of his ravaging agency something that can provide “women with the fantasy-substance of their identity whose effects are real” as Žižek claims. By a reading of the “apocryphal” letters attributed to the famous female libertine Ninon de Lenclos I will try to discuss subjectivation and sexuation through early modern male authors’ symptom.
Carin Franzén is professor of Language and Culture, specialized in comparative literature, at Linköping University. She has published various articles and books on literature and psychoanalysis as well as on medieval and early modern literature.
Sheila Cavanagh – “Hysteria and Transgender: From Jacques Lacan to Bracha L. Ettinger”
While hysteria seems to belong to the Victorian era and can no longer be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders it is an often cited structure in Lacanian psychoanalysis. In this presentation, I draw upon the scholarship of Israeli feminist psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger who composes a supplement to Lacan’s theory of sexuation. In The Matrixial Borderspace (2006), Ettinger suggests there is a Feminine stratum of difference that concerns the m/Other and sheds light on what we call hysteria. Using what Ettinger (2006) calls the Other sexual difference alongside Lacanian theory, I suggest there may be a genealogical link between hysteria and transgender (trans*) subjectivity. Shanna T. Carlson argues (2010) that trans* subjects and hysterics may be comparatively animated by, and attuned to, the impasse of sexual difference. My suggestion is that the impasse is only apparent in the phallic stratum. What counts as the hysteric symptom, from the vantage point of the matrixial, occurs when access to the Feminine (as a Real sub-symbolic) is blocked (Ettinger 2006). Patricia Gherovici has, additionally, claimed that the desire for Sex Reassignment Surgeries (SRS), hormone therapies, etc., on the part of trans* clients, is a way to refuse the primacy of the phallus as the signifier of sexual difference. What is called the trans* ‘symptom’ may correspond to the hysteric’s ‘symptom’ insofar as it is an attempt to reckon with the phallic premise as it underwrites two sexes with one signifier. By drawing Ettinger (2006) into the conversation, I suggest that trans* subjects, like hysterics, are trying to write a sexual relation – not by refusing sexual difference (as theorized by Lacan), but by indexing an Other sexual difference attuned to the matrixial borderspace.
Sheila L. Cavanagh is an Associate Professor at York University and co-editor of Somatechnics journal. She co-edited Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis (2013) and is editing a special double-issue on Transgender and Psychoanalysis in Transgender Studies Quarterly. Cavanagh has published her scholarship in gender, cultural studies and psychoanalytic journals. She wrote Sexing the Teacher (UBC, 2007), Queering Bathrooms (UTP, 2010) and is completing a third monograph titled Transgender and the Other Sexual Difference: Bracha L. Ettinger and Jacques Lacan.
Elizabeth Cowie – “The Sinthome and Cinematic Enjoyment”
After graduating with a degree in history, politics and sociology I worked in publishing, and became editorial assistant for the journal Screen from 1972 to 1976 at a time when it was transforming debates about cinema and culture through its often controversial introduction of new French approaches to film, including semiotic and psychoanalytic theories. My involvement in these debates led to my change in career, and I began a post-graduate degree at the Slade School of Art, while I edited the 1978 catalogue of films funded by the British Film Institute Production Board, involving avant-garde and independent short and feature length films, and as well as teaching film at a number of institutions and universities in London.
At the same time I was also involved in feminism, through discussion groups, working on issues of women and film, and then founded the feminist theory journal, m/f, with Parveen Adams and Rosalind Coward,with Beverley Brown joining us later. The journal, which published 10 single and two double issues between 1978-1986, was committed to developing theoretical work on the social and psychical organisation of sexual difference, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and of Jacques Lacan in his ‘return to Freud’. A collection from the journal was published as The Woman in Question, edited by Parveen Adams and Elizabeth Cowie, by MIT Press in 1990 and a digital version is forthcoming.
I came to the University of Kent in 1981 to teach on its new programme in Film Studies and the department has since grown to become one of the UK’s foremost university centres for undergraduate and postgraduate study of film, television, and film practice.
Screening and Discussion: Escape (Agnieszka Piotrowska, 2016)
Escape is the first feature film of a collaborative partnership Thinking Films – a partnership between Agnieszka Piotrowska and Joe Njagu. The film was premiered at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival in October 2016 to great crowds and critical acclaim. It was nominated for nine awards including the Best Picture and Best Director and won two Awards (Best Actor: Eddie Sandifolo and Best Actress: Nothando Nobengula). In February 2017 the film was nominated for the best full length production at the National Music and Arts Awards in Zimbabwe.
