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Rheumatic Irony

Questions of Agency and Self-deception as Refracted through the Art of Living with Spirits

Michael Lambek

The story of a young man from the Western Indian Ocean island of Mayotte who was prevented from a career in the French army by an illness sent by a spirit who possesses his mother inspires reflection on the nature of agency. I suggest that spirit possession and the ill- nesses it produces are intrinsically ironic. The prevalence of irony implies not that we should disregard agency but that perhaps we should not take it too literally.

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Jason Dean and Geoffrey Raynor

Star Wars is a series of films that depicts an epic galactic battle between good and evil. The interplay of love and hate is also central to the psychoanalytic theories of Melanie Klein. This article suggests that the presentation of the plot in the films follows a pattern from Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position, in which love and hate are kept separate, to the depressive position, in which they are integrated. Initially, the Jedi and Sith, corresponding to the light and dark side of the force, are depicted as purely good and purely evil, in line with the paranoid-schizoid position. Gradually, the films progress to the depressive position, in which Luke and Anakin Skywalker engage in an internal struggle of good and evil. The authors also discuss the specific contribution of film to the presentation of these themes that could not be accomplished by other media.

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Theorizing “The Plunge”

(Queer) Girls’ Adolescence, Risk, and Subjectivity in Blue is the Warmest Color

Michelle Miller

This article explores the graphic representation of queer adolescent sexuality on offer in the coming-of-age graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color. This representation, read alongside object relations psychoanalysis and in terms of feminist sexuality education theorizing, invites adult readers to reconsider the ways in which we think of the relationship between girls, risk, and sexuality. I propose that in order to honor girls’ sexual subjectivity, we must treat romantic risk-taking as an ordinary, healthy and essential aspect of growing up.

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Art and the Man

Alex La Guma's Comics and Paintings

Roger Field

This article explores two relatively unknown areas of Alex La Guma’s work – his comics and painting. While there is plenty of the former, information on the latter has come from his family and contemporaries. It is based on their memories and impressions of paintings that have not survived or have been lost. La Guma gave them away or left them with friends to look after when he and his family moved from Cape Town to London, and then from London to Havana. Necessarily, this article falls into two parts distinguishable by their respective emphases. While the first part relies on documentation, the second is more speculative and draws on the work of analysts associated with the object relations school of psychoanalytic theory.

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Dan Merkur

Drawing on phenomenology and his clinical practice, the author explores religious experience and the dynamics of the numinous. The article opens with the argument that psychoanalysts, like religious healers, should be able to work with religious phenomena as part of psychoanalytic therapy. The origin of the term 'numinous' is explained, and two types of human religious experience, mysterium tremendum and fascinans, are detailed. The role of anxiety in converting a metaphorical illusion (fascinans) into a private symbol (mysterium tremendum) is described. The terms by which religion can be viewed alternatively as delusion, illusion, and tenable speculation are discussed. A patient's religious concerns with the sacred and the profane are presented as symptoms of the repression of numinous experiences. Therapy can be promoted through a psychoanalytic dialogue on the patient's religiosity and its partial replication of early object relations.