Difference between revisions of "Art"

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Freud valued art as one of humanity's great cultural institutions,
 
  
      and dedicated many papers to discussing both the process of artistic creation in
 
  
general and certain works of art in particular. He explained artistic creation by
+
Freud valued art as one of humanity's great cultural institutions, and dedicated many papers to discussing both the process of artistic creation in general and certain works of art in particular. He explained artistic creation by reference to the concept of SUBLIMATION, a process in which sexual libido is redirected towards non-sexual aims. Freud also dedicated a number of papers to analysing particular works of art, especially works of literature, which he argued could be useful to psychoanalysis in two main ways. Firstly, these works often express in poetic form truths about the psyche, which implies that creative writers can intuit directly the truths which psychoanalysts only discover later by more laborious means. Secondly, Freud also argued that a close psychoanalytic reading of works of literature could uncover elements of the author's psyche. While most of Freud's papers on particular works of art concern works of literature, he did not entirely neglect other art forms; for example he devoted one paper to discussing Michelangelo's statue of Moses (Freud, 1914b).
 +
Lacan's works also abound in discussions of particular works of art. Like Freud, Lacan devotes most of his attention to works of literature of all genres: prose (e.g. the discussion of The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe in S2, ch. 16, and Lacan, 1955a), drama (e.g. the discussions of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Lacan, 1958-9, and of Sophocles' Antigone in S7, chs 19-21) and poetry (e.g. the discussion of Booz endormi by Victor Hugo in S3, 218- 25; S4, 377-8; E, 156-8; S8, 158-9). However, Lacan also discusses the visual arts, devoting several lectures in his 1964 seminar to discussing painting, particularly anamorphotic art (Sll, chs 7-9, where he discusses Holbein's The Ambassadors; see also S7, 139-42).
 +
There are, nevertheless, significant differences between the ways in which Freud and Lacan approach works of art. Though Lacan does speak about sublimation, unlike Freud he does not believe that it is possible or even desirable for psychoanalysts to say anything about the psychology of the artist on the basis of an examination of a work of art (see his critical remarks on 'psychobiography'; Ec, 740-1). Just because the most fundamental complex (Oedipus) in psychoanalytic theory is taken from a literary work, Lacan says, does not mean that psychoanalysis has anything to say about Sophocles (Lacan, 1971: 3).
 +
Lacan's exclusion of the artist from his discussions of works of art means that his readings of literary texts are not concerned to reconstruct the author's intentions. In his suspension of the question of authorial intent, Lacan is not merely aligning himself with the structuralist movement (after all, authorial intent had been bracketed by New Criticism long before the structuralists appeared on the scene), but is rather illustrating the way in which the analyst should proceed when listening to and interpreting the discourse of the analysand. The analyst must, in other words, treat the analysand's discourse as a text:
  
reference to the concept of SUBLIMATION, a process in which sexual libido is
+
You must start from the text, start by treating it, as Freud does and as he recommends, as Holy Writ. The author, the scribe, is only a pen-pusher, and he comes second.  . . . Similarly, when it comes to our patients, please give more attention to the text than to the psychology of the author  - the entire orientation of my teaching is that. (S2, 153)
  
redirected towards non-sexual aims. Freud also dedicated a number of papers
 
  
to analysing particular works of art, especially works of literature, which he
 
  
argued could be useful to psychoanalysis in two main ways. Firstly, these
+
Lacan's discussions of literary texts are thus not exercises in literary criticism for its own sake, but performances designed to give his audience an idea of how they are to read the unconscious of their patients. This method of reading is similar to those employed by formalism and structuralism; the signified is neglected in favour of the signifier, content is bracketed in favour of formal structures (although Jacques Derrida has argued that Lacan does not in fact follow his own method; see Derrida, 1975).
  
works often express in poetic form truths about the psyche, which implies that
+
Besides serving as models of a method of reading, which Lacan recommends analysts to follow when reading the discourse of their patients, Lacan's discussions of literary texts also aim to extract certain elements which serve as metaphors to illustrate some of his most important ideas. For example, in his reading of Poe's The Purloined Letter, Lacan points to the circulating LETTER as a metaphor for the determinative power of the signifier.
 