Escape (Zimbabwe 2016) – shot and set in Harare, Zimbabwe – is a very unusual film, because it not only features intercultural encounters, but also dramatizes them in the form of an intercultural mix of cinematic genres. Form and content complement each other: the result is a successful collaborative creation effort that offers a very different perspective on such subjects as post-colonialism, memory and history, race and gender. Escape wants to appeal to both an art house public with its sophisticated structure, and to a wider audience with its suspenseful story and high entertainment values. Its suggestive subtitle “film noir fairytale” indicates the challenge at stake: to propose a modern mythological narrative that combines African and Western archetypes, such as a naive hero, who is a stranger in town, and a femme fatale, mysterious and seductive. It also includes witches, a princess, enigmatic prophecies and a deathbed confession. The film follows Charles, a man of mixed race in his twenties, who discovers that his mother lied about the true identity of his father. On her deathbed, she exhorts him to go to Zimbabwe and find his father. What awaits him are very different discoveries than what he expected. Particularly strong are the women in Escape. Seven different female characters – five of them African – with distinctive personalities and agency, offer a wide range of “women in relation to power and masculinity”. Fairy tales – like myths – are powerful tools for reconciling a (divided) community with itself. Is there anything more appropriate for Zimbabwe today than a father-son fairy tale binding together a nation, whose paternal figure will sooner or later have to yield power? Especially when it is not clear whether the daughters or sons will be charged with inheriting what he has created.
Given the rather negative representation of Zimbabwe in the Western media, Escape strikes the balance. The film does not disguise things, but it also shows a beautiful country, and a warm and attractive, spiritual and mysterious, generous and loyal people.
Sunday 9th April
Alison Bancroft – “Fashion: Symptom, Sinthome, or Something Else? A Consideration of Selected Works of Hussein Chalayan”
While psychoanalysis has proved immeasurably helpful in the study of literature, art and film, there has been little engagement between psychoanalysis and fashion. This paper is a continuation of my (rather lonely!) work in this field. The conceptual designer Hussein Chalayan brought up the issue of language in the show for his Autumn/Winter 1998/99 collection, Panoramic, when he left on each chair a slip of paper printed with the final words of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” What is interesting about the use of this quote in the context of a fashion show is that it provokes the question of what fashion can actually articulate. What is it that fashion can and cannot say, and if there is a silence, because something cannot be spoken about and so must be “passed over”, does that mean it does not exist at all, or is merely inarticulable? If it is the latter, can we perhaps theorise what we must pass over in silence as an interjection of the Lacanian real, or is it, as I will argue in this paper, something that might be grasped through Lacan’s notion of the sinthome, that which is beyond meaning? While the notion of fashion as language has been in currency since the 1960s, when Roland Barthes argued that fashion was only intelligible through its representation in words and images in magazines, or else, since the 1980s, that ones clothes are readable and/or a conscious expression of the cognisant self with the concommitent notion that ones clothes “say” something about the wearer. However, if we follow Lacan in identifying the sinthome as concerning itself with unreadable literary language, then when we treat fashion as language is it what we cannot understand about it that evidences the sinthome?
Alison Bancroft is the author of Fashion and Psychoanalysis (2012.) Her academic work on fashion theory is complemented by more general fashion writing that has been published by SHOWstudio, MoMA and others. In 2014 she was a contributing consultant on a feature-length documentary produced by IBA/Transfax and in 2015 was interviewed by New Books In Psychoanalysis. She currently divides her time between London and Florence, Italy, where she is a visiting professor at New York University Florence and Polimoda. She has previously taught at the University of the Arts in London and the Sorbonne in Paris, given public lectures at the V&A, and the Freud Museum in London, and speaks regularly at academic events in Europe and the US. She has a PhD in Psychocultural Studies from Queen Mary, University of London, and is working on her second book.
Ewa Danuta Uniejewska – “Lee Strasberg’s ‘psychoanalytical’ approach to actor training”
Lee Strasberg (1901-1982), definitely one of the most influential teachers of acting in the 20th century, was from the very beginning of his work in the theatre heavily influenced by Freud’s writings. As he noticed, it happens very often that an actor truly experiences and feels deep emotions on stage, but tensions of the body and mind make him unable to express his inner world and to communicate the richness of his feelings to the audience. In Strasberg’s view (which was also fueled by an excessive and very American obsession with the “self”), it was psychoanalysis that was the key to the unhindered expression of an actor’s intensive inner emotions. Therefore, he created a series of exercises (like relaxation, emotional-memory exercise, personal object exercise, private moment exercise, sing-and-dance exercise etc.) which constituted his famous method of acting – simply called The Method – which later became the foundation of the American school of acting.
