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An Exercise in Providing Pictures for Captions [18 Oct 2002|04:38am]
[ mood | the abyss also plunges into you ]


We live on the third world from the sun. Number three. Nobody tells us what to do.
The people who taught us to count were being very kind.
It's always time to leave.
If it rains, you either have your umbrella or you don't.
The wind blows your hat off.
The sun rises also.
I'd rather the stars didn't describe us to each other; I'd rather we do it for ourselves.
Run in front of your shadow.
A sister who points to the sky at least once a decade is a good sister.
The landscape is motorized.
The train takes you where it goes.
Bridges among water.
Folks straggling along vast stretches of concrete, heading into the plane.
Don't forget what your hat and shoes will look like when you are nowhere to be found.
Even the words floating in air make blue shadows.
If it tastes good we eat it.
Pick up the right things.
Hey guess what? What? I've learned how to talk. Great.
The person whose head was incomplete burst into tears.
As it fell, what could the doll do? Nothing.
Go to sleep.
You look great in shorts. And the flag looks great too.
Everyone enjoyed the explosions.
Time to wake up.
But better get used to dreams.

---Bob Perelman

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Interpretation Exercise on Joseph-Smith-Themed Pumpkin [12 Oct 2002|04:19pm]
!. Give your reactions to the following:

2. Analyze your reactions in terms of condensation, displacement, and considerations of representability.

3. Do a little dance.
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More from the Modular Calculus [07 Oct 2002|08:55am]
2. So much for bad humor: a crude sign, a shameful blackmail. Yet there are subtler clouds, all the tenuous shadows of swift and uncertain source which pass across the relationship, changing its light and its modeling; suddenly it is another landscape, a faint black intoxication. The cloud, then, is no more than this: I'm missing something. Summarily I inventory the states of dearth by which Zen has encoded human sensibility (fuyru): solitude (sabi), the sadness which overcomes me because of the "incredible naturalness" of things (wabi), nostalgia (aware), the sentiment of strangeness (yugen). "I am happy but I am sad": such was Melisande's "cloud."

RB ALD 170
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Sublimation: Excerpt from the Modular Calculus [30 Sep 2002|08:07am]
[ mood | i met myself in a dream ]

Sublimation is the process of investing cathectic energy below the surface of that in which energy might more properly invested. Again, Freud gives us a spatial model that resembles the archeological dig, but in this case, it is history working BACKWARDS: we create, through the process of sublimation, a Troy we will want to find later, a Troy we can excavate at our later leisure. In this way, sublimation is like the dream work: using all of the tools of condensation, displacement, considerations of representability, etc., we invest our energies, which for some reason may not properly be invested in the loved object, ideal, person, in a secret account (our work, our friends, etc.). This is often the case when we mourn the loss of someone, or are preparing to.

The important thing to remember about sublimation is that it can be extremely healthy, and, like allegory, it can have many contradictory meanings that do not cancel each other out. Because of the nature of this narrative, we can channel appropriately our vast affective fundstream. In Jensen's Gradiva, Norbert invests his love of a girl he met as a young woman into his archeological work (particularly a frieze he found that represents a woman walking, steping delicately, named Gradiva), and becomes convinced that a woman he has met in his adult life is that ancient woman stepping lightly and delicately through time to come to him. She participates in his delirium, pretends to be from ancient greece (and in this way we can understand it as meta-science-fiction), and slowly brings him into the present. For she is that little girl that he fell in love with as a child (they had grown up next to each other).

The following is from Roland Barthes A Lover's Discourse, on Gradiva, and illustrates two important concepts: fantasy and identification. I would ask you to watch for the nodes through which identification circulates in the piece: where can a person identify and why is it not simply one position, but many, through which identification circulates? This itself is fantasy, the dream work, and the way we manage our emotional investments (with everyone, not simply our"lovers," but friends, family, etc.). As someone said recently, "It's all about metonymy and desire, right?" (I bolded sections that spoke to me particularly.)


This name, borrowed from Jensen's book analyzed by Freud, designates the image of the beloved being insofar as that being agrees to enter some degree into the amorous subject's delirium in order to help him escape from it.