+
A new branch of so-called 'psychoanalytic literary criticism' now claims to be inspired by Lacan's approach to literary texts (e.g. Muller and Richardson, 1988, and Wright, 1984; other works dealing with Lacan and cultural theory are Davis, 1983; Felman, 1987; MacCannell, 1986). However, while such projects    are interesting in their      own right, they do not usually approach literature in the same way as Lacan. That is, while psychoanalytic literary criticism aims to say something about the texts studied, both aspects of Lacan's approach (to illustrate          a mode of analytic interpretation, and to illustrate psychoanalytic concepts) are concerned not with saying something about the texts themselves, but merely with using the texts to say something about psychoanalysis. This is perhaps the most important difference between Lacan's approach to works of art and Freud's. Whereas some of Freud's works are often taken to imply that psychoanalysis is a metadiscourse,          a master narrative providing a general lutmeneutic key that can unlock the hitherto unsolved secrets of literary works, it is impossible to read Lacan as making any such claims. For Lacan, while psychoanalysis might be able to learn something about literature, or use literary works to illustrate certain of its methods and concepts, it is doubtful whether literary criticism can learn anything from psychoanalysis. Hence Lacan rejects the idea that a literary criticism which makes use of psychoanalytic concepts could be called 'applied psychoanalysis', since '[p]sychoanalysis is only applied, in the proper sense of the term, as a treatment, and thus to a subject who speaks and listens' (Ec, 747).
creative writers can intuit directly the truths which psychoanalysts only dis-
 
 
 
cover later by more laborious means. Secondly, Freud also argued that a close
 
 
 
psychoanalytic reading of works of literature could uncover elements of the
 
 
 
author's psyche. While most of Freud's papers on particular works of art
 
 
 
concern works of literature, he did not entirely neglect other art forms; for
 
 
 
example he devoted one paper to discussing Michelangelo's statue of Moses
 
 
 
(Freud, 1914b).
 
 
 
      Lacan's works also abound in discussions of particular works of art. Like
 
 
 
Freud, Lacan devotes most of his attention to works of literature of all genres:
 
 
 
prose (e.g. the discussion of The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe in S2,
 
 
 
ch. 16, and Lacan, 1955a), drama (e.g. the discussions of Shakespeare's
 
 
 
Hamlet in Lacan, 1958-9, and of Sophocles' Antigone in S7, chs 19-21)
 
 
 
and poetry (e.g. the discussion of Booz endormi by Victor Hugo in S3, 218-
 
 
 
25; S4, 377-8; E, 156-8; S8, 158-9). However, Lacan also discusses the visual
 
 
 
arts, devoting several lectures in his 1964 seminar to discussing painting,
 
 
 
particularly anamorphotic art (Sll, chs 7-9, where he discusses Holbein's
 
 
 
The Ambassadors; see also S7, 139-42).
 
 
 
      There are, nevertheless, significant differences between the ways in which
 
 
 
Freud and Lacan approach works of art. Though Lacan does speak about
 
 
 
sublimation, unlike Freud he does not believe that it is possible or even
 
 
 
desirable for psychoanalysts to say anything about the psychology of the
 
 
 
artist on the basis of an examination of a work of art (see his critical remarks
 
 
 
  on 'psychobiography'; Ec, 740-1). Just because the most fundamental com-
 
 
 
plex (Oedipus) in psychoanalytic theory is taken from a literary work, Lacan
 
 
 
says, does not mean that psychoanalysis has anything to say about Sophocles
 
 
 
(Lacan, 1971: 3).
 
 
 
      Lacan's exclusion of the artist from his discussions of works of art means
 
 
 
that his readings of literary texts are not concerned to reconstruct the author's
 
 
 
intentions. In his suspension of the question of authorial intent, Lacan is not
 
 
 
merely aligning himself with the structuralist movement (after all, authorial
 
 
 
intent had been bracketed by New Criticism long before the structuralists
 
 
 
appeared on the scene), but is rather illustrating the way in which the analyst
 
 
 
should proceed when listening to and interpreting the discourse of the analy-
 
 
 
sand. The analyst must, in other words, treat the analysand's discourse as a
 
 
 
text:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      You must start from the text, start by treating it, as Freud does and as he
 
 
 
      recommends, as Holy Writ. The author, the scribe, is only a pen-pusher, and
 
 
 
he comes second.  . . . Similarly, when it comes to our patients, please give
 
 
 
      more attention to the text than to the psychology of the author  - the entire
 
 
 
      orientation of my teaching is that.
 
