41 Slices
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9. Love and destructivity: from the aesthetic conflict to a revision of the concept of destructivity in the psyche

Donald Meltzer Karnac Books ePub

Jean Begoin

I first heard Donald Meltzer speak about the “Aesthetic Conflict” when he presented this new concept in Paris, at a meeting of the GERPEN1 in March 1986, almost fourteen years ago. This paper became the second chapter in his book The Apprehension of Beauty, written with Meg Harris Williams and published two years later, in 1988. As did many others who were listening to Meltzer on this day, I felt that moment deserved to be considered historical, and I still think it was. Many elements were new in this concept, but what was most striking was his evident inspiration: we were listening to a new Meltzer—not so much in his theories, with which I had been familiar for more than twenty years, after having had supervisions and having translated his two first books into French—but especially in what I have to call his “spirit”, a new way of thinking theories, comprising a newly integrated mixture of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and poetry. Actually, it would be more precise to say that we were present at the birth of a higher degree of integration of qualities we had in fact always known in Meltzer since his first papers and his first book, The Psycho-Analytical Process: a unique Meltzerian mixture of science and art.

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11. Beckett: dramas of psychic catastrophe

Donald Meltzer Karnac Books ePub

Margaret Rustin and Michael Rustin

Donald Meltzer has demonstrated how a psychoanalytic perspective can illuminate works of contemporary theatre in his essay on Pinter’s plays, published in Sincerity and Other Works (1994). We shall be drawing on some of his ideas in our discussion of Samuel Beckett [1906-1989], who was Pinter’s most important forerunner and exemplar in the contemporary drama. Anthony Cronin’s (1996) biography of Beckett refers to Pinter’s admiration for Beckett and his friendship with him.

What are Beckett’s plays about?

Even forty-five years after the first production of Waiting for Godot, the question of what Beckett’s plays are about remains a challenging one, though many people—including Beckett himself—have thought that this was not necessarily a productive question to ask, since it threatens to lead one away from the plays themselves. We might see this as analogous to Bion’s distinction between knowing about and getting to know. But the question arises because of Beckett’s break with our previous expectations of what a modern play was supposed to be—that is, a representation of a more-or-less familiar patch of social life (usually taking place in a house or a room) with characters who are at least in part identifiable versions of social types that we recognize. This apparent correspondence between the staged play and recognizable social and domestic reality had become especially the case for modern drama in the work of its great masters, such as Ibsen, Chekhov,1 and Miller. Indeed, part of the achievement of modern dramatic writing had been to invest with tragic dimensions the experiences of characters whose social identities were not so different from those of the majority of their audiences.

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4 - Autism reconsidered

Margaret Cohen Karnac Books ePub

Suzanne Maiello

At the age of 8 years, Donald Meltzer accompanied his parents on a trip to Europe. The young boy was deeply impressed by the beauty of historical buildings on the old continent and wanted to become an architect. Later, as a psychoanalytic thinker, Meltzer continued to use his gift for spatial design by conceptualizing and interpreting psychic phenomena at the meta-psychological level in terms of dimensionality. Following on from Klein's notion of an internal world inhabited by internal objects and, later, Bion's concept of container/contained, the scene was set for the emergence, in 1967 (well before Explorations in Autism) of Meltzer's spatial notions of the geography of the mind, of geographical and zonal confusions, and, later, of the compartments of the internal object and the claustrum.

In Explorations in Autism, the idea of dimensionality of mental functioning became the central notion from which Meltzer's theoretical formulations were to spring and expand. He introduced the chapter on “Dimensionality as a Parameter of Mental Functioning” by stating:

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4. The issue of respect in a medical context

Margaret Cohen Karnac Books ePub

The essence of friendship lies… in the exercise of a capacity
to perceive, a willingness to respect, and a desire to
understand, the differences between persons.

Richard Wollheim, The Thread of Life, 1984

A full-term baby, “Monica”, came to the NICU because the doctors were worried by her appearance and floppiness. After extensive investigations it was found that she had a neural migration defect, that her brain had not and could not mature, and she would not live. Monica could not swallow—a nasogastric tube would not stay down—so she received nutrition through a long line. This is a soft, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein and passed to the heart to give the baby all essential nutrients for growth. Her breathing was maintained by a ventilator. The long line had been put in with great difficulty by another hospital, which was in full collaboration with the neonatal unit. Monica’s parents were very popular on the unit: their courage and care for their daughter touched the hearts of the unit staff. They listened to the doctors but also voiced their own opinions, and they had good working relations with the nurses.

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13 - Trapped in a Claustrum World: The Proleptic Imagination and James Joyce's Ulysses

Margaret Cohen Karnac Books ePub

Mary Fisher-Adams

“Oh Jamesy let me up out of this pooh.”

“Molly”: James Joyce, Ulysses (1922b)

In this chapter I look at Ulysses as a description of a claustrum world and how fear and dread can produce, in the so-called “replacement child”, a proleptic imagination that keeps the claustrum dweller imprisoned and paralysed. A link is made with Shakespeare, who is a presence throughout Ulysses and was himself a replacement child.

I had been struck by similarities between two of my patients and James Joyce. They had all lost siblings in early childhood and seem to have felt emotionally cut adrift by the mother's grief at her loss—a feeling marginalized that had extended into adulthood. They all showed particular sensitivity as children and were possessed of a highly active imagination and exceptional literary creativity. Above all, they seemed tormented by fear in the extreme. My two patients came into analysis in their forties still plagued by nightmares of lions, monsters, and dead babies. Most strikingly, both expressed the fear that they had murdered someone and that they remain lethal and shouldn't be allowed out into the world. James Joyce also suffered great fears and nightmares. He spoke of “that skull” that came to torment him at night (Ellmann, 1982, p. 178). He was highly superstitious, had crippling phobias causing fainting fits—afraid of dogs, rats, and water, for example—and lived in fear of thunder and lightning.1

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