Categories
Poetry Psychoanalysis

Road 1940

Road 1940

Why do I carry, she said,

This child that is no child of mine?

Through the heat of the day it did nothing but fidget and whine,

Now it snuffles under the dew and the cold star-shine,

And lies across my heart heavy as lead,

Heavy as the dead.

This beautiful poem by STW is another poem about the flight of refugees. It almost certainly relates to the civilian escape from Paris as it fell in 1940, It conveys both the weariness and the worry of a woman escaping with a child who is not her own and unfortunately there must be many such examples of such experiences among refugees from Ukraine at the present time. The next lines reveal that the story is being reported by an observer.

Why did I lift it, she said,

Out of its cradle in the wheel-tracks?

On the dusty road burdens have melted like wax,

Soldiers have thrown down their rifles, misers slipped their packs:

Yes, and the woman who left it there has sped

With a lighter tread.

The poem continues to discuss the rescuers ambivalence towards the child being rescued. there are echoes of the Scriptural verses of Matthew 24:19 –

And woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days!

and also of Mark 13:17

Townsend-Warner finishes with these poignant lines which might also be those of a similar refugee from the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere:-

But since I’ve carried it, she said,

So far I might as well carry it still.

If we ever should come to kindness someone will

Pity me perhaps as the mother of a child so ill,

Grant me even to lie down on a bed;

Give me at least bread.

Here is another moving poem by Townsend Warner from You Tube where you can also find her own reading of this second poem.

Categories
Literature Poetry Psychoanalysis

“Autumn Journal” revisited this Spring

For here and now the new valkyries ride

The Spanish constellations

As over the Plaza Cataluña

Orion lolls on his side;

Droning over from Majorca

To maim or blind or kill

The bearers of the living will,

The stubborn heirs of freedom

Whose matter-of-fact faith and courage shame

Our niggling equivocations-

We who play for safety,

A safety only in name.

Whereas these people contain truth, whatever

Their nominal façade.

Listen: a whirr, a challenge, an aubade-

It is the cock crowing in Barcelona.

Sleep, my body, sleep, my ghost,

Sleep, my parents and grand-parents,

And all those I have loved most:

One man’s coffin is another’s cradle.

Sleep, my past and all my sins,

In distant snow or dried roses

Under the moon for night’s cocoon will open

When day begins.

These lines from MacNeice’s poem written in 1938 sadly seem apposite today. The lines refer to the bombing of Barcelona when fascists killed some 1300 people. They also refer to his response which is to seek solace in sleep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Barcelona

For a fascinating discussion of MacNeice’s work take a listen to https://www.lrb.co.uk/podcasts-and-videos/podcasts/close-readings/on-louis-macneice

Now, of course the Spanish Civil War was a totally different situation from the current situation from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, the melancholy tone of Autumn Journal resonates with my personal feelings about current events. Firstly, weapons have become vastly more destructive and in a few days the casualties and destruction have become enormous and sadly mch more about to be revealed. In both conflicts, ethnic and religous belief would appear to be active. Although mercenaries and International Brigades are involved the ideological factors such as a belief in Marxism are radically different in form.

The cock which crowed in respect to Barcelona is an Easter image relating to betrayal. Just as with Covid the current response by politicians to the current crisis is totally underwhelming and indicates too how domestic and isolationist narratives have obscured a wider view as to how to resolve or even contain this conflict.

So this melancholia pervades from 80 or more years ago-

Our niggling equivocations

We who play for safety,

A safety only in name

Categories
Art and Photographic History Penwith Poetry Psychoanalysis

Frames and thoughts about Frames

Orphic wind, you blow far and wide;

You will enter the realms of the sea;

As I cherished a world not yet made

I relinquished the useless “I”

From Poem 25 in Osip Mandelstam’s Stone

This shopping precinct seems full of empty shops. It feels as though the local economy has not recovered from Covid and this environment has taken on the strangeness of the new normal. This in turn raises questions about the whole construct of “normality” and how normal the old normal really was. The empty frame, one might ask oneself; is it really empty? The frame itself can become a tool to investigate the reality on which attention is focussed.

In social philosophy there is a particular frame theory which is referred to by Goffman. There is a useful discussion of this at http://philosophyreaders.blogspot.com/2018/09/frames-as-ways-of-seeing-world.html?m=1 In this there is a useful quotation from Lakoff-


      “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics, our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change

Furthermore from Fairhurst and Sarr-


      “Just like a photographer, when we select a frame for a subject, we choose which aspect or portion of the subject we will focus on and which we will exclude. When we choose to highlight some aspect of our subject over others, we make it more noticeable, more meaningful, and more memorable to others. Our framing adds color or accentuates the subject in unique ways. For this reason, frames determine whether people notice problems, how they understand and remember problems, and how they evaluate and act upon them (Entman, 1993).