 
 
                                                                                                                (S2, 153)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lacan's discussions of literary texts are thus not exercises in literary criticism
 
 
 
for its own sake, but performances designed to give his audience an idea of
 
 
 
how they are to read the unconscious of their patients. This method of reading
 
 
 
is similar to those employed by formalism and structuralism; the signified is
 
 
 
neglected in favour of the signifier, content is bracketed in favour of formal
 
 
 
  structures (although Jacques Derrida has argued that Lacan does not in fact
 
 
 
follow his own method; see Derrida, 1975).
 
 
 
      Besides serving as models of a method of reading, which Lacan recommends
 
 
 
analysts to follow when reading the discourse of their patients, Lacan's
 
 
 
discussions of literary texts also aim to extract certain elements which serve
 
 
 
  as metaphors to illustrate some of his most important ideas. For example, in his
 
 
 
reading of Poe's The Purloined Letter, Lacan points to the circulating LETTER
 
 
 
  as a metaphor for the determinative power of the signifier.
 
 
 
      A new branch of so-called 'psychoanalytic literary criticism' now claims to
 
 
 
be inspired by Lacan's approach to literary texts (e.g. Muller and Richardson,
 
 
 
1988, and Wright, 1984; other works dealing with Lacan and cultural theory
 
 
 
  are Davis, 1983; Felman, 1987; MacCannell, 1986). However, while such
 
 
 
projects    are interesting in their      own right, they do not usually approach
 
 
 
literature in the same way as Lacan. That is, while psychoanalytic literary
 
 
 
criticism aims to say something about the texts studied, both aspects of
 
 
 
Lacan's approach (to illustrate          a mode of analytic interpretation, and to
 
 
 
illustrate psychoanalytic concepts) are concerned not with saying something
 
 
 
about the texts themselves, but merely with using the texts to say something
 
 
 
about psychoanalysis. This is perhaps the most important difference between
 
 
 
Lacan's approach to works of art and Freud's. Whereas some of Freud's works
 
 
 
  are often taken to imply that psychoanalysis is a metadiscourse,          a master
 
 
 
narrative providing a general lutmeneutic key that can unlock the hitherto
 
 
 
unsolved secrets of literary works, it is impossible to read Lacan as making any
 
 
 
such claims. For Lacan, while psychoanalysis might be able to learn something
 
 
 
about literature, or use literary works to illustrate certain of its methods and
 
 
 
concepts, it is doubtful whether literary criticism can learn anything from
 
 
 
psychoanalysis. Hence Lacan rejects the idea that a literary criticism which
 
 
 
makes use of psychoanalytic concepts could be called 'applied psychoanaly-
 
 
 
sis', since '[p]sychoanalysis is only applied, in the proper sense of the term, as
 
 
 
  a treatment, and thus to a subject who speaks and listens' (Ec, 747).
 

