New publication in PsyArt Journal


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

February 18, 2016 ·


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.

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100 years old and making a comeback – Freud’s theories of the unconscious

The unconscious has had a bumpy ride since Sigmund Freud first described the extent of his discoveries in a seminal paper published 100 years ago this month. Sceptics sneer at its mention, assuming it’s as discreditable as penis envy. Others, who sense the father of psychoanalysis was on to something, prefer to hedge their bets and not be tarnished by Freud’s mixed reputation: they refer limply to the subliminal or subconscious. Yet it could be the case that far from being past its sell-by date, the time of the unconscious is yet to come….

100 years old and making a comeback – Freud’s theories of the unconscious

Mark Vernon – The Guardian

Hermia’s Desire

The audience at September’s meeting of the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought took part in a true clash of fundamental ideological positions on empathy: philosophical and psychoanalytical.

Heidi Maibom, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati and editor of the recent book Morality and Empathy, delivered a paper examining Hermia’s relationship with her father, Egeus, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in terms of empathy regarding her desire to marry Lysander against her father’s wishes.

A professor of Shakespeare from NKU offered another source of desire in the play, “They are all at one point or another on drugs thanks to Puck’s potions.”

John Hall, former director of the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute and respondent to Maibom’s paper added, “and the drugs can just be seen as allowing them free expression of their unconscious desires.”

“You see, you don’t think the unconscious, the unconscious thinks you,” explained a critical cultural theorist from UC, trying to force the speaker’s logic against the limits of the Cartesan cogito, to the “Thing-that-thinks.”

“I don’t know what that means,” was Maibom’s honest reply.

We’re reminded that Freud’s great contribution to Western thought was not the invention of Psychoanalysis, but the discovery of the unconscious. The discovery is one of Copernican proportions, a radical de-centering of the human subject from the place of the ego to the place of the unconscious. As Lacan writes in “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire”: “This is what the subject is missing in thinking he is exhaustively accounted for by his cogito– he is missing what is unthinkable about him” (E 304).  Philosophy rarely takes us into this territory, that which is unthinkable about us, which is the realm of psychoanalysis.

In Lacanian terms, Hermia’s desire is not for Lysander, but for a lost object, a lack that is always already unattainable. Lysander is a substitutionary object, the objet petit a, an object Hermia hopes will fill that lack. The sexual relationship, according to Lacan, is impossible because the partner is always a substitutionary object of desire. We are forever looking for the satisfaction of our desire in something that can never fill the Real lack in ourselves. Therefore, if Hermia’s conscious wish to be with Lysander is fulfilled, it cannot assure her happiness. Lysander is just an objet petit a in what may become a lengthy chain of objet petit a, b, c… Desire is always for a void that moves away from us as we chase it. As soon as we think we have it in our grasp, what we desire changes coordinates.

Maibom’s paper prompted some interesting responses by the clinicians in the audience, who took the conversation in the direction of the role of empathy in the transference and the limits of empathy in one’s relationship with a patient or client. It’s this sort of clinical evidence that is missing from most interimplication of psychoanalytic theory and cultural production. This meeting of the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought brought together theory, praxis, and culture in a way that created fruitful dialogue between clinicians, academics, and critical cultural theorists. Dialogue of this sort informs the work of those of us doing cultural critique through a psychoanalytic lens and helps to ground the work in the findings of clinical practice.