whole thing was so momentous, overmastering, tragic, that in the end what I
wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. I have always had an exceptional
gift for passing out.
There are times when the most practical thing is
to lie down."
Spoken by the character Charles Citrine in Humboldts Gift, 1975
the [modern] distress lies exactly in formlessness; a sense of disconnection, or dissociation, of feeling from activity the extreme form of which may produce schizophrenic language, but the routein form of which creates a sense of meaninglessness in the midst of activity. The experience of emptiness, of inability to feel, is not easily encompassed by mechanical notions of repression. This shift in ordinary symptomatology has challanged psychoanalytic thinking to find a new diagnostic language, and to expand terms which in the early years of psychoanalysis were poorly thought out, because the then dominant clinical experiences of distress did not demand their articulation.
The Fall of Public Man, 1976
Donald Barthelmes statement that Fragments are the only form I trust
has ramifications far beyond the literary. However severe the problems posed
by such a principle for social and especially political revolution, we deceive
ourselves unless we learn to focus upon these shifting formsto recognize
new styles of life and new relations to institutions and to ideas. Indeed, we
require a little revolutionizing of our psychological assumptions, so that both
the young and the old can be understood, not as bound by static behavioral categories,
but as in continuous historical motion.
The essence of the protean self lies in its odd combinations. There is a linkingoften loose but functionalof identity elements and subselves not ordinarily associated with one another to the point of even seeming (in Max Ernsts words) mutually incompatible. The process is laid bare in James Joyces rendition of Ulysses, surely the great protean literary journey of the twentieth century. Joyces Proteus episode (his titles and structure follow Homers) portrays a world dominated by metamorphoses which continuously produce new centers of relations.
As in the
case of Joyces protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, the protean self is always
confronted with the danger that these odd combinations will not cohere. But
it continually combines its fragments in order to avoid fragmentation. One could
say the same for much of modern and contemporary art, especially the cubist-collage
tradition, as I shall also suggest
Robert Jay Lifton
History and Human Survival: Essays on the Young and the Old, Survivors and the Dead, Peace and War, and on Contemporary Psychohistory, 1970
The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation, 1993
I notice youd been using words like montage lately. You want to be careful; those who live by montage perish by montage.
Letter to Dwight Macdonald, published in
Between the Acts, The New Yorker, October 31, 1994, p. 84
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adams curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness
must grow worse.
East Coker, 1940, Four Quartets
ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but
is itself the projection of a surface.
The Ego and the Id, 1923
For Lacan, the ego is a product of the internalization of otherness. It is also a psychical projection of the body, a kind of map of the bodys psycho-social meaning. Lacans account of the founding role of what he calls the imaginary anatomy is perhaps one of the most productive and under-developed features of his work. The body as it is perceived or experienced by the child is the fragmented or body-in-bits-and-pieces. This is an uncoordinated, discrete assemblage of parts, exhibiting no regulated organization or internal cohesion.
Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction, 1990
I know my childhood was one-of-a-kind, not at all for its fecklessnesson this restless, errant continent I set no recordsbut for its lack of coherence. I was a rat in the maze, getting shocked, getting sweets, dark/light, cold/hot, prodded/cuddled, making my way to some eventual light, but no one was taking notes. The researcher had fallen asleep. My life has been pointless, one long search for meaning, which in a life means identity. Sometimes I feel the technicians had forgotten to exterminate me when the experiment was over; I was released back to the general rat population and allowed to contaminate as many people as I could. Whatever lesson my life might impart to others, unless I write about it and can do justice to it, has been lost. Whatever I might have learned is still locked away. I havent strayed from the shape and contents of my life because Im still trying to discover what I left behind.
I Had a Father: A Post-Modern Autobiography, 1993
alto sax player
Indefiniteness, proliferation, repetition, become less threatening if they are concentrated into a threatening adversary or powerful force, such as the castrating father; for this concentration makes possible a specular confrontation which, even though it bring terror or defeat, confirms the status of the self that repetition and proliferation threatened. The goal in each case, [Neil] Hertz writes, is the oedipal moment . when an indefinite and disarrayed sequence is resolved (at whatever sacrifice) into a one-to-one confrontation, when numerical excess is converted into that supererogatory identification with the blocking agent that is the guarantor of the selfs integrity as an agent. A passage to the limit may seem lurid, but it has its ethical and metaphysical uses. The demonic or the oedipalthe coloring of castration, for examplecan in fact be reassuring through its focusing and domesticating (bringing back to the father) of repetition that otherwise might seem indefinite, rhetorical, uncanny, gratuitous.