Revision as of 03:52, 26 April 2006


Freud valued art as one of humanity's great cultural institutions, and dedicated many papers to discussing both the process of artistic creation in general and certain works of art in particular. He explained artistic creation by reference to the concept of SUBLIMATION, a process in which sexual libido is redirected towards non-sexual aims. Freud also dedicated a number of papers to analysing particular works of art, especially works of literature, which he argued could be useful to psychoanalysis in two main ways. Firstly, these works often express in poetic form truths about the psyche, which implies that creative writers can intuit directly the truths which psychoanalysts only discover later by more laborious means. Secondly, Freud also argued that a close psychoanalytic reading of works of literature could uncover elements of the author's psyche. While most of Freud's papers on particular works of art concern works of literature, he did not entirely neglect other art forms; for example he devoted one paper to discussing Michelangelo's statue of Moses (Freud, 1914b). Lacan's works also abound in discussions of particular works of art. Like Freud, Lacan devotes most of his attention to works of literature of all genres: prose (e.g. the discussion of The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe in S2, ch. 16, and Lacan, 1955a), drama (e.g. the discussions of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Lacan, 1958-9, and of Sophocles' Antigone in S7, chs 19-21) and poetry (e.g. the discussion of Booz endormi by Victor Hugo in S3, 218- 25; S4, 377-8; E, 156-8; S8, 158-9). However, Lacan also discusses the visual arts, devoting several lectures in his 1964 seminar to discussing painting, particularly anamorphotic art (Sll, chs 7-9, where he discusses Holbein's The Ambassadors; see also S7, 139-42). There are, nevertheless, significant differences between the ways in which Freud and Lacan approach works of art. Though Lacan does speak about sublimation, unlike Freud he does not believe that it is possible or even desirable for psychoanalysts to say anything about the psychology of the artist on the basis of an examination of a work of art (see his critical remarks on 'psychobiography'; Ec, 740-1). Just because the most fundamental complex (Oedipus) in psychoanalytic theory is taken from a literary work, Lacan says, does not mean that psychoanalysis has anything to say about Sophocles (Lacan, 1971: 3). Lacan's exclusion of the artist from his discussions of works of art means that his readings of literary texts are not concerned to reconstruct the author's intentions. In his suspension of the question of authorial intent, Lacan is not merely aligning himself with the structuralist movement (after all, authorial intent had been bracketed by New Criticism long before the structuralists appeared on the scene), but is rather illustrating the way in which the analyst should proceed when listening to and interpreting the discourse of the analysand. The analyst must, in other words, treat the analysand's discourse as a text:

You must start from the text, start by treating it, as Freud does and as he recommends, as Holy Writ. The author, the scribe, is only a pen-pusher, and he comes second. . . . Similarly, when it comes to our patients, please give more attention to the text than to the psychology of the author - the entire orientation of my teaching is that. (S2, 153)


Lacan's discussions of literary texts are thus not exercises in literary criticism for its own sake, but performances designed to give his audience an idea of how they are to read the unconscious of their patients. This method of reading is similar to those employed by formalism and structuralism; the signified is neglected in favour of the signifier, content is bracketed in favour of formal structures (although Jacques Derrida has argued that Lacan does not in fact follow his own method; see Derrida, 1975).

Besides serving as models of a method of reading, which Lacan recommends analysts to follow when reading the discourse of their patients, Lacan's discussions of literary texts also aim to extract certain elements which serve as metaphors to illustrate some of his most important ideas. For example, in his reading of Poe's The Purloined Letter, Lacan points to the circulating LETTER as a metaphor for the determinative power of the signifier. A new branch of so-called 'psychoanalytic literary criticism' now claims to be inspired by Lacan's approach to literary texts (e.g. Muller and Richardson, 1988, and Wright, 1984; other works dealing with Lacan and cultural theory are Davis, 1983; Felman, 1987; MacCannell, 1986). However, while such projects are interesting in their own right, they do not usually approach literature in the same way as Lacan. That is, while psychoanalytic literary criticism aims to say something about the texts studied, both aspects of Lacan's approach (to illustrate a mode of analytic interpretation, and to illustrate psychoanalytic concepts) are concerned not with saying something about the texts themselves, but merely with using the texts to say something about psychoanalysis. This is perhaps the most important difference between Lacan's approach to works of art and Freud's. Whereas some of Freud's works are often taken to imply that psychoanalysis is a metadiscourse, a master narrative providing a general lutmeneutic key that can unlock the hitherto unsolved secrets of literary works, it is impossible to read Lacan as making any such claims. For Lacan, while psychoanalysis might be able to learn something about literature, or use literary works to illustrate certain of its methods and concepts, it is doubtful whether literary criticism can learn anything from psychoanalysis. Hence Lacan rejects the idea that a literary criticism which makes use of psychoanalytic concepts could be called 'applied psychoanalysis', since '[p]sychoanalysis is only applied, in the proper sense of the term, as a treatment, and thus to a subject who speaks and listens' (Ec, 747).