New publication in PsyArt Journal

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Sookie and Symptom, Vampire and Void: Irruption of the Real in True Blood

February 18, 2016 ·

Abstract

Sookie Stackhouse, the protagonist of HBO’s True Blood, is a telepath who has grown up knowing what people “really” think. From the first episode, however, moments suggest we view her character symptomatically—after all, she hears voices in her head. The series then becomes an illustration of Lacanian concepts of subjectivity and the Real. Sookie is a sexually-repressed 24-year-old virgin, molested by her great uncle and left in the care of her grandmother, with whom she still lives after losing both parents. The extimate sexualized voices in her head can be read as a mechanism constructed to cope with traumatic loss and abuse, and to justify her repression. The introduction of vampire Bill Compton signals the irruption of the Real in the Symbolic order. His unreadable mind presents a void upon which to project her fantasies, but their relationship, mirroring that of analyst and analysand, provides a way for Sookie to work through her symptoms.

View the full article here:

http://journal.psyart.org/article/sookie-and-symptom-vampire-and-void-irruption-of-the-real-in-true-blood/

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Psi episode 4, “Believing in the Afterlife”

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On Friday, January 22nd, the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought screened an episode of the Brazilian television series, Psi, about a psychoanalyst, Carlo Antonini, his family, and his practice in São Paulo. The series is co-written by Contardo Calligaris, a well-known Italian psychoanalyst, novelist, and playwright who lives and works in Brazil. The episode screened involved a patient, Milton, who believes his dead wife is communicating with him from beyond the grave. Leading discussion of the episode were Dr. Natalia Jacovkis, Associate Professor of Spanish at Xavier University and specialist in film and media studies, and Dr. Karl Stuckenberg, Chair of Xavier’s School of Psychology.

Dr. Jacovkis introduced the screening by explaining the production environment for television in Brazil, where big-budgets and leading actors contribute to quality television programming, outshining even film production. This was well-evidenced with Psi, which is a finely-crafted, thought-provoking, and superbly-written piece of entertainment. Much of the narrative impact of the episode is created by several subplots that are tightly-integrated with the main storyline, one following Antonini’s sessions with another patient whose brother and nephew died in a car crash and a second focused on the death of his daughter’s dog. The multiple storylines involving death and mourning work together to create a thematic unity missing in much mainstream American television.

The loneliness and isolation characters experience in the metropolis of São Paulo is another striking aspect of the series, pointed out by Dr. Jacovkis. The severe, austerely-depicted city provides Dr. Antonini with a steady clientele of troubled psychoanalytic patients, but he, too, is troubled. He maintains a predominantly sterile and clinical demeanor in his interpersonal relationships, not only with clients, but also with his ex-wife and children. However, he is warm and genial with his colleagues, showing a likable side to the good doctor. In general, all the characters are complex and multidimensional, important to a series concerned with the human psyche.

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It is toward that human psyche that Dr. Stuckenberg steered the discussion after the screening, when he invoked Freud’s essay on “Mourning and Melancholia” as a lens through which to understand Milton’s delusions. Overwhelming guilt and anger are attendant with his grief, but when Milton confesses to having killed his wife’s dogs, Dr. Antonini identifies his confession as too detailed, too rehearsed. This causes Milton to erupt in an uncalculated tirade involving everything that he hated about his wife, from her telling pointless stories to smelling bad “down there.” By the end of the episode, the purgation of Milton’s feelings of anger and hatred toward his dead wife provides him with some relief, but there is still much work to be done. Ultimately, as noted by Dr. Stuckenberg in closing the discussion, it matters not whether the ghosts of our loved ones are real or imagined; we must still process our own conscious and repressed feelings toward those loved ones in order to exorcise their spirits.

A Story about Psicanálise (Psychoanalysis) in Latin America

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Please consider attending the next event sponsored by the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought on Friday, January 22nd, 2016:

A Story about Psicanálise (Psychoanalysis) in Latin America

The Association for Psychoanalytic Thought (APT) is pleased to present a viewing of an episode of the HBO Latin America Channel series, Psi about a psychoanalyst living and practicing in Saõ Paulo, Brazil, based on the writings of Brazilian psychoanalyst Contardo Calligaris. Calligaris trained in Switzerland and France and moved to Brazil. He is a columnist as well as a clinician and has written several psychoanalytically oriented novels. He is the creator of the series.

The viewing will be followed by a discussion by Natalia Jakovkis, professor of Modern Languages at Xavier University, and Karl Stukenberg, professor and chairman of Psychology at Xavier University and a CPI faculty member.

The event will be held in the Kapp Memorial Library of the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute, 3001 Highland Ave., Suite C, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219. The event begins at 6:30 pm with wine and cheese and the program begins at 7 pm. Admission is $5.00.

Please RSVP early by calling 513-515-6836 or by emailing hirschnorman@gmail.com

The Irruption of the Real in the CW’s The Flash

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Something that’s been zooming around my head these days is the current television series, The Flash. I read the comic as a kid and the new series fascinates me. The whole series is constructed around Barry’s childhood trauma and is, therefore, ripe for symptomatic reading.

“To understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to do something first. You need to believe in the impossible. Can you do that? Good.”

Right from the first voiceover, in his invoking narration at the beginning of the very first episode, he’s openly asking us to believe in the impossible.

His powers are impossible. That’s the irruption of the Real in the series. His powers signify nothing possible. They are the symptomatic, the return of the Real.

That Real is based in trauma, the traumatic murder of his mother.

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Yes, Barry has serious mommy issues. His mother was murdered and his father is in prison for the crime. That’s Barry’s self-stated desire: finding who killed his mother, to clear his father’s name and have him released from prison. The murder of his mother is a repetition of the original separation from his mother that occurred in the development of his subjectivity earlier in childhood. This is the original lack at his core, setting his desire in motion.

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Barry also has daddy issues. His real dad is in prison, an absentee father but one with whom Barry still communicates. He was raised by Detective Joe West. Barry also works as a forensic scientist with Joe at the Central City Police Department. Joe was the physically-present father, but still doesn’t believe Barry’s memories of what happened the night of his mother’s murder. Dr. Harrison Wells, too, serves as a father figure for Barry until he is revealed to be the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, whose desire is to return to the future, at any cost.

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The overdetermined father figures in his life can’t make up for his lacking mother, however. His real desire is to become fast enough to race back in time and change the past; not to find his mother’s killer, but to save his mother’s life. In this way, he seeks to fill that original lack at his core, the desire to be the phallus for the mother, to be her object of desire.

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Barry has further familial issues. He is in love with his foster-sister, Iris. His, at first unknown and then unrequited, desire for her is, again, symptomatic of the lack he feels at his core.

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As Barry grows into his role of The Flash, he hears voices in his head. Through the audio transmitter in his mask, we typically hear the voice of Dr. Harrison Wells (Eobard Thawne), Cisco Ramon, or Dr. Caitlyn Snow instructing Barry on what to do or where to go. There are moments where Barry leaves behind the comm system or it goes out, but for the most part, he is guided not by his own conscious motivations, but by voices in his head.

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The series is fruitful for a psychoanalytic reading.