1. The hero of Gradiva is an excessive lover: he hallucinates what others would merely evoke. The classical Gradiva, a figure of the woman he loves unknowingly, is perceived as a real person: that is his delirium. The woman, in order to release him from it gently, initially conforms to his delirium; she enters into it a little, consents to play the part of Gradiva, to sustain the illusion somewhat and not to waken the dreamer too abruptly, gradually to unite myth and reality, by means of which the amorous experience assumes something of the same function as an analytic cure. (Freud: "We must not underestimate the curative power of love in delirium." [Delirium and the Dream in Jensen's Gradiva])

2. Gradiva is a figure of salvation of fortunate escape, a kindly Eumenid. But just as the Eumenides are merely former Erinyes, goddesses of torment, there also exists, in the amorous realm, a "wicked" Gradiva. The loved being if only unconsciously and for motives which may proceed from his own neurotic advantage, then seems to be determined to lodge me even deeper in my delirium, to sustain and to aggravate the amorous wound: like those parents of schizophrenics who, it is said, continually provoke or aggravate their child's madness by minor conflictive interventions, the other attempts to DRIVE ME MAD. For instance: the other sets about making me contradict myself (which has the effect of paralyzing any language in me); or again, the other shifts without warning from one regime to another, from intimate tenderness and complicity, to coldness, to silence, to dismissiveness; or finally, in an even more tenuous fashion, though no less wounding, the other sets about "breaking" the conversation, either by forcing it to shift suddenly from a serious subject (which matters to me) to a trivial one, or by being obviously interested, while I am speaking, in something else than what I am saying. In short, the other keeps bringing me back to my own impasse: I can neither escape from this impasse nor rest within it, like the famous Cardinal Balue shut up in a cage where he could neither stand nor lie down.

3. How can the being who has captured me, taken me in the net, release me, part the meshes? By delicacy. When Martin Freud, as a child, had been humiliated during a skating party, his father hears him out, speaks to him, and releases him, as if he were freeing an animal caught in a poacher's net: "Very tenderly, he parted the meshes which held the little creature, showing no haste and resisting without impatience the jerks the animal made to free itself, until he had disentangled them all and the creature could run away, forgetting all about the whole episode." (Freud: Martin Freud: Sigmund Freud, Man and Father)

4. It will be said to the lover-or to Freud: it was easy for the false Gradiva to enter somewhat into her lover's delirium, she loved him too. Or rather, explains to us this contradiction: on the one hand, Zoe wants Norbert (she wants to be one with him), she is in love with him; and on the other hand-an exorbitant thing for an amorous subject-she retains control over her feelings, she is not delirious, since she is capable of feigning. How then can Zoe both "love" and "be in love"? Are not these two projects supposed to be different, the one noble, the other morbid?

LOVING and BEING IN LOVE have difficult relationships with each other: for if it is true that BEING IN LOVE is unlike anything else (a drop of BEING IN LOVE diluted in some vague friendly relation dyes it brightly, makes it incomparable: I know RIGHT AWAY that in my relation with X, Y, however prudently I restrain myself, there is a certain amount of BEING IN LOVE), it is also true that in BEING IN LOVE there is a certain amount of LOVING: I want to possess, fiercely, but I also know how to give, actively. Then who can manage this dialectic successfully? Who, if not the woman, the one who does not make for any object but only for ...giving? (FW: conversation) So that if a lover manages to "love," it is precisely insofar as he feminizes himself, joins the class of GRANDES AMOUREUSES, of Women Who Love Enough to Be Kind (Winnicott). Perhaps this is why it is Norbert who is delirious and Zoe who loves.

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Sayings [29 Sep 2002|01:54pm]
A list compiled by Oliver Brown's Intro to Psychology class of phrases, expressions and idioms. Imagine how each of these would manifest itself in the dream-world.

A stitch in time saves nine
Ahead of time
Ain't over til the fat lady sings
All ears
All thumbs
All your eggs in one basket
Ants in your pants
Arm and a leg
Armed to the teeth
Asleep at the wheel
At a snail's pace
At the eleventh hour
Click here for the rest of the alphabetCollapse )
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how to mourn [28 Sep 2002|04:00am]
How to Mourn

(Portions of the following were delivered at Freud Talk on Sunday September 21, 2002, at Caffe Pergolesi. Dedicated to Alan Lopez with many kisses.)

We ask for respect and care today. Let me drive, so to speak, and I'll walk us through an impromptu lesson in mourning, according to psychoanalytic principles. What will be obtained, hopefully, is the ability and the will to let go appropriately, resist the pull of melancholia, and nourish ourselves and each other.

Mourning & Melancholia

Written by Freud during his crucial metapsychological period (1917), the essay opposes the two concepts throughout, helpfully juxtaposing healthful and pathological mourning, though not much attention has been paid to the importance of Freud's discovery of the economic nature of mourning, love, and loss. This essay has been instrumental in the work of feminist and queer scholars of psychoanalysis, especially with regard to the cultural cache afforded to the pathological expressions of self-reproach in melancholia (Cf. Hamlet, Mary Shelley, Baudelaire, etc.). However, melancholia will not be so important to us today, except insofar that we can avoid falling into it in our present process. Put bluntly, fuck art, or at least fuck the sort of art that prevents us from living richly and being nourished by our friends and work.

