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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 Seven: Rhythm of Affects and Styles of the Ego, in to the Lighthouse

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER SEVEN

Rhythm of affects and styles of the ego, in To the Lighthouse

Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.

—Woolf, Letters Vol. 3: p. 247

Searching for style means finding your rhythm, and although Woolf is talking here about recapturing a certain style and rhythm of writing, we can equally see therapy as a process where styles of the mind, let's say the ego's style, has to recapture or re-find its lost rhythm of affects. Affects are always uncannily double because they live to a large extent outside of the ego's ability to bind or harness them. Affects are unconscious until they become integrated into the perceptual consciousness of the ego.

So, there are the affects we feel and the ones we remain more unconscious of because we split them off or repress them. If our affects are too unbearable they are externalised and given to somebody else, or we disguise them by attributing to them cover meanings and feelings. Affects, as part of our instinctual being, are our primary animal passions, but they also make up are unknowable unconscious phantasies; as such they constitute the beginning, passage, and the expression of our psychological drives and desires. This means not just that affects move, but they incorporate different qualities and meanings. Affects that begin instinctually become psychological desires through the movement of what Freud called libido or sexual drive. Freud tells us the drives are a borderline concept, halfway between the somatic and the psychical, and so desires move from animal passions to something more intangible and unknowable. And this is because our polymorphous sexuality and our desire are always in excess of any object that can fulfil the fantasy. Richard Boothby speaks most clearly about what is at stake in Freudian drives and phantasies. Because, as he says, phantasy is a character with something to hide, then the unknowable heart of whom we are and what we want, keeps moving us forward, compelling us towards something that is always beyond the reach of the imagination:

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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 Eight: Dreaming Lilies

Campbell, Jan Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER EIGHT

Dreaming lilies

What would it mean to think of the psychoanalytic unconscious as an immanent entity; something that exists outside as a virtual, suggestive and impersonal world, until it is brought inside us and elaborated within the internal topographies sketched for us by Freud? In this reading the unconscious would exist as a virtual phenomena; something by definition we cannot know, until it becomes elaborated within the personal self or ego. Outside as the unconscious virtual world we select from, and inside as both a receptive potential of being (the unthought known) and the repressed and unknowable constituent of our being, the Freudian unconscious is both dynamically repressed and also receptively and perceptively communicative in relation to another. If we acknowledge the hidden role of unconscious perception in Freud's writings then we have to accept that our unconscious being extends to a virtual and phenomenological world beyond the ego. As Jean Laplanche notes, A Note Upon “The Mystic Writing Pad” is Freud's most succinct theory of the operation of durational, perceptual time which moves beyond the subject. The world is an excess in this description, from which we selectively retrench, or cut out from, thus establishing a time and subjectivity for ourselves. This time is not restricted to human beings, but encompasses any living being. In rhythm we move backwards and forwards, becoming excited and interrupted by the virtual world and then retreating, as “a periodical shutting down that opposes the continuous action of the ‘not me’” (Laplanche 1999: p. 241).

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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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