The Scandalous Fact of Fetishism: Charcot and Magnan, Binet and von Krafft-Ebing

In this article, I discuss Freud’s theory of fetishism and the most important resources he draws on to elaborate his theory, namely, three texts from the end of the 19th century, Charcot and Magnan’s “Genital Inversions, and Other Sexual Perversions” (1882), Alfred Binet’s “Fetishism in Love” (1887) and von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886). I trace their respective theorizing on fetishism, where the attempt to categorize the perversions, a fascination with raw case-material and a focus on degeneracy and heredity as causes are pivotal. I also highlight observations, ideas and concepts in their texts which, while mentioned only in passing, will be crucial for Freud’s and Lacan’s later theories. A close reading of these three texts produces a theory of fetishism that can be summarized as follows: Normal love has fetishistic aspects, but these aspects are harmoniously ordered and result in “normal” sexual intercourse. Therefore, the behaviour of the fetishist cannot be seen as the defining criterion for fetishism. Rather this is a subjective psychical state that has its roots in the association of the awakening of genital excitation with an exterior fact. This association of ideas crystallizes into a fetish, which operates as a sign in a language-based scenario that is instrumental for the regulation of sexual enjoyment in an intense, non-standard way. In fetishists, one finds an ambivalent attitude towards the fetishistic object and a specific relationship to the law. I argue that by the time Freud tackles the question of fetishism, the groundwork has already been done by the early sexologists.

A Theoretical Impasse? The Concept of the Symbolic in Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan

This article provides a theoretical clarification of “the symbolic” in Kleinian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and argues for further conceptual research into its implications for psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice. What is striking about the Kleinian and Lacanian models is that they are diametrically opposed in the way they conceptualize the subject’s development of the capacity to form symbols: while for Klein the experience of concrete objects exists from the very beginning of life and the symbol is a product of “object-relating”, for Lacan, on the contrary, the experience of objects is an effect of the symbolic order. In Klein we start with the object/object-relation and work through different stages of symbolism eventually ending up with language, so that linguistic thought develops from the experience of the primal object. In Lacan, on the other hand, integration into the world of language produces lack/absence, which, in turn, is the necessary condition for conceptualizing objects: the experience of objects develops as an effect of language/symbolization. The article begins with an account of Freud’s two main theories of the symbolic – one based on images, the other on language or “word-presentations” – and traces the Klein-Lacan divergence to this theoretical duality. It then argues that a Klein-Lacan dialogue on the symbolic can open new directions for theoretical development by examining how different theories can accurately correspond to empirical observations of psychic functioning, as well as effective clinical interventions.

Pasolini’s “Teorem”: Psychoanalysis of a “New” Subject

Pasolini describes himself as a “scandal of self-contradiction” (Pasolini, 1957). He brings a subject who assumes the radical split that runs through the subjective field. With his poetry of permanent dissidence he taunts power in which desire and her laws are inscribed. By postponing the exemplary symbolic suicide his subject manages to avoid the deadlock of turning a blind eye and alienation in the symbolic other. Terence Stamp embodies this subject in Teorem in the role of mysterious guest. Pasolini’s theorem seems to be that, via regression to pre-genital forms of sexuality (a pre-symbolic state), one not only escapes to a mythic (poetic) reality, but also takes possession of a weapon one can use against the oppressor. Desire emerges in disturbances that shred the symbolic order and release the Real. Filmic truth is exposed as a core of pure nonsense and sexuality appears as the root of a perverted society.

Abstracting the Real in Take Shelter

This paper explores psychosis in Jeff Nichols’ 2011 film Take Shelter, bringing into proximity Lacan’s concept of foreclosure with Korzybski’s concept of abstraction. Lacan conceptualises psychosis as the individual encountering life experiences that cannot be reconciled with their existing semantic frameworks, creating gaps that need to be plugged by being named and identified. The genesis of the psychotic structure is the foreclosure of the Name of the Father. For Lacan, psychotic delusions function to stabilise these internally destructive and perplexing encounters, by providing shape to life’s experiences. Korzybski’s model of cognition focuses on how the individual “abstracts” from their experience, how each person creates their own semantic environment based on how they attend to incoming information, and on the subsequent inferences they make. Both thinkers acknowledge the destabilising nature of chance or perplexing encounters on the human psyche, in the form of the Real for Lacan, and the territory for Korzybski. Furthermore, both emphasise the importance of the subjective position, how each individual makes sense of their world through language.

“Shining” a Light on Psychosis and Triggers to its Violent Expression

Stephen’s King’s brilliant and terrifying novel, The Shining, is an exploration of inter-generational psychosis in a family. The novel gives a multi-layered account of paranoid psychosis and provides a narrative framing of the development of a psychosis to a violent end, making it possible to explore the triggers to its violent expression. The goal of this paper is not to seek a precise cause-and-effect of psychotic and violent phenomena but to highlight and elaborate certain clinical features that allow different modalities of psychosis in the case of a father and his son to be distinguished, to trace their mutual points of overlap and convergence and to identify triggering moments of florid outbreak. While the psychosis is the one-by-one invention of a solution of every psychotic subject and is not the same in the father and son, there are moments of shared paranoid conviction and shared delusion (délire à deux). But there are also crucial differences in the father’s and son’s psychosis, in the relative strength of the defences, identifications and imaginary supports available to each of them. Points of divergence that arise between them are highly affecting and potentially devastating. These ideas are explored via their narrative and characterological development in the book.

Psychoanalytical Playing: Psychoanalysis of the Process of Artistic Creation in the Work of Patrick Corillon

The article presents the “psychoanalytical playing” method used as part of a project inspired by psychoanalysis set in place by the writer collaborating with the contemporary artist Patrick Corillon, for the purpose of clarifying the process of artistic creation in the artist’s work. This method is based on the Winnicottian view of the psychoanalytical session as play, occurring in the overlap of two potential spaces of playing. While it is a part of the artist’s creative process, “psychoanalytical playing” has certain features in common with conventional psychoanalysis, although it also differs in many other respects. The material provided by this methodological device, along with a study of Patrick Corillon’s work, led the author to advance the hypothesis of a fantasy of immortality operating as the “driving force” of the artist’s creative process, and to detect the traces of an unconscious immortal Ego, as formulated by André Green in his book Life Narcissism Death Narcissism (2001).