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Gaze and responsibility in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon

Akira Kurosawa’s movie Rashōmon (1950) is traditionally referred to as a clear illustration of the subjectivity of human perception and memory. However, the notion of the so-called Rashōmon effect reflects only a superficial reading of Kurosawa’s film. It is argued, both from a historical and from a psychoanalytic point of view, that the filmmaker’s interpretation of the medieval Japanese story addresses two important distinctions, far beyond the reach of traditional psychological research: 1, the distinction between perception and gaze, and 2, the distinction between guilt and responsibility. It is further argued that in addressing these two distinctions, Rashōmon, upon its release in 1950, confronted the world (and not just the regimes of the Japanese Empire and the Nazis) with its responsibility for the atrocities of World War II.

Ill Fares Society: The Paradoxical Return of Nervousness

People are living longer and are in better health and circumstances but they are not happier. Our culture changes constantly and this involves thinking about illness within the context of a changing society. In this paper we study historical developments spanning a century. Society has evolved from an authoritarian model to a more meritocratic one in which ethical boundaries are no longer fixed. Humanity can adapt to social change through various strategies such as assimilation or accommodation. In this context interpassivity is a tried and tested strategy. When assimilation fails, the demand for care becomes essentially a consumer demand. We conclude that the dominant social discourse plays a pertinent role in modern psychopathology (nervousness). We test our theoretical model using findings from clinical research with patients who suffer from functional somatic disorders.

Between Railway Spine and PTSD

A hundred years ago the world witnessed the start of an armed conflict unlike anything that preceded it. A series of initiatives to commemorate the human suffering involved typically used the framework of psychic trauma to understand what had transpired. Although such a move seems obvious to the contemporary eye, the author argues that it was by no means straightforward at the time of the conflict itself. In this article, the current, hegemonic model of psychic trauma is briefly described, in which special attention is paid to the problematic core assumptions that underpin it. Next, the author turns to the history of trauma studies, mainly focusing on two crucial moments: (1) the railroad accidents in the 19th century, which gave rise to the idea of railway spine, and (2) the controversy regarding Shell Shock in World War I. This historical review allows the author to formulate four conclusions that call into question the tendency to reify our current understanding of traumatic phenomena.

Her Voice: On the Cinematic Representability of the Coming into Being of Woman

In this paper the author reflects on the creative process of her film Her Voice (2012) and describes how its sensory imagery generates an alternative image of woman, beyond the clichés encountered in classical narrative cinema. Finding one’s voice as a woman here refers to the process of identification at stake in the coming into being of woman. More specifically, it is argued that the experienced body image that is evoked in Her Voice is first, inspired by female stereotypes as displayed by icons such as Hildegard von Bingen, Lola Montez and Betty Boop and second, at the same time, through the body memories of both the author and the interpreter (L. Gruwez, the actress), these stereotypes are being dismantled.

In Search for Nearly Forgotten

The oedipus heralds the loss of the pre-symbolic identity of the subject, that is forced to live, to think and to talk in a common language. Unspoken, preverbal identity elements are abandoned. Poetry is perhaps a form of language that brings to mind these pre-oedipal hidden sentiments. In other words, the question is what are the traces of this mutilation and these losses? Julia Kristeva’s theory of the semiotic, and also the work of Wilfred Bion, Lou-Andréas Salomé and Ingeborg Bachmann, are discussed in detail with regards to their contributions to the individuality and singularity of this pre-oedipal and preverbal condition. The importance of poetry (also in the psychoanalytic cure) is highlighted by an evocation of the literary survival attempt by Serge André, not least his personal comment on the book Flac that he wrote to free himself from the threat of physical risk.