slider-congress-2018Saturday 24 March 2018.
DIT Aungier Street, Dublin 2.
Registration, Coffee, Welcome: 9:45am – First Speaker: 10am
Admission: Members: €50, Students: €30, Non-Members: €60

Psychoanalysing Tragedy

Tragedy, Lacan said in 1959, is at the forefront of our experiences as analysts.  This explains for Lacan why Freud looked to tragedy (from Oedipus Rex to Hamlet) when considering the essentially tragic dimension of human desire. Lacan himself looked to Hamlet in his sixth seminar to illustrate and bring out as exemplary the conditions which frame the possibility of acting on one’s desire, the theme he further draws out in relation to Antigone in his seventh seminar.  His radical claim that living the bourgeois dream is not the index of a “successful” analysis challenged commonplace ideas about the objective of psychoanalysis involving getting rid of what is experienced as tragic for the subject for what it opposes to her/his happiness.  Happiness, Lacan pointed out, is a political issue, bringing to bear a specific tendency on the field of human relations and the social bond.  Tragedy, is articulated by Lacan in his seminar of ’59-60 with Aristotle, as catharsis, as purification, and the tragic dimension of psychoanalysis therefore involves the notion of a “crossing of the limits that we call fear and pity”.

In our time however, tragedy is mostly articulated with spectacles of horror, of atrocity, of violence: spectacles which “go viral” at the touch of a button.  Where once subjects could take their bearings by establishing the coordinates of their existence with each other at times of tragedy (e.g., recalling where they were when Kennedy was shot, when Marilyn was found dead, when John Lennon was killed, even when the twin towers were struck, etc., etc.,), now with the swift swipe of a fingertip a tragedy is replaced by a pop video or the smile of an unknown person’s child, or a kitten playing with a toy.

How can psychoanalysts think about tragedy now?

Is it still at the forefront of our experiences as analysts?

What is the consequence for 21st century citizens of the diminution of catharsis?

Keynote address Dr Olga Cox Cameron: “The worst is not so long as we can say ‘this is the worst’”(King Lear, Act IV, Scene I)

Image: Fulchran-Jean Harriet, ‘Oedipus at Colonus’, 1798 (detail).

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