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Beyond alienation

Alienation is a pivotal concept in critical theory, going back to Rousseau, Hegel and Marx. In his theory on the becoming of the subject, Lacan gave the concept an even more radical and original meaning (there is no original essence whatsoever) and doubled it with a second process: separation. The central argument of this paper is that separation is a key concept for understanding how we can handle our contemporary alienation induced by neoliberalism.

Safety first: The Focus on the Body in Psychological Care

This paper was written on the occasion of the third edition of the “Prize for humane mental health care”, organized by the psychiatric hospital in Sleidinge. It is an account of my first year as a social worker in mental health care, in which I focus on the struggle one can experience while working within the rules set up to ensure “quality care”. This set of rules has a profound effect on the bodily and psychological wellbeing of the patients. Its one-sided focus on safety and organization makes it difficult for social workers to work with their patients on a psychological level. Furthermore, constant adherence to these rules seems to provoke aggression when they primarily target the body. I will present several clinical examples that describe how “quality care” does not achieve its own goals, and can lead to ridiculous situations. The conceptualization of mental health care should not be fixed, but something we have to invent every day anew.

From Francis Bacon to “the Man with the Starfish”

Two cases are used to illustrate a failure in the tying of the psychosomatic knot, by making appear the game and inscribing it in an attempt to cure. The first concerns Francis Bacon, the contemporary painter. His paintings, in the main, depict bodies that are monstrous and deformed. Several interviews with him are quoted, throwing light on his dialogue with the canvas, what he demanded of it and how this related to his experience of his own body. The second shows Monsieur M., in analysis, questionning his relationship with others and the world in general, linking this in turn to the chronic somatic illness from which he suffers. He was forced to construct an original formalisation, which evokes his nickname here: “The Starfish Man”. Finally certain theoretical hypotheses are proposed which might serve as models for the relationship involved, its possible foundation and necessity.

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The Bodily Subject and the Subjective Body. From Theory to Clinic

The subject of this article is the body within the clinic of neurosis. A chronological summary of Jacques Lacan’s theory of the body is presented and some crucial clinical implications are highlighted. Throughout Lacan’s teaching, the Imaginary, Symbolic and the Real respectively are of primary importance in the construction of the body’s reality. The body is a bodily image that is construed in the field of the Other in response to the fragmentation of the Real drive. Thus the author will argue that the body is the main feature in Lacanian ontology: psychological reality is constructed simultaneously with bodily reality. Therefore, subject and body cannot and should not be separated in the clinic. This point will be illustrated by two case studies. The case of Pirandello’s novel One, No One and One Hundred Thousand (2001) shows that the subject is first and foremost a bodily subject; whereas the case of Alessandro provides a clear illustration of the fact that the body is a subjective body that has to be treated and listened to as such. As an introduction to the second case, the author will briefly deal with the works of Jean Bergès and Julian de Ajuriaguerra.

The Maulwerke 2005 by Dieter Schnebel and the Kunstarbeidersgezelschap

This article is the result of a collaboration between the author and the Kunstarbeidergezelschap of Ghent on “Maulwerke” by the contemporary composer Dieter Schnebel. It outlines briefly the importance of the figure Dieter Schnebel for contemporary experimental music and the idea behind his “Maulwerke”. The “Maulwerke” (1968-1974), generally considered to be his masterpiece, was written during the period that Schnebel undertook his analysis. Schnebel calls this work the product of his analysis and it is here he introduces his concept of “psychoanalytic music”. The author explores the meaning of “psychoanalytic music” and asks whether the psychoanalytic framework can help us to understand something of the gripping character of this musical work.