There are many sorts of things we can lose: a person, an ideal, or an object. These can condense in our minds and become very rich symbols of our losses (a silent sky is associated for me with the grave danger radical politics are in after September 11). Determining the condensations and displacements that those losses undergo is the work of mourning.

The Economic Metaphor and Wish Fulfillment

Freud was right, Barthes was right: we are all lovers. We are lovers by profession: we love because we cathect, invest emotional energy in things, ideas, people. We invest energy in our friends, our work, our families, and our cultural participations. We think and plan and manage our emotional finances. This is a simple and very useful metaphor, for the most part. When disaster hits, as it does for us, as it WILL CONTINUE to do until we ourselves die, we experience "a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity" (Mourning & Melancholia, 244). For those of us who have experienced many such losses, the process of mourning may be forestalled and we may begin to blame ourselves or our communities, in ways that are not helpful. The pain may find its way into the fiber of our consciousness in unacknowledged and unproductive ways.

It is of paramount importance, then, that we remember that such energy is not entirely lost or unavailable-here is where Freud's economic metaphor becomes something more like physics: that energy is conserved somewhere in our minds and hearts. The process of determining what our losses mean to us is one way the energy can be released and begin to recirculate in healthy ways. We use language, the symbolic, semiosis; we make meaning. We deal with loss by writing stories, making music and art, talking to each other.

Working through this silence, this incontrovertible fact of the death of a beloved or an ideal, happens in dreams, in daydreams, in our cultural productions. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud tells the story of a father whose son has just died. He has spent the night before and the day with the child on its deathbed, after which he has left the boy's corpse in a room with lit candles and an old man to attend to the body through the night. The man goes to sleep in an adjacent bedroom, leaving the door ajar to listen through. He dreams that his son has walked to him in this bedroom and held his arm and said, "Father, can't you see I'm burning?" He wakes and finds that the old attendant has fallen asleep and one of the lit candles has fallen on the boy's body, which indeed is burning.

There are two relevant concepts in this story: the work of the unconscious and wish fulfillment. The address of the boy could have been a condensation of something the boy had said when alive (he died of a fever), and the real fact of the candle having fallen over and the father's having noticed it, even in sleep (the doors were open and the light could have shown through). More crucially, in this way, the father has prolonged the child's life. Instead of jumping up when it became clear that there was a fire in the next room, his unconscious prolonged sleep just long enough to dream the son alive again, at his bedside, and holding his arm with his small hand. This is the fulfillment of a wish, this is fantasy, and this is what we do when we write our stories of loss.

We find a way to externalize and make real the wish for our loss to not be permanent. Freud says that when we realize that the beloved is gone, we oppose it:

This opposition can be so intense that a turning away from reality takes place and a clinging to the object through the medium of a hallucinatory wishful psychosis. Normally, respect for reality gains the day. Nevertheless its orders cannot be obeyed at once. They are carried out bit by bit, at great expense of time and cathectic energy, and in the meantime the existence of the lost object is psychically prolonged. ("Mourning & Melancholia," 244-5)

My wish for you is that you can find a way to make your wish come true in a way that doesn't prolong your pain unnecessarily and allows you to remember that there is also love and joy. I think one way to do this is through another kind of art, another kind of community.

Memory Traces and The Object

The memory (or mnemic) trace was also most importantly discussed by Freud in his metapsychological period; it is the way in which events are inscribed upon the memory-our way of being in time and dealing with death. Our memories get put into different places in the unconscious, put into deep storage. This is the famous concept of REPRESSION. Sometimes (well, often) remembering is too traumatic to occur constantly-we need to forget in order to live. In this way we can understand the quote from the film Waking Life: "Remembering is much more psychotic than forgetting."

Mnemic traces are on permanent reserve in the unconscious, and are only reactivated once they have been cathected by another event (no matter how grave or trivial). Sometimes we encounter this sharp reminder, another event or image that invests its own energy in the unconscious, and those older traces are brought back into play. Roland Barthes calls this reminder the PUNCTUM, that which pierces us, though we may not know why. The key to this process of mourning is discovering for ourselves what these punctums, these traces, these irruptions from the Real, mean to us, and externalizing them in some narrative, action, cry.

