Freud Museum London: Psychoanalysis Podcasts A treasure trove of ideas in psychoanalysis. History, theory, and psychoanalytic perspectives on a diverse range of topics. www.freud.org.uk

April 4, 2017  

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William Rose’s novel The Strange Case of Madeleine Seguin is set in the rich and decadent world of the intelligentsia in Fin de Siècle Paris.

The book centres on the institution of the Salpetriere hospital. In the book the Salpetriere has progressed from its previous incarnation as a 'warehouse' for societies undesirables to a kind of human museum filled with subjects for Charcot to study. Rather than a prison, the hospital has become a laboratory for the vivisection of the hysterical mind. As theories of hysteria and female madness morph from animalistic and anatomical degeneracy to those of psychological trauma, the doctors at the Salpetriere in the novel drift towards Freudian theory. One of these young doctors named Lamond writes a letter to Freud in which he describes the unconscious as 'a veritable Salpetriere of the psyche which harbours ideas and emotional ventures we can scarce dare even think of'.

The church is another reoccurring theme in the novel, and parallels are drawn illustratively between religion and a kind of hysterical theatre. Charcot draws parallels in his studies between the behaviour of various saints and of those in the grip of a hysterical attack. Indeed, the concept of possession is present both in the occult and quasi-religious rituals that were becoming popular in the Fin de Siecle and also in the theatrical hypnotism Charcot performs on his patients at the public lectures held in the Salpetriere for the titillation of the aristocratic intelligentsia. The figure of Charcot represents the conflict between science and religion, and the church is a sinister force in the novel, providing a steady undercurrent of menace and tension which drives the plot forward and captures the attention.

Another thread of the novel is the development of the school of symbolist artists. We are introduced through a young artist to the intellectual salons of the ‘Mardistes’, including the poet Mallarme. The excursions into the artistic Parisian demi-monde add to the atmospheric milieu and set the scene which allows us to better understand the world in which these events happen. Indeed, the novel raises an interesting question over the differences between hysteria and the decadent decay into neurasthenic self-absorption.

The novel beautifully illustrates the skilfully interwoven threads of hysteria, art, the occult, and the Parisian fin de siècle demi monde and intelligentsia. Tension builds with a steady bubbling undercurrent of devil worship and the impending threat of the femme fatale. Hysteria is explored in the context of these societal factors and ideals of femininity, and this brings to mind the role of these factors and our ideals in our modern concepts of mental illness.

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Analytic psychotherapist and art historian, Robert Snell joins us to discuss his forthcoming book, Portraits of the Insane: Théodore Géricault and the Subject of Psychotherapy.

In the gloomy aftermath of the 1789 Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the French painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) made a series of portraits of patients in an asylum or clinic. The paintings are unprecedented: they show people designated as insane as ordinary, unique individuals. They point to a new, essentially democratic conception of the human being, sane or mad, as available for relationship and communication: a ‘therapeutic subject’. Made during a period of massive social, cultural, and economic transformation, they register a critical moment in the history of subjectivity, and connect us to some living roots of psychoanalysis.They challenge us profoundly, in our own conflicted era, to find responses in ourselves to the stranger in our midst.

‘The scope of this book is remarkable. Robert Snell’s meditation on five portraits of mad people by Géricault is the springboard for a fascinating cultural investigation. He surveys two centuries of change in the understanding of human nature, and considers how this is reflected in changing approaches to the treatment of madness.The breadth and depth of scholarship on offer here is exceptional, and this admirable book is an object lesson in the relation of psychoanalysis to the history of ideas.’ — Michael Parsons, British Psychoanalytical Society and French Psychoanalytic Association

Robert Snell is an analytic psychotherapist and art historian, a member of the British Psychotherapy Foundation, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Therapeutic Education at Roehampton University.

 

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In the period following the end of the second world war in Britain, Kleinian psychoanalysis rapidly established itself as an influential paradigm for the treatment and understanding of the psychoses, within both psychoanalytical and medically minded psychiatric circles. Medically qualified psychoanalysts such as Hanna Segal, Herbert Rosenfeld and Wilfred Bion all made seminal contributions and the institutional approval and establishment ratification of their work, continues to be strongly felt to this day. In this paper, we will take up some arguments from the Canadian philosopher of science Ian Hacking, in order to look again at the tightly prescribed clinical techniques of Kleinian psychoanalysis of the period, especially in terms of the relationship between the social conditions of their analytic frame and the kind of theory of the psychoses this frames enables. In the twenty-first century, as we continue to battle to understand and provide effective treatments for those experiencing severe emotional distress, this paper hopes to remind us of the sensitive connection between the way in which we build theories of the mind out of the way we work with our patients and, in turn, the effect these theories have on those who seek our help.