The Method still proves to be extremely effective and easily applied into both theatre and movie industry. It helps to create brilliant actors, many of whom studied and up to this day study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. However, it caused a great controversy because of Strasberg’s alleged abuse of affective memory which – as his opponents believed – might result rather in hysterical insanity than the real art. For example, Strasberg claimed that there must be a psychological cause at the root of the physical tension (e.g. traumatic childhood experience) that disenables an actor to express freely the truth of one’s intensive inner emotions. Recalling of the traumatic past was for Strasberg a method facilitating the release of the tension. However, for some people it was painful to dig back and they accused Strasberg of “practicing psychiatry without a license”.
In my paper I determine the cultural conditions that enabled adapting Freud’s theories into the acting methodology dominating in the United States. I examine in detail the procedures for emotional memory exercise – the basic exercise of the Method – as well as the other exercises used by Strasberg in his actor’s training and try to analyze their actual influence on the actors working at The Actors Studio.
Ewa Danuta Uniejewska (1990) – PhD student at the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, graduated from the Theatre Studies Department of the A. Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art. In 2016 Visiting Research Scholar at Barnard College, New York City. Laurette of the scholarship program Młoda Polska 2015 (Young Poland 2015). Translator and editor of a volume of Richard Boleslavsky’s texts, Lekcje aktorstwa. Teksty z lat 1923-1933 (Lessons of Acting. Texts from 1923-1933). Author of articles, reviews and interviews published in the “Aspiracje”, “Scena” and “Nietak!t” quarterlies and in the “Teatr” monthly. Warsaw editorial board secretary of the Teatralny.pl website.
Jaice Sara Titus – “The desire and jouissance in improvisational comedy”
A brief study into the major movements of improvisation in comedy shows that the key properties of improvisation require a discussion around the concepts of play, freedom and laughter. Using the Lacanian framework, the paper seeks to explicate how the structure of desire and jouissance are embedded in the dimension of play, freedom and laughter. In his book on Jokes, Freud proposes that the joke produces pleasure and Lacan has revisited Freud’s take on jokes, humour and the production of enjoyment in various seminars, most notably in Seminar V. The improvisational comedian produces enjoyment by speaking their truth, indirectly through sonorous materiality and the manifestation of the symptom, which is always returning and repeating. By playing with the space between jouissance and meaning, how does the comedian arrive at the mode of improvisational performance?
Jaice is a third year PhD student at Brunel University under the supervision of Prof Dany Nobus and Dr Sharon Lockyer, researching improvisational comedy and its relation to philosophy, critical theory and psychoanalysis. Her interest in humour developed in 2012 while studying for her Masters in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society, also at Brunel, which culminated in her completing a dissertation on self-deprecating humour and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Jaice was the first PhD student affiliated to Brunel’s Centre for Comedy Studies Research, and her aim is to continue to cultivate a discourse between the two disciplines of psychoanalysis and comedy studies.
Matilda Mroz – “From the void to the visible? Anamorphosis, the Holocaust, and Polish visual culture”
This paper initiates a dialogue between the concept of anamorphosis (as articulated by Lacan in relation to Holbein’s The Ambassadors and later discussed by Silverman, Zizek and Sobchack) and recent developments in Polish Holocaust history and memory. Broadly, the concept of anamorphosis describes the becoming-visible of what was previously in one’s blind spot, and which destabilises the perspectival system of intelligibility, the ‘dominant fiction’ in a given society; anamorphosis is also a structure of looking which is temporal, which has duration. Such a framework, I argue, has resonance for the ways in which narratives of Polish violence against Jews during WWII (which emerged following the publication of Jan Gross’s Neighbours in 2000) have worked to disrupt long-held beliefs about Polish victimhood and martyrdom, and, more specifically, the role of Poles as rescuers of Jews. Drawing partly on the work of Polish philosopher Andrzej Leder, the paper will consider how this process of the becoming-visible of Polish history’s ‘blind spot’ continues to be fraught and fragmented, where hauntings, voids, and felt absences function as symptoms of barely repressed historical trauma and guilt. The paper will closely analyse two works of Polish visual culture in particular. First, Władysław Pasikowski’s film Aftermath (2012; the first fiction feature to extensively treat Polish-led pogroms against Jews), in which anti-Semitic graffiti in an apparently idyllic rural landscape is figured as a ‘stain’ and symptom of past violence; secondly, Łukasz Baksik’s photographic work Matzevot for Everyday Use (2013) which points to the repressed underside of everyday life in its documentation of the Jewish gravestones used to pave streets, yards and playgrounds. The paper argues that, like the stain or sardine can discussed by Lacan, these images not only dramatize our blind spot, but also constitute a ‘look back’ to the viewer, prompting a renewed ethical vision.
