|November 15, 2012|
Scene From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom, Edwin Henry Landseer, 1848
From Threepenny Review:
As in Freud’s own time, the “boundary violation” (the discipline’s contemporary euphemism) remains embarrassingly common. Usually the clinician is a man, often professionally distinguished with years of experience, and the patient a younger woman. My home city of Boston has, in the last decade, lost three senior analysts to disgrace. One was the chair of a national ethics committee; a second was the editor of a prestigious psychoanalytic journal.
Freud treats the analyst who succumbs to this pattern with a dry, corrective irony: “[the analyst] must recognize that the patient’s falling in love is induced by the analytic situation and is not to be attributed to the charms of his own person; so that he has no grounds whatever for being proud of such a ‘conquest,’ as it would be called outside analysis.”
Can erotic feelings be so delusory, ductile, nearly arbitrary, induced by a construct? The Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt describes the fairies’ “love juice” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Desires in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are intense, irrational and alarmingly mobile. This mobility, the speed with which desire can be detached from one object and attached to a different object, does not diminish the exigency of the passion, for the lovers are convinced at every moment that their choices are irrefutably rational and irresistibly compelling… The emblem, as well as agent, of a dangerously mobile desire is the fairies’ love juice. No human being in the play experiences a purely abstract, objectless desire; when you desire, you desire someone. But the love juice is the distilled essence of erotic mobility itself, and it is appropriately in the power of the fairies.
The two people in the consulting room merely talk, but in a way that invites the mobility of desire with an intensity like that of the stage-woods of Midsummer Night. The psychoanalytic process devises that love juice, channels it, and distributes it for its special use. But in the analytic situation, the potion—Greenblatt’s “distilled essence of erotic mobility”—is not in the power of a magical creature in a theatrical drama. It is in the power of the human analyst on the tilted analytic stage.
The analyst, drunk on the love juice, may feel justified, thrilled by “the charms of his own person” and their effect; he believes he is himself a bit magical—charismatic. Freud’s tone about this recalls Shakespeare’s play. The cool, smiling irony of “not to be attributed to the charms of his own person” mocks the notion of charisma. Self-deluding, the idea of a personal charisma beyond the structural is also, as a matter of theory, redundant. As a moral or ethical matter, it is radically defective: a charismatic analyst, within the clinical setting, is a massively destructive contradiction in terms. It punishes trust. The patient’s love is a construct provoked by the analytic situation; the analyst, having set the process in motion, is responsible for limiting and protecting it.
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
You may also like :
It all started with cellphones, a long time ago. No student, and few teachers, would make voice calls from class, but in the early 2000s GSM phones started to offer nearly free text messaging, and students (and faculty) started to text during lectures and seminars. Before long students were composing text messages without even looking at their phones, courtesy of the good old duodecimal keyboard; some could actually text from a phone in their pocket.