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.