Matilda Mroz is Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex (previously University of Greenwich). She held a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2008-2011), where her research focused on Polish cinema, and where she also completed her PhD in film theory (2004-2007). She is the author of Temporality and Film Analysis (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), which explores duration through the films of Antonioni, Tarkovsky, and Kieslowski. She is the co-author of Remembering Katyn (Polity Press, 2012) and co-editor of The Cinematic Bodies of Eastern Europe and Russia: Between Pain and Pleasure (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). Her current research examines the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish relations in Polish visual culture.
Marlo De Lara – “Investigating National Pride and Shame in the Philippine consciousness within Imelda (2013)”
The forming of a national consciousness for postcolonial and postimperial countries is fraught with missing histories, group traumas, and scattered memories. This process of self-identification is highly reliant on what remains after the devastation. In Lene Austead’s introduction to Nationalism and the Body Politic (2013), nationalism serves by performing a collective ‘we’; it “reifies history into a selective and celebratory identity narrative” (p.xxiii). By analyzing Ramona Diaz’s film Imelda (2013), I examine the Philippines’ constant tension and vacillation between feelings of pride and shame, praise and disgust, specifically in relation to Imelda Marcos. The documentary heavily criticizes Ms. Marcos and the actions of the corrupt regime, yet often tinged with fascination or even admiration. The film peripherally palpates the wound inflicted three-fold: by the chronic poverty, ongoing government structural upheaval, and mediated narratives/representations of power. The filmmaker Ramona Diaz was inspired to create a film specifically about the eccentric charismatic woman who had grown to become a symbol of opulence and Third World governmental corruption. Imelda Marcos’s life was in constant presence of the public eye. Referring to the film as a litmus test for the Filipino people, Diaz explains the problematic positioning for the Philippine people. The film highlights how Filipinos imagine ourselves and the so-called ‘masses’. In her filmmaker statement, Diaz asks,”how can we love the people if they love her? How do we resist her imagery and what she stands for and how she defines Filipino pride without distancing ourselves from everything Filipino?” This ironic positioning begs the question: how does national pride and shame constitute a nation? Does national pride function only as a reaction or as a corollary formation to shame? I examine how expressions of this pride, and its inevitable counterpart, shame, function in building a Filipino national imaginary.
Marlo J. De Lara is currently pursuing a doctorate in Cultural Studies at CentreCATH within the department of Fine Arts, History of Art, and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Her current research concerns the study of subjectivities within Filipino American cultural texts. Her work focuses on personal/social histories, migration and transnational narratives, postcolonial and critical race theory, and psychoanalysis.
Agnieszka Piotrowska – “Post-colonial trauma, Doris Lessing and Dambudzo Marechera”
Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska is an award winning documentary filmmaker and a theorist. Piotrowska is the author of monograph Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film (2014, Routledge) and editor Embodied Encounters: New Approaches to Cinema and Psychoanalysis (2014) Routledge. Her new book is Black and White: cinema, politics and the arts in Zimbabwe (2016, Routledge) and she has just completed her first feature film in Harare. Piotrowska is a Reader in Film Practice and Theory at the Department of Media Arts, the University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.
Charlotta Lund – “Symptoms of desymbolization”
Many mental health professionals of today, including myself, are trained in therapeutic practices that promise to alleviate pain by empowering the individual and helping him/her attain different goals. They rest on assumptions which are antithetical to psychoanalysis, e.g. that suffering and symptoms have no meaning (and hence do not need interpretation) and no purpose in themselves, but are simply the result of suboptimal use of the individuals own strengths. Only a fool would spend years trying to understand their symptom, when you can be cured at once if you only want to. These are the discourses that psychoanalysis must grapple with in the clinic.
In my paper, I will attempt to analyse these views on the symptom as in themselves symptomatic of a process of desymbolization. Freedman, Ward and Hurvich (2011) define the desymbolization not as the absence of the symbolic or as unsymbolized material, but rather as “the wish to eject knowing, to evacuate meaning, to disavow significance” (p. 315). Dufour (2008) argues that the market in the neoliberal late capitalist society is disavowing the critical Kantian subject and creating a new subject form, under which the individuals are freed from “all the symbolic weight that once guaranteed their exchanges” (p. 5). This celebration of the quest for an authentic self, inner emotions and imaginary identifications turns the hysteric subject into a hysterological one, forced to pull itself up by its own bootstraps. In my paper, I will ask how this is affecting our understanding of the symptom. If the hegemonic therapeutic discourses view the symptom as an inconvenience on the individuals’ path towards self-realization, can it also be viewed as a form of resistance, such as the cultural disease of fatigue in the beginning of the 20th century (Johannisson, 2006)?
