Thursday, August 2, 2007

Psychoanalysis, Teaching, Interpretation

Spurious on Bruce Fink's Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis.

For Lacan, the analyst's interpretations of the patient's unconscious formations should aim at providing enigmatic statements that frustrate the desire of the analysand to work them out at the conscious level. The unconscious must be engaged as it presents itself to the analysand who has been taught to abandon the notion that there can be a single, unequivocal meaning which unconscious formations reflect. As such, the analyst's interjections in the session must be polyvalent if he or she to avoid spoon-feeding the analysand, and creating a relationship of dependency, whereby he or she stands in relation to the analyst as a child to a parent, or a pupil to a teacher.

It is in this sense that Lacan calls analytic interpretation 'oracular speech'. What matters is the way the analyst's interpretations resonate (Fink's word) with the patient. The analyst will play on the sound of words - 'that word sounds like ...' and point out double entendres; scansion may be employed. This will be intermittently frustrating for the patient, but what matters each time is to find provocative ways of intervening in the session that sends the analysand back to the mystery of his or her own unconscious formations. It is essential the analyst resists standing in as an authority figure, maintain him- or herself as the abstract, formal Other to the patient in order that transference may reach the real.


The following is a comment I left on Larval Subjects--in reference to Spurious' paraphrase of Fink on Lacan.

"As such, the analyst's interjections in the session must be polyvalent if he or she to avoid spoon-feeding the analysand, and creating a relationship of dependency, whereby he or she stands in relation to the analyst as a child to a parent, or a pupil to a teacher."

When I read these words I asked myself what this might say about teaching literature--interpreting the written word, especially to first or second year students where classroom experiences have too often strung them out in an anxious tension between uncritical affective response and equally uncritical prescriptive formulas, leaving them paralyzed in a frozen block of imaginative repression? How difficult it is to break through their habit of feeding back what they think you want to hear, and how natural it sounds to substitute, teacher for analyst, and student for analysand in Spurious' paraphrase:

The analyst will play on the sound of words - 'that word sounds like ...' and point out double entendres; scansion may be employed. This will be intermittently frustrating for the patient, but what matters each time is to find provocative ways of intervening in the session that sends the analysand back to the mystery of his or her own unconscious formations.


Then what do we do with the fact that, as teachers, we cannot escape our role as authority figures? How do we integrate that into the demands made upon us by the text? Is it possible, in our teaching, to slip in and out of this role--to stand aside before the text--to encounter it with our students, freeing ourselves (and them) from being dispensers of fossilized knowledge? If, "as Fink puts it, there must be a pedagogical element in analysis...[and] the analyst is in some sense a teacher, is there an analogy for the teacher to become, in some sense, an analyst, not of the relationship of the student to their unconscious, but to the text as a manifestation of the unconscious of our culture? And what does this say of the danger of losing the poem as poem?

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