On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism, 1982, pp. 266 -67
The myth of Isis
and Osiris, as retold by Plutarch, presents such a concise scenario that the
most striking aspect of psychoanalytic discourse can be deduced directly from
it. We know the myth, which can be summarized briefly here. The god Osiris is
killed by Typhon who dismembers his corpse into pieces which he then scatters
in all directions. Osiriss faithful companion, Isis, patiently retrieves
the fourteen pieces to reassemble and reanimate them. However, there is one
part of Osiriss body which she cannot find: his virile member. To replace
this missing piece which is irretrievably lost, Isis erects a simulacrum which
she orders everyone to honor. The myth thus presents itself as the justification
of a rite: the exhibition of the phallus, which has become the object of a cult
in temples and which is carried in procession during certain festivals. To quote
Plutarch: Of the parts of Osiriss body the only one which Isis did
not find was the male member
but Isis made a replica (mimema) of the
member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus, in honor of which the
Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival.
The Phallus: Masculine Identity and the Exchange of Women, 1992 (Differences: The Phallus Issue, Spring 1992)
one can advance along these lines, in whatever form, will merely accentuate
the signifying function that conditions paternity
Of course, there is
no need of a signifier to be a father, any more than to be dead, but without
a signifier, no one would ever know anything about either state of being
Indeed, in the subjective economy, governed as we see it by the unconscious, it is a signification that is evoked only by what we call a metaphor, in particular, the paternal metaphor.
On a Question Prelilminary to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis, Écrits, 1966/77
One could, therefore,
say that the human being is an effect of the signifier rather than its cause.
Insertion into the symbolic world is a mimesis, a collage. It fashions a being
of representation for us.
Jacques Lacan, 1970 / 77
instead of beginning with the conscious, that is, by being confronted
by the adult in whom consciousness and cognition are fully developed, and whom
one looks backwards to the unconscious, we start with the infant in whom cognitive
faculties are not yet developed, and look forward to cognition, then the reverse
of the (usual) picture arises. The strange part of the mind, the phantasy part
is what confronts us. This is now the norm, and the problem before us is: How
and why does the cognitive system arise?
The World Technique, 1979
As you say
that, all these things come back. My father worked with Heimie a long time.
Heimie was killed; he fell off a building. And my father fell off a building,
but later. They used to do their work on high buildings, and they must have
thought they were angels or feathers. Among other things my father broke
was his pelvis, in five places. We were all very proud of it, because no one
we knew had a father with a pelvis broken in five places.
Discussion in D. Weismann The Collage as Model, 1969
And it was the murder of your father that decided you to come here for treatment?
Doesnt it seem enough?
The death of his father is always a critical moment in a mans life, but usually he has time to make psychological preparation for it. The father grows old, relinquishes his claims on life, is manifestly preparing for death. A violent death is certainly a severe shock. But then, you knew your father must die sometime, didnt you?
The Deptfort Trilogy, 2, The Manticore, 1972, p. 282
What has actually disappearedin Sartre and in protean man in generalis the classical superego, the interalization of clearly defined criteria of right and wrong transmitted within a particular culture by parents to their children. Protean man requires freedom from precisely that kind of superegohe requires a symbolic fatherlessness in order to carry out his explorations. But we shall see that, rather than being free of guilt, his guilt takes on a different form from that of his predecessors. He is starved for ideas and feelings that can give coherence to his world, but here too his taste is toward new combinations.
Robert Jay Lifton
Protean Man, 1968
have a happy childhood, [Stemple] says. My father died when I was
seven and a half, and I had a poor relation with my mother. By 1956, I had spent
eight years in the Army to get away from her.
Quoted in Quiz Man, on the 1959 scandal involving the quiz show Twenty-One, The New Yorker, June 21, 1993, p. 33.
Now that Sachs is dead,
I find it unbearable to think back to what he was like then, to remember all
the generosity and humor and intelligence that poured out of him that first
time we met. In spite of the facts, its difficult for me to imagine that
the person who sat with me in the bar that day was the same person who wound
up destroying himself last week. The journey must have been so long for him,
so horrible, so fraught with suffering, I can scarcely think about it without
wanting to cry. In fifteen years, Sach traveled from one end of himself to the
other, and by the time he came to that last place, I doubt he even knew who
he was anymore. So much distance had been covered by then, it wouldnt
have been possible for him to remember where he had begun.
Leviathan, 1992, p. 15
Men die for this reason that they cannot join the beginning to the end.
In Rudolf Arnheim, Space as an Image of Time, 1978
Senator Bob Kerrey's
hands trembled slightly as he began to read six pages of documents that had
just been handed to him. It was late 1998; the papers were nearly 30 years old.