Charlotta Lund is working as a psychologist in mental health services. She graduated as Master of Arts (psychology) from University of Eastern Finland in 2015. In 2014 she completed her bachelors degree in social psychology at the Helsinki University Swedish School of Social Sciences.
Allister Mactaggart – “Taking Lacan at His Word: (How) Did Marx Invent the Symptom and What Might This Mean for Us Now?”
It is well known that Slavoj Žižek opens chapter 1 of The Sublime Object of Ideology by pointing out that it was none other than Jacques Lacan who argued that Karl Marx invented the notion of the symptom. Whilst Žižek provides a number of quotations from Marx (and Freud) to support his thesis, direct references from Lacan are noticeably less present, but are substantiated by more generalised comments. Lacan’s various references to Marx, particularly from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, are important sources for reflecting upon the Marxian ‘symptom’ and its relationship to psychoanalysis, and require careful reading to arrive at an understanding of what Lacan means when he refers to the homologous relationship between surplus value and the objet petit a. Similarly, Lacan’s various elaborations of the symptom and sinthome also show how this notion changes substantially over time, and that these changes need to be accounted for in any analysis of the interrelationship between Marxism, psychoanalysis and capitalism.
Recent publications, such as Samo Tomšič’s The Capitalist Unconscious and Todd McGowan’s Capitalism and Desire, demonstrate how other academics are harnessing together the insights of Marxism and psychoanalysis as a means of responding to the most recent crisis of capitalism and its long-lasting effects. A symptomatic or sinthomatic reading of capitalism appears to be important at this time if we are to find a way of dealing with the impasses, blockages and slips in the system. In this paper I will seek to address some key concerns and insights from Lacan’s work in this area, together with recent commentaries, as a means of opening up a space to discuss major issues for which psychoanalysis may prove to be a valuable way of understanding the conflictual truth of the symptom under capitalism.
Allister Mactaggart, PhD, is a lecturer in the Directorate of Academic and Creative Studies at Chesterfield College, UK, where he teaches art history, media and film studies. He has published widely on various artistic endeavours of David Lynch, including the monograph The Film Paintings of David Lynch: Challenging Film Theory, as well as other articles and book chapters on art, film, television and popular music. His work is primarily centred around the dialectical relationship between the psyche and the social as it manifests itself in culture, society and politics.
Sean Homer – “Žižek’s Symptom”
Slavoj Žižek is frequently criticized for the inconsistency and contradictory nature of his political positions, most recently for his remarks on the European refugee “crisis” and his, qualified, support for a Donald Trump presidency in the 2016 US elections on the basis that a Trump victory would create “a totally new political situation with chances for a more radical Left”. Žižek defends the twists and turns of his political thought on the basis of pragmatism, that is to say, the argument that concrete situations demand concrete solutions, which will be different in each situation. If we consider Žižek’s specific political interventions in his home country of Slovenia and the wider Balkan region, however, the picture looks rather different. Žižek’s early interventions contributed to the demarxification of Slovene political discourse. He has supported anti-Roma protestors and remained silent on Slovene anti-austerity riots, whilst praising those taking place in other countries. In the broader region he has maintained his support for SYRIZA in Greece despite SYRIZA’s betrayal of the Left and he has called for the ethnic partition of Kosovo. There is an underlying consistency to these positions, I contend, and it tends to be reactionary. The Balkans, in this sense, can be seen as Žižek’s symptom, that element which does not fit into the system but speaks its truth and reveals what the system cannot acknowledge about itself.
Sean Homer is Professor of Film and Literature at the American University in Bulgaria, where he teaches courses in Film Criticism, Balkan Cinema, Modernism, Postmodern Literature and Psychoanalysis. He is author of Fredric Jameson: Marxism, Hermeneutics, Postmodernism (Polity Press 1998), Jacques Lacan (Routledge 2004) and Slavoj Žižek and Radical Politics (2016). He is co-editor (with Douglas Kellner) of Fredric Jameson: A Critical Reader (Palgrave Macmillan 2005). He is currently working on a book on History, Trauma and Narrative in Balkan Cinema.