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Chapter Five: All about Our Mothers: Melodrama's Maternal Form

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER FIVE

All about our mothers: melodrama's maternal form

Melodrama and psychoanalysis are both concerned with the dramatisation of affects in search of form. Indeed, if we are to think of Freudian sexuality as this passionate drive in search of forms that are initially derived from another, then we can also see how sexuality begins as both melodramatic passions and non-personal objects or types, which over time become inscribed as a personal identity we call the ego. The next two chapters explore, in their analysis of melodrama and psychoanalysis, how passions and sexuality move between a personal ego and non-personal other. Significantly though, this rhythm is captured through an early maternal form and aesthetic, rather than the naming of language or the paternal signifier. Pre-Oedipal experience is not simply an imaginary entity that is then broken up through a language of the unconscious and notions of the signifier. For me, there is an imaginative as well as a fantasmatic aspect to the imaginary; one which corresponds with our perceptual senses and reality through a lived mimesis with the mother. In this mimesis sameness is returned albeit differently, in relation to her aesthetic and cultural response—her gestural form. It is the mimetic return of maternal gestures that occurs initially through the non-personal (and virtual) form of the mother which both elaborates the child's passions and builds what I have called a painterly home or being for the ego. And yet it is the melodrama of passions in search of old and familiar forms that stages the dramas of our personal and historical pasts. Therefore to really get somewhere new, we have to go back further, beyond the pleasures of the ego and the personal self, to encounter an older relation to a virtual form of being, which is unconsciously perceived and received in association with the early mother. It is this older relation to a virtual non-personal world where we access the unconscious not simply as a private entity but as an historical force.1

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Chapter Six: Sympathies beyond the Self in Daniel Deronda

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER SIX

Sympathies beyond the self in Daniel Deronda

In the famous opening lines of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, we are introduced to the question of Gwendolen Harleth's moral virtue:

Was she beautiful or not beautiful? And what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing to which the whole being consents? (Eliot, 1999: p. 35)

Gwendolen raises these questions in Daniel Deronda's and the reader's mind. And of course, then as now, the question of a women's virtue is a sentiment on which society relies and turns. Are women beautiful, or do they just appear so? And what does being beautiful as a woman, or a man, really mean? In Daniel Deronda, Gwendolen's charm and good looks are surface phenomenon. They are at odds with her rather narrow and personal sense of what exists beyond the self. George Eliot writes dubiously of her supposed heroine:

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Chapter Four: Symptoms, ‘Sense and Sensibility’

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER FOUR

Symptoms, ‘sense and sensibility’

Thus neurotic symptoms have a sense, like parapraxes and dreams, and like them, have a connection with the life of those who produce them.

—Freud, 1917a: p. 257

There is a moment in Freud's essay The Sense of Symptoms where he describes the trivial and futile ceremonies of everyday life that make up the repetitions of the obsessional character, and he exclaims “certainly this is a crazy illness” (Freud, 1917a: p. 259). The obsessive is crazy and yet his symptoms have intelligence, as well as an extreme sensibility. Symptoms for the obsessive are displacements and substitutions, one prohibition after another, one ceremonial and then another. So symptoms for the obsessive person are always far removed from their original form. Like dreams, symptoms are a cover story; they are the melodramatic parts of our character that speak up for our repressed and secret sexuality. Seemingly so immediate and compulsive these symptoms are characters that both hide and carry our desire.

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Chapter One: Passions in Search of Form

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER ONE

Passions in search of form

What questions do our passions raise for psychoanalysis? For Freud, passions are our life, and death drives, that unhappy marriage between our affects and representations; the love we can bind and the sexuality we cannot bear or formulate. Our unmanageable passions have a history that predates psychoanalysis. In one sense the very word passion belongs to an older vocabulary that psychoanalysis came along to deconstruct or explain. In Freudian language we have affects which can lean towards biological instincts or rest on their representative qualification in relation to feelings, emotions, moods, and drives. And yet passion evokes that vital capacity which makes us feel alive; makes life worth living. Moreover, passion is always directed towards something. We could call that something an object, but before the object exists, or after it is destroyed or lost, passion is in search of a form in which it can be dressed and carried. Are passions, then, our desires? In some ways, yes, but passion suggests a more passive relation. We suffer our passions, they are something that seems to visit or invade our very being, whereas desire suggests a more active relationship to our wants. Desire, perhaps, involves the ego's participation; we might need to loosen or lose our egos to find our desire, but the ego has not disappeared. Whereas in a blind passion, whether that is in terms of love, lust or hate, we are literally beside ourselves. Passion, here, has driven us to a place beyond the ego and all reason, to the madness that resides at the heart of love. So we could say that passionate affects are the part of our desires that are on the move in search of form. And our desires are the travel of those passionate forms seeking further elaboration.

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Chapter Two: Unconscious Reading of Mothers and Flowers

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER TWO

Unconscious reading of mothers and flowers

To read what was never written. Such reading is the most ancient; reading before all languages, from the entrails, the stars, or dances.

—Benjamin, 1978: p. 336

What does the understanding of a telepathic, unconscious maternal form add to the debates within psychoanalysis? I shall argue in this book that telepathy, intrinsic to the travels of a repressed unconscious within Freud's thinking, is part of an unconscious and receptive unconscious that is located in relation to the earliest relationship with the mother. Grasping the unconscious work of a telepathic receptive unconscious enables us to understand, not just how the dynamic Freudian unconscious works, but also how such a receptive unconscious can be linked to the creation of unconscious lived forms that both create the “self” and shape and give expression to our affects. Unconscious perception goes on all the time in waking life, and is associated with what Freud calls the dream day. We are constantly collecting our unconscious perceptions as we go through life and these join up with unconscious memory and affects. At night, in our dreams, this transference between our unconscious wishes and our perceptions is more intense because the barrier between conscious and unconscious is less rigid.

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