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Chapter Ten - Some Notes on the Theories of Structure and Mental Functioning Underlying a Memoir of the Future by W. R. Bion (1993): Festschrift for Francesco Corrao

Parthenope Bion Talamo Karnac Books ePub

The following annotations on the theories underlying W. R. Bion's book A Memoir of the Future (1975–1979) are largely the fruit of the translation work, along with Gianni Nebbiosi, of the first volume of the trilogy, The Dream. At this occasion I should like to dedicate them to Francesco Corrao as a form of thanks for his great intellectual courage and his generosity in giving space in his own internal world to the ideas of Bion, from the outset, when they were very little known, but feared and attacked out of all proportion as “strange, abstruse and unorthodox”. Not only did Francesco Corrao give space within himself to these ideas, he also introduced them to others, by popularising and studying them, and implicit within this activity is a very important teaching concerning the transmission of psychoanalytic culture. Bion's ideas in Corrao's mind were not left as foreign bodies, as relatively noninteractive guests, but were later developed and used as a basis and as stimuli for the thought of Corrao himself (1977). It is true that with regard to the history of science it is important to be able to attribute correctly to their authors the paternity of the concepts used, but it is also true that thinking dies if it is not refertilised and subsequently developed in the generation and the mind of each thinker.

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Chapter Fifteen - Bion and the Group: Knowing, Learning, Teaching (1996)

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Between epistemology and agnoiology

When Dr. Romano invited me to address this conference, first of all I had emotional reactions: of pleasure on the one hand, with the sense that with this kind offer I am truly being paid a great honour, and of unease on the other.

These reactions have been followed by the process of “thinking about it”. The thought had to deal with two main threads: the first was what would be the content of my paper, and the second consisted of the slightly curious question of the fact that the simple proposition of delivering a paper, let alone its contents, prompted in primis emotions, and only subsequently reflections.

In reality the two threads are not so split, because talking about Bion and the group to a group which in all likelihood is already very familiar with Bion's work in this field inevitably prompts rather precise concerns; to mention one, the fear of being superfluous and boring. But there are also more internal links between the two threads of emotional relationships and more abstract thoughts, as I will try to show in the course of this paper.

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Chapter Sixteen - Bion's Contribution to Psychoanalysis (1996)

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Before I do anything else I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Pisani for this invitation, for which I feel very honoured, and I am also very happy to have the chance to come back to Rome, however fleetingly. I lived in Rome for ten years, and I feel a great affection towards the city.

I thought this evening that I would talk in the simplest possible way, not least because Bion is a very difficult writer, whose work branches off in different directions. I will try to give a sense of him as a person, because I maintain that for any psychoanalyst or anyone working in the field of the psyche or in the field of human relationships their primary tool is, in reality, themselves, as well as many theories, a great deal of knowledge and a great deal of study behind them. But the tool with which we put ourselves in contact with our patients is, to a large extent, our personality, so it seems to me that talking about a writer, a theorist in the field of psychoanalysis and totally leaving aside his personal story risks creating a kind of meaningless phenomenon in the void.

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Chapter Nine - Experiences in Groups Revisited (1992)

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What I would like to present for your attention today is a twofold journey of reading—or rather rereading—Bion's Experiences in Groups (1961). I have wondered if, and in what way, this text might be considered seminal for Bion's thinking in the works that followed, and secondly, to what extent Bion “kept the promises” expressed in Experiences. We might probably discuss this second point quite quickly, in the sense that at least superficially the promises were not kept.

Before venturing into this tangled wood, I would like to remind you of two things that it seems to me to be useful to keep in mind against the background of all the rest of the discussion: the first and more technical is the chronological position of different texts of Bion which speak plainly about groups, texts most of which were published between 1930, with “The war of nerves: the reaction of civilians, the social spirit and prophylaxis” in The Neuroses in War, via Psychiatry at a Time of Crisis in 1948 through to the final chapter (Re-View) of Experiences in Groups, in 1952. The last text that should be part of this list is Attention and Interpretation from 1970. The second aspect, which is quite substantial, is the importance of groups in Bion's practical life, because practice and theory are certainly not separable.

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Chapter Six - Warum Krieg? (1990): The Freud-Einstein Correspondence in the Context of Psychoanalytic Social Thought

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Introduction

The so-called “correspondence” between Freud and Einstein, which in fact consists of only two letters, is in many ways an anomaly in Freud's work, not only because of its genesis and its contents, but also because of Freud's attitude towards it. It is a work with two contexts, the historical context of the age and that of Freud's work as a whole, the latter located within a broader psychoanalytic contest; and yet it seems curiously remote from any physical or mental setting. Nor does Einstein's letter make reference to the political events of the day, even though they may have been the background to his choice of theme.

In 1931 the Permanent Committee for Culture and the Arts of the League of Nations invited the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation to organise the epistolary exchanges between representative intellectuals “on themes calculated to serve the common interests of the League of Nations and of intellectual life” (Freud, 1933b, p. 197), and to publish the letters. Among the first to receive the invitation was Einstein, who put forward Freud's name. So here we find a first anomaly, in the sense that this letter does not seem to emerge from a spontaneous need of Freud's to write on the subject; in fact Freud says that he was taken by surprise by the contents of Einstein's letter, because he expected him to write on some other subject, in this case the upbringing of children, and not about something that he called “a practical problem, a concern for statesmen” (Freud, 1933b, p. 203).

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