Julia Kristeva approaches melancholia starting from Freud’s basic intuitions but she places it within a conceptual framework that pays lip service to semiotics and Lacan. In that sense she argues that one of the most distinctive characteristics of the melancholic is that he or she cannot find the words for loss. Meanwhile, the lost object belongs as such entirely to the ego. This is caused by the unnameable Thing, according to Kristeva, which comes as a result of the trauma of the pre-symbolic confrontation with the mother-figure. Kristeva illustrates her proposition with an analysis of Holbein’s work The Dead Christ. The aspect of a dead past continues to haunt throughout several degrees of depression and melancholy. In this way her position closely lines up with Freud’s concept of narcissistic neurosis as Freud extended this concept to psychosis. As a consequence, Kristeva’s position leads to a paradox: on the one hand she claims that melancholia is a particular aspect of psychopathology, whilst on the other, she attempts to grasp melancholia in a transnosographic way.
This paper explores what happens in the subject when creating visual art. It is argued on the first level that there are four steps in the creation process: (i) forming the image; (ii) creating the object; (iii) the decision to finish; and (iv) the separation. On a more advanced level, one needs to be aware of the essential difference between the status of the creative process in neurosis and psychosis. It is argued that within a neurotic structure the process of creation (sublimation) witnesses the acceptance by the subject of the emptiness of the Thing behind the object created, whereas within a psychotic structure visual expression should be considered a symptom, a therapeutic phenomenon. Insight is gained into the specific way in which linguistic mechanisms enter visualisation through the case of Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, a German psychotic outsider.