      Frames exert their power not only through what they highlight, but also through what they leave out. In framing, when we create a bias towards one interpretation of our subject, we exclude other aspects, including those that may produce opposite or alternative interpretations.”

The frame might be the area of domestic politics which when focussed upon excessively means that political discourse becomes isolated. This has been the case in the U.K. where foreign affairs has suffered much neglect. Statesmen with detailed understanding of policy seem few. Consequently issues nearby are outside the frame. The events leading up to the invasion of 🇺🇦 Ukraine 🇺🇦 are now the return of the repressed.

The doleful and economically depressed scenario locally has a dreamlike quality at times somewhat reminiscent of paintings by de Chirico or Rene Magritte. Outside the frame there are grander landscapes.

Categories
Book Reviews Film Psychoanalysis

Thoughts on the Skin in Psychoanalysis-a lecture by Leon Brenner

Leon Brenner is an energetic and creative Philosopher and Lacanian Psychoanalyst who lives and works in Berlin. Last week he gave a Zoom talk on the subject of The Dermic Drive in Autism in which he followed this, his schema:-

Counter to the ways it is conceived through both cognitive and identitarian approaches, autism might be productively thought of as a unique subjective structure that sits alongside the classical Freudian structures of psychosis, neurosis, and perversion. Earlier psychoanalytic thinkers have linked autism and the onset of autism to the supposed experience of early disturbances in ‘skin function’. In this talk Dr Leon Brenner will expand this notion of ‘skin function’, exploring its relation to and confection in language. Conceiving the skin as a potential modality of the Freudian drive (Trieb) – the dermic drive – Dr Leon Brenner will seek to unpack how the different relations to and with the Other such a drive would instantiate allow fresh insights into our understandings of autism.

Dr Brenner’s blog may be found at https://leonbrenner.com/

Here are some points of clarification-

  1. Here is what R,D.Hinshelwood has to say in clarification in his book, A Dictonary of Kleinian Thought-Among the previous psychoanalysts studying this subject three in particular drew my attention. Esther Bick whose work included infant observation, the relation between skin sensations and feeling contained, the creation of the experience of the body as an internal space. Bick worked with Donald Meltzer and together they arrived at the concept of Adhesive identification: The possible failure to develop such an integrating primary object (space) appears to be confirmed in work with autistic children (Meltzer et al., 1975) [see AUTISM]. Bick and Meltzer (Meltzer, 1975, 1986) collaborated in describing the ways in which autistic children develop without a sense of internal or external space. Their relationship with objects appears to be a ‘sticking on to’ the object, a mechanism called adhesive identification.

2 Hinshelwood also explains the manner in which mimicry replaces the normal development of internal psychic space-

projective identification cannot be properly employed because of an absent sense of internal space (see INTERNAL REALITY). Meltzer (Meltzer et al., 1975) took up these ideas and found them important in research into a child-analytic technique with autistic children. Meltzer described a child who

tended to draw pictures of houses, in which there was a house on this side of the paper, and there was a house on the other side of the paper and when you held it up to the light, you saw that the doors were superimposed, you know, a kind of house where you open the front door and step out the back door at the same time. (Meltzer, 1975, p. 300)

In the course of this collaboration, Bick and Meltzer began to recognize a pattern in these ‘second-skin’ formations (see SKIN]. Bick typically called it an act of mimicry. However, what they began to realize was that the mimicry represented the experience, and phantasy, of sticking to an object as opposed to projecting into it [see 13. PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION]. A lapse in developing a sense of internal spaces leads to a tendency to relate to objects in a two dimensional way, without depth [see AUTISM]:

The following are some thoughts in no particular order which I had during this engaging seminar:-

  1. This evocative song has been in the background since contemplating this whole issue with it’s phrase “wake up to reality”. Sung here by Frank Sinatra https://youtu.be/C1AHec7sfZ8
  2. There is a body of work which talks about the use of makeup which can become of huge importance in certain stages of life applied so as to display a perfect impression. Frequently referred to interestingly as “warpaint” and acting as a mask or perhaps a second skin. See for instance this https://discover.hubpages.com/education/The-Gallery-of-the-Fool and the work of Joan Riviere https://psychoanalysis.org.uk/our-authors-and-theorists/joan-riviere
  3. There is a particularly interesting chapter in Betty Joseph’s collection “Psychic Equilibrium and Psychic Change” on the analysis of a patient with a rubber fetish in which she discusses the use of projective identification of excitement, oral sadism and how she was able to contain, explain and resolve these issues within the analytic sessions.
  4. It would seem that the elastic and adhesive properties of relationships can be expressed vividly by means of cartoon characters. In particular it is possible to think of matters like “bouncing back” being “caught on the rebound” as well as “sticking together through thick and thin” as well as someone “sticking to another like glue” somewhat unpleasantly or uncomfortably.