Much ink has been spilled in psychoanalytic theory on the subject of the Object. I will not go into great detail here, except to say that objects (of loss, of love) operate like our language does: they remind us; ideas and objects are associated through the chain of signification. But the original losses we can trace back to our earliest lives: some people say the original lost object is the breast (proving once more that psychoanalysis can also be vulgar). The mother's breast that provided so much nourishment has become sort of a psychoanalytic joke in popular culture. More than the breast, though, I think the feeling of fullness and satisfaction is the original lost object. Follow the associations: BREAST -> SUCKING -> MILK -> SATISFACTION. It is the feeling of warmth, nourishment, satiation, and being enfolded by arms and a steady heartbeat that we grieve the loss of every time we experience death and absence (at least in some vestigial way). Our losses ricochet around in our minds, increase and decrease, and intermingle with older losses, and, importantly, affect in all those ways other people's losses.

Blue Tiffany Ribbons, Nourishment, and Community

"The perfect interlocutor, the friend, is he not the one who constructs around you the greatest possible resonance? Cannot friendship be defined as a space with total sonority?"
Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse, 167

So we experience loss, understandably and inexplicably. We don't know how we will bear it, we don't know where some of the intensity of our feelings came from, and we don't know how to share it with each other. We all take different lessons from our losses, and we go through various stages of denial, rage, deep raving sorrow; we use black humor, silence, and ritual to manage the fierceness of it. The key to healthy grieving is understanding how to responsibly exude that sorrow, extrude it in some cultural form, and take care of each other while we do it. We don't want to hurt each other with our pain, but we need to share it. Employing concepts of memory, association, and playfulness can help us productively and satisfyingly create meaning out of the senselessness of our losses.

1) Tell each other. Say: I love you, you're delightful and I'm glad you're here.
2) Show each other. Do: Something seriously ridiculous, if that's what's required. Listen and sit with each other through the hard parts. Buy each other food and drink. Hug. Yell really loud.
3) Be responsible in your grief. Understand: stages of grief are as individual as we are. Know what kind of support you need, and ask for it.
4) Spell each other. Take turns. Share the weight of it, ask for a break, give one.

There's a film, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (Jennifer Jason Leigh, 1994) that my friend reminds me of, which illustrates this creation of meaning beautifully. This is a transcript of his recounting of a particular scene. So Dorothy Parker is depressed. She can't pay her bills, she's in a hotel room with her dog. She goes to feed the dog raw bacon on the floor, then puts a piece of raw bacon in her own mouth. She spits it out. She makes a phone call, and orders a pot of coffee. She goes to the bathroom and looks at the mirror. She looks like shit. The camera lingers, and then suddenly cuts to a shot of her ambitiously hacking her wrists crosswise with a straight razor. There's blood in the sink, and she falls over. The next scene is her waking in the hospital. Mr. Benchley has come in and tells her that there are people waiting to see her. He takes out the ribbons that Tiffany's uses to wrap their packages, thick, soft, wide Tiffany blue ribbon. While they're talking, he ties them around her wrists, around each bandage, so she has, when he's finished, bows on each wrist. They do not cover the bandages; it is still apparent what she has done. The people come in and speak to her.

This gesture, of care and of luxury and acknowledgement of real grief and pain, is what we can all do for each other. We don't have to be so florid, though I'd certainly like to see some flamboyant love fly around this town, instead of stupid pain, instead of melancholia. To quote that friend again, "Pain is Easy. Pleasure is Cruel." Let us suffer helpfully for each other, beautifully, conscientiously. Let us create spaces of perfect sonority for each other and cry out together and alone the names of all the dead.

This is a song that has helped me over the years, and helps me now.
Ease Your Feet In The Sea (Belle & Sebastian)

Ease your feet off in the sea
My darling it's the place to be
Take your shoes off curl your toes
And I will frame this moment in time
Troubles come and troubles go
The trouble that we've come to know
Will stay with us till we get old
Will stay with us till somebody decides to go
Decides to go

Soberly, without regret, 1 make another sandwich
And I fill my face, 1 know that things have got to you
But what can 1 do?
Suddenly, without a warning
On a pale blue morning
You decide your time is wearing thin
A conscious choice to let yourself go dangling
It's an emergency
There's no more "wait and see"

Maybe if I shut my eves
Your trouble will be split between us
People come and people go
You're scouring everybody's face
For some small flicker of the truth
To what it is that you are going through, my boy
I left you dry
The signs were clear that you were not going anywhere
Save for a falling down
Everything's going wrong

Later on, as I walked home
The Plough was showing, and Orion
1 could see the house where you lived
I could see the house where you gave
All your time and sanity to people
Then you waited for the people to acknowledge you
They spoke in turn
But their eyes would pass over you
Over you
Who's seeing you at all?
Who's seeing You at all?

Copyright 2002 Leigh Fullmer/Freud Talk
Fighting the forces of homogeneity since 1969.
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