On the face of it, they were routine "after action" combat reports
of the sort filed by the thousands during the Vietnam War. But Kerrey knew the
pages held a personal secret -- of an event so traumatic that he says it once
prompted fleeting thoughts of suicide...
In the Senate, Kerrey had a reputation as a maverick whom few of his colleagues truly understood. For his entire political career, he held his secret. In his Capitol Hill office, he kept an easel where he sometimes made collages using newspaper pictures of people in agony. He wrote poetry and painted in watercolors. In the center of one landscape watercolor, Kerrey wrote in black marker the words of Emily Dickinson.
Remorse is Memory awake,
Her companies astir, -
A presence of departed acts
At window and at door.
Its past set down before the soul,
And lighted with a match,
Perusal to facilitate
Of its condensed despatch.
Remorse is cureless, -- the disease
Not even God can heal;
For 'tis His institution, --
The complement of Hell.
Gregory L. Vistica
One Awful Night in Thanh Phong,
New York Times Magazine, April 25, 2001
had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments. Collage
was like an image of the revolution within menot as it was, but as it
might have been.
In John Russell, The Meanings of Modern Art, Vol 6, 1975
Riding in a cart, he looked back to retain as much as possible.
Which means he knew what was needed for some ultimate moment
When he would compose from fragments a world perfect at last.
The Witness of Poetry, 1983
the definition of modern man as one condemned to re-create his own universe,
twentieth-century Viennese culture had found its voice.
Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, 1979
this office books are considered raw material, spare parts, gears to be dismantled
If On a Winters Night a Traveller, 1979
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Situationists here. It seems as if an excerpt from my pamphlet is in order, given the interest in the genealogy of culture jamming:
"Jamming is part of a historical continuum that includes Russian samizdat (underground publishing in defiance of official censorship); the anti-fascist photomontages of John Heartfield; Situationist detournement (defined by Greil Marcus, in _Lipstick Traces_, as 'the theft of aesthetic artifacts from their contexts and their diversion into contexts of one's own devise'); the underground journalism of '60s radicals such as Paul Krassner, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman; Yippie street theater such as the celebrated attempt to levitate the Pentagon; parody religions such as the Dallas-based Church of the Subgenius; workplace sabotage of the sort documented by _Processed World_, a magazine for disaffected data entry drones; the ecopolitical monkeywrenching of Earth First!; the random acts of Artaudian cruelty that radical theorist Hakim Bey calls 'poetic terrorism' ('weird dancing in all-night computer banking lobbies...bizarre alien artifacts strewn in State Parks'); the insurgent use of the 'cut-up' collage technique proposed by William Burroughs in 'Electronic Revolution' ('The control of the mass media depends on laying down lines of association...Cut/up techniques could swamp the mass media with total illusion'); and subcultural bricolage (the refunctioning, by societal 'outsiders,' of symbols associated with the dominant culture, as in the appropriation of corporate attire and _Vogue_model poses by poor, gay, and largely nowhite drag queens).
Quoting forTrolls (josh)
[Posting on the on-line service, The Well]
Tue, Oct 12, '93 (11:19)
5. Topic 681: Culture Jamming: Hacking the Media# 12
Yup. I just wrote a whole book on what you call culture jamming for Ballantine called "Media Virus: Hidden Agendas in Popular Cultures." It took me a whole book to say what you did in a pamphlet -- but I had to explain a lot of the cultureal references that your readers already know.
I'm particularly interested in the way cut-up techniques mirror gene-splicing in the way they create meaning through the juxtaposition of memes.
Memes R Us (rushkoff)
Thu 14 Oct 93 06:22
Fascinating. I'm of the mind that collage is _the_ preeminent artistic technique of this century, and in that light, the 19th century myth of Frankenstein can be read as foreshadowing (not to mention bodying forth) the 20th century innovation of collage---the monster is an ad hoc assemblage, a kludge, of body parts, badly hacked together in the same way that the "lead sleds" of '50s Kustom Kars were jury-rigged from make-shift parts in the wake of a war that had made automobile parts hard to find and in the same way that the cobbled-together robots of Mark Pauline's Survival Research Laboratories are born of "creative scavenging," after hours, in Silicon Valley. Greil Marcus has fascinating things to say, in _Lipstick Traces_, about the imbricate relationship of photos of horribly mutilated veterans of World War I smuggled out of sanitariums and the monstrous masks worn by Dadaists in cabaret performances. But I digress. How _do_ cut-up techniques mirror gene-splicing, precisely?
