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Winnicott Studies

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The Squiggle Foundation's aims are to study and disseminate the work of Winnicott, with a particular emphasis on application.

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PETER FULLER

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Birth and Creativity

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Dr Rosemary Gordon

I began to think and reflect about the theme of this paper, this talk, during the last Christmas holiday which I spent, as usual, in my house in France. Now, Christmas is a feast that is totally devoted to and preoccupied with the nativity of Christ.

The Bible does not speak much, if at all, about the physical struggle, pain and blood that are an inevitable part of the process of birth-giving. But it does describe the worry and discomfort of Mary and Joseph who have to search so hard to find a place—any place—where they can find some shelter for Mary and the infant-baby to draw apart and for the birth to happen.

It is interesting to note that when we look at the paintings of the Nativity, particularly at the mediaeval ones, how often Mary, the Mother, is shown to look not at the baby, but into the distance and how often her expression is not only of joy and pride, but also of sadness.

I believe that the story of Christ—apart from everything else—is a metaphor, a symbol that reminds us that when Thought, Hope, the Word, the Spirit becomes flesh, it brings with it also pain and hurt and suffering—and death.

 

King Lear in Rehearsal

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Jonathan Miller

(This is an edited version of a lecture given by Dr Miller in March 1989 when his production of ‘King Lear’ was in rehearsal at the Old Vic)

I find it quite difficult to talk about a play which is actually in rehearsal, because when you are in the middle of it, it is hard to see the wood for the trees. But I will try to describe both—the wood and the trees, taking the wood first. I think the great problem with King Lear is that, in production in the recent past, it has been bedevilled by ideas of the ‘cosmic’. Traditionally, for the best part of a hundred years, it has been inclined towards a druidical representation—partly because of that damned storm. Because of the traditional iconography of that storm, in which you see a long-white-bearded figure ranting at the clouds and the thunder, there is a feeling that the play is about large, cosmic, archetypal issues. It has always been my feeling in doing the play—and this is the fourth time I have done it—that the cosmic is really the least important aspect of the play. That does not mean that the themes are not large, not eternal, not themes that repeat themselves constantly, or that they are not deeply preoccupying themes, but I do not think that the play has anything to do with storms at all. The storm is a groundbase against which the entirely human actions occur.

 

Come to Your Senses: The Ills of Cartesian Wells

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Alexander Newman

(Extracts from a book on decartesianization)

‘There could be a race just as intelligent as us which could think only aloud, and not in privacy: their lives would be both more honest and more noisy than ours, but there would be nothing in the world which would be beyond their ken without being also beyond ours.’

It is not difficult to tell that this is the voice of a philosopher. And not just a philosopher, but one of exceptional talent, for this is, if you sit on it for long enough, a reflection brilliant enough to set us well on our way to the liberating work of decartesianization.

Anthony Kenny’s new book, The Metaphysics of Mind, is very good indeed and well worth celebrating in this number of Winnicott Studies devoted to Winnicott and the imagination because what Descartes did, in effect, was to destroy the European imagination, which is the vitality of being sensible: he made us insensible and placed us firmly in our skulls, forever mentally to masturbate. To be imaginative we are sensible, the cultivation of what is imaginative lies in the cultivation of what is our bodily nature. Descartes messed all this up by his articulate and entrancing picture of minds and bodies and we are all more or less sunk in the mire of it, lost in the fog of it, bewitched by the picture of it, seduced by the language of it and become ill and dangerously out of touch by its contamination: ‘in our heads’.

 

'The Furnaces of Affliction become

ePub

Andrew Cockburn

The line I have quoted as my theme for this paper occurs towards the conclusion, indeed could be said to constitute the climax, of Blake’s poem Jerusalem. As I understand it this has to do with psychic transformation, of which there are many examples in Blake, and to which I shall return. But I want first to spend a little time introducing my subject. I shall begin by quoting a poem:

A choleric enthusiast
Self-educated William Blake
Who threw his spectre in the lake,
Broke off relations in a curse
With the Newtonian universe,
But even as a child could pet
The tigers Voltaire never met,
Took walks with them through Lambeth, and
Spoke to Isaiah in the Strand,
And heard inside each mortal thing
Its holy emanation sing.

W. H. Auden. (1941)

William Blake has received surprisingly little attention in the psychoanalytic literature. This contrasts with the abundance of articles, books and critical commentaries which have appeared and continue to appear by literary critics and others on his work, especially during the last thirty years. He is often ‘in the news’. Since starting this paper I have heard of an opera on Tiriel, also one on the Book of Thel: The Lamentation of Thel by a Russian composer, produced in Germany; news of the discovery of a collection of drawings which were previously unknown; a radio programme on the significance of the hymn Jerusalem; and a play in which he appears as a character. Many pay tribute to his greatness not only as a poet but for his extraordinary grasp of the human psyche and of the human condition. Thus W. H. Auden (1977): ‘The whole of Freud’s teaching may be found in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.’ And Foster Damon (1965) ‘So profound were Blake’s researches in the terra incognita of the human soul that he may be hailed as the Christopher Columbus of the psyche, in whose course Freud and Jung—among others—were to follow. So novel was everything in this new world that no vocabulary was prepared for him. But the psychic forces were so real that he had to name them. Thence arose his special mythology, for these forces were living creatures.”

 

'A Cold Face Lit with Fire': A Madonna by Michelangelo

ePub

John Fielding

(This paper was first given at a seminar in the ‘Original Themes in Winnicott’ series)

This paper is presumptuous in two respects. First I am not an art historian and have no training in the interpretation of paintings or sculpture. I come to Michelangelo with a no more than ordinary knowledge of his work, his life and times; I have read as extensively as I could in researching and I do not claim any originality for what I write. I was led to Michelangelo in the course of preparing a talk on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, particularly on the absence of mothers in the play and I saw the art history as illuminating my way to that. Second, I am not trained in any form of psychoanalysis. Professionally I am a teacher of literature and although my practices as a teacher have been transformed by what I have understood and been able to use of Winnicott, I have nothing to offer in terms of insight from analytic practice. My expertise such as it is might best be construed as in the analysis of the texts themselves and what I think I do in this paper is boldly, and you may think rashly, transfer that to the contemplation of a very different art work.

 

Fantasia in D Minor: A Musician Ponders Depression

ePub

Christopher Bunting

(This is a transcript of the paper that Christopher Bunting gave for the Squiggle Foundation in May 1988. We present it in this unusual, minimally edited, form because we wish to preserve something of the freshness and spontaneity with which it was given—and hope to provoke even a little of the excitement with which it was then received. The paper was originally illustrated with recorded musical examples which are impossible to represent adequately on the page. We have indicated each work at the appropriate point in the text denoted by in the confidence that the reader will be sufficiently roused to seek out recordings and become fully a listener.)

I would like to dedicate this paper gratefully to the memory of Kenneth Lambert, without, of course, implicating him in any of the views I express.

To sorrow
I bade good morrow,
And thought to leave her far away behind.
But cheerly, cheerly
She Loves me dearly.
She is so constant to me, and so kind
I would deceive her,
And so leave her,
But ah! She is so constant and so kind.

 

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