In this paper an investigation into the psychoanalytic concept of melancholia in relation to the melancholia in the Pittura Metafisica of Giorgio de Chirico (Késenne, 2012) is briefly presented. Special attention is paid to the qualitative research methodology that was developed for this purpose. This interdisciplinary method implies: i) the analysis of two different discourses (the psychoanalytic discourse with respect to a given syndrome and the art-critical reception of a plastic oeuvre); and ii) the comparison of these discourses using an interdisciplinary connotation scheme. It is concluded that this method provides an alternative to the classic psychobiographical approach to the arts.
The author reports on some structuring moments in the etiological history of melancholia from a metapsychological point of view. It is argued that this clinical picture tends to be too readily categorised as psychotic, leaving open the question of its psychic structure. Freud’s findings from the article “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917e ) are examined along with the work of M.-C. Lambotte (1993) and J. Hassoun (1995). Melancholia is described as suffering caused by a lack of symbolisation of object a, through which mourning is made possible. The focus is on a crucial etiological moment in the very coming into being of the subject. This moment is connected to a failed inscription of the desire of the first Other. The importance of the gaze on the object of desire emerges – in more than just its metaphoric dimension – as determining for identification and the libidinal economy of the subject. This primordial identification contains a nothingness, a void, which is related to the way in which the father appears in the discourse of the mother (Hassoun). Furthermore it is revealed that an original experience of pleasure, followed by a “catastrophic moment”, provides an explanation for the nihilistic discourse of the melancholic; it is the void in the place of the desire of the Other, which will become libidinally, i.e., symbolically, cathected (Lambotte). This sequence of an original experience of pleasure followed by a “catastrophic moment” allows melancholia to be characterised as an affliction of a specific impossible loss, namely, the loss of the desire of the mother which was once enjoyed.