Barry Watt is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a member of the SITE for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He is one of the senior practitioners at the Psychosis Therapy Project as well as a housing advocate and community activist.

From the 'Psychosis and Psychoanalysis', a conference organised in collaboration with the Psychosis Therapy Project, a therapy service for people experiencing psychosis.

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Panel discussion - Jane Haberlin, Jeanette Winterson and Eleanor Longden

Hearing voices has been described as everything from schizophrenic to godlike. Radical psychiatry in the 1960s contested what today are termed 'auditory hallucinations' seeing them as containing what couldn't be said. The psychology researcher Eleanor Longden isn't crazy -- and neither are many other people who hear voices in their heads. She says the psychic phenomenon is a "creative and ingenious survival strategy" that should be seen "not as an abstract symptom of illness to be endured, but as complex, significant, and meaningful experience to be explored," Recent research shows that there are a variety of explanations for hearing voices, with many people beginning to hear voices as a response to extreme stress or trauma.
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Session 3: The Freudian Unconscious Revisited


Salman Akhtar - 14 Proposals in Freud’s ‘The Unconscious'
Salman will revisit some of Freud’s most central claims regarding the nature of the unconscious and examine their current status within and beyond psychoanalysis.

Anouchka Grose - Language and the Unconscious
Anouchka will respond to Salman’s talk from a contemporary Lacanian perspective, with a particular emphasis on the role of the language.

Salman Akhtar MD, is a world-renowned psychoanalyst and psychiatrist and one of the most creative and prolific psychoanalytic writers. He was born in India and completed his medical and psychiatric education there. Upon arriving in the USA in 1973, he repeated his psychiatric training at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, and then obtained psychoanalytic training from the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute. Currently, he is Professor of Psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College and a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Centre of Philadelphia. He has authored, edited or co-edited more than 300 publications including books on psychiatry and psychoanalysis and several collections of poetry. He has delivered many prestigious addresses and lectures and is recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, which include the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Best Paper of the Year Award (1995), the Margaret Mahler Literature Prize (1996), the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians’ Sigmund Freud Award (2000), the American College of Psychoanalysts’ Laughlin Award (2003), the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Edith Sabshin Award (2000), Columbia University’s Robert Leibert Award for Distinguished Contributions to Applied Psychoanalysis (2004), the American Psychiatric Association’s Kun Po Soo Award (2004), Irma Bland Award for being the Outstanding Teacher of Psychiatric Residents in the US (2005), and the Sigourney Award (2012). Dr Akhtar is an internationally sought speaker and teacher, and his books have been translated into many languages. He is also a Scholar-in-Residence at the Inter-Act Theatre Company in Philadelphia.
Anouchka Grose is a Lacanian psychoanalyst and writer practising in London. She is a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, where she regularly lectures. She is the author of No More Silly Love Songs: a Realist’s Guide to Romance (Portobello, 2010) and Are you Considering Therapy? (Karnac, 2011), and is the editor of 'Hysteria Today', a collection of essays to be published by Karnac later this year. She also writes for The Guardian and teaches at Camberwell School of Art.
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November 1, 2014  
Author's Talk: Laurel Braitman

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by looking at physical differences in Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons. Alfred Russell Wallace investigated a range of creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home—by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, ate Ziploc bags, towels, and cartons of eggs. He suffered debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Her experience with Oliver forced Laurel to acknowledge a form of continuity between humans and other animals that, first as a biology major and later as a PhD student at MIT, she’d never been taught in school. Nonhuman animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

‘A gem ... that can teach us much about the wildness of our own minds’ — Psychology Today

‘A lovely, big-hearted book’ — The New York Times

LAUREL BRAITMAN has written about science, animals and other topics for Cabinet, Orion, The New Inquiry and other publications. She received her PhD in history and anthropology of science from MIT and is an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and a TED fellow. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, California.
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