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Milan Kundera and the sorrow of Don Juan

The Czech author Milan Kundera, one of the most famous contemporary “literary analysts”, is recognized as a master story-teller of the relationship between men and women. In this article, Kundera’s perspective is compared with the Lacanian statement that “there is no such thing as a sexual relation”. In a critical way, some of Kundera’s protagonists (Tomas, Klíma, Martin and Havel) are confronted with the Freudo-Lacanian interpretation of the Don Juan character. Through a short historical review, the author examines how Don Juan has evolved through the centuries from vulgar libertine to romantic hero. Kundera’s characters are situated within this evolutionary continuum. Both from a phenomenological and a structural viewpoint, a clear distinction is made between the characters of Don Juan and Casanova. The question is whether Kundera’s characters are Don Juans or Casanovas.

“If only I could be able to write it all down”: Gerard Reve and the useless language of desire

In this article, the reader is introduced to the fascinating fictional universe created by the Dutch writer Gerard Reve. Far from searching for the person behind the work, we examine how Reve creates his personality through his fiction, how he forges a new language for his (homosexual) desire: a mixture of irony and religious piety, of romantic and vulgar idioms, of fairy tales and memories, a language that enables him to cope with his fears and his disturbed relationship with his parents. It is argued, with reference to the theoretical framework of Kristeva, that Reve’s work helps to assure his subjectivity, to protect him from “going mad” as he puts it, but at the same time also provides a place where, via the irony, the metaphors, the style, the humour, via everything that defies the symbolic law, the writer celebrates the jouissance of the Other, in the text.

Chance in Freud and P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia

This paper deals with the Freudian conception of chance and with the way in which this theme is elaborated in the work of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. Freud’s interpretation of chance or symptomatic actions, belief in chance and in superstition is illustrated with reference to some small case fragments. P.T. Anderson, in his film Magnolia, also questions the hidden meaning of apparently accidental events in human life. Whereas Freud trips up the illusion of free will by pointing to the determination of our speech and actions by unconscious, powerful mechanisms, Anderson, in contrast, approaches the notion of chance as an astonishing coincidence that should be seized rather than ignored and dismissed as something purely accidental and trivial. It is concluded that both authors make a plea for the not so fortuitous nature of chance and for breaking with repetition by opening our eyes to whatever comes our way by chance.

“Suddenly, they appear…”: On genuine, small and other Freudian case-studies

Reflecting on the three symposia recently organised by Idesça in cooperation with the Gezelschap voor Psychoanalyse en Psychotherapie, the author queries the status of so-called “small case-studies”. With reference to (i) his own clinical experience; (ii) so-called small Freudian case-studies (in contrast with Freud’s case-studies of Dora, The Ratman, The Wolfman, Little Hans and Schreber); and (iii) the short stories of the Belgian writer Peter Verhelst (Mondschilderingen [“mouth paintings”] (2002)), it is argued that a small Freudian clinical fragment bears witness to (i) the enigmatic presence of the clinician with respect to the sudden appearance of the unconscious; (ii) the use of a certain style and a certain measure; (iii) the circumvention of imaginary reality; and (iv) the clinical structure of fantasy.

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Psychosis and the Institution: On the Principles of Jean Oury’s Institutional Psychotherapy

This paper aims to address how the institution functions for the psychotic. People with a psychotic structure often have difficulties integrating into a community and functioning within a social bond. This means that on the level of treatment it is not immediately apparent how to build a lasting therapeutic relationship (and environment). Jean Oury’s institutional psychotherapy starts from this point, inspired by Marx’s analysis of social alienation. This paper focuses on the way in which an institution can be organised according to the principles of Oury’s institutional psychotherapy, taking into account the phenomenon of social alienation. First the theory of the social alienation is described, then the praxis of Oury’s institutional psychotherapy is outlined.

Subject in a state of disintegration: A Lacanian reading of Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism”

In “The Culture of Narcissism” (1979), American social critic Christopher Lasch shows how the disintegration of traditional patriarchal authority and the rise of neo-capitalism has spawned a new, narcissistic form of subjectivity. In the current article, the author tries to relate Lasch’s work to the postmodern problematic of the non-existence of the big Other, as described by a number of authors inspired by Lacan. It is argued that the demise of symbolic influence has given rise to a proliferation of narcissistic ideals and the emergence of a “permissive” but extremely cruel superego. The imaginary identity of the narcissistic individual is no longer fixed in the symbolic, but is permanently refashioned and restyled for commercial purposes. On the basis of an interpretation of Lacan’s discours du capitaliste, this thesis is further developed and applied to a number of contemporary pathologies. The author states that these pathologies can be listened to as a complaint directed against the capitalist Other. The response of psychoanalysis to the non-existence of the big Other consists therefore of an ethic of good listening, listening that invites speech that does not leave the subject undivided.