Thu 14 Oct 93 10:09
As you say that,
all these things come back. My father worked with Heimie a long time. Heimie
was killed; he fell off a building. And my father fell off a building, but later.
They used to do their work on high buildings, and they must have thought they
were angels or feathers. Among other things my father broke was his pelvis,
in five places. We were all very proud of it, because no one we knew had a father
with a pelvis broken in five places.
Discussion in Donald Weismann The Collage as Model, 1969
Why are these people reading Lacan or Foucault who have no awareness at all of mass media? Why would anyone go on about the school of Saussure? In none of that French crap is there any reference to media. Out culture is a pop culture. Americans are the ones who have to be interpreting the pop culture reality.
Paglia: Brash, Self-promoting and Possibly the Next Marshall McLuhan, interviewed by Stuart Brand, in Wired, 1.1, 1993.
In solitary confinement before his color TV, the citizen is made a part of all that is happening on a planetary scale and impressed with his powerlessness to act on precisely that planetary scale. Closed in upon himself, the citizen is not the yeoman structure that creates the content of the Republic, but simply a photograph in a collage enormously larger than himself.
Evil and the World Order, 1975
the fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand retrieval.
You are familiar with all that was written about the true outline of Pascals Pensés, until a structuralist analyst showed not only that the fragment as a literary form was necessary to Pascal but that and this is far more important he used it intentionally and that it was a Cartesian perspective that had prevented considering fragments as ends in themselves. For Pascals message is that Man is great in that he searches for absolute values but small in that, without ever ceasing to search, he knows that he can never approach these values. The only form to express this content is one which does not prove the contrary: which doesnt show either a man who has abandoned the search or one who has approached the goal. The fragment is such a form.
Structure: Human Reality and Methodologicial Concept, 1972
The protean style of self-process, then, is characterized by an interminable series of experiments and explorations some shallow, some profound each of which may be readily abandoned in favor of still new psycholgical quests. The pattern in many ways resembles what Erik Erikson has called identity diffusion or identity confusion, and the impaired psychological functioning which those terms suggest can be very much present. But I would stress that the protean style is by no means pathological as such, and, in fact, may well be one of the functional patterns of our day. It extends to all area of human experience to political as well as sexual behavior, to the holding and promulgating of ideas and to the general organization of lives.
I would stress two historical developments as having special importance for creating protean man. The first is the world-wide sense of what I have call historical (or psychohistorical) dislocation, the break in the sense of connection which men have long felt with the vital and nourishing symbols of their cultural tradition symbols revolving around family, idea systems, religions, and the life cycle in general. In our contemporary world one perceives these traditional symbols as irrelevant, burdensome or inactivating, and yet one cannot avoid carrying them within or having ones self-process profoundly affected by them. The second large historical tendency is the flooding of imagery produced by the extraordinary flow of post-modern cultural influences over mass communication networks. These cross readily over local and national boundaries, and permit each individual to be touched by everything, but at the same time cause him to be overwhelmed by superficial messages and undigested cultural elements, by headlines and by endless partial alternatives in every sphere of life. These alternatives, moreover, are universally and simultaneously shared if not as course of action, at least in the form of significant inner imagery.
[One] encounters in protean man what I would call strong ideological hunger. He is starved for ideas and feelings that can give coherence to his world, but here too his taste is toward new combinations While he is by no means without yearning for the absolute, what he finds most acceptable are images of a more fragmentary nature than those of the ideologies of the past; and these images, although limited and often fleeting, can have great influence upon his psychological life.
Important here is the complex stance of the pop artist toward the objects he depicts On the one had he embraces the materials of the everyday world, celebrates and even exalts them boldly asserting his creative return to representational art and his psychological return to the real world of the things. On the other hand, everything he touches he mocks. Thingness is pressed to the point of caricature.
Following upon all that I have said are radical impairments to the symbolism of transition within the life cycle the rites de passage surrounding birth, entry into adulthood, marriage and death. Whatever rites remain seem shallow, inappropriate, fragmentary.
Robert Jay Lifton
Protean Man, 1968
One thing is sure, a more alive ritual will not be born without pangs and anguish. Birth, and growth, and change are what cause most of the ache of existence. As Ernst Barlach, the artist, wrote, I once remarked to you that there is a law that no work can turn out successfully unless it goes through a series of crises that deepen and spiritualize it.
Ritual as Communication, 1973
Ulysses is for me the prototype of man, not only modern man, but the man of the future as well, because he represents the type of the trapped voyager. His voyage was a voyage toward the center, toward Ithaca, which is to say, toward himself. He was a fine navigator, but destiny spoken here in terms of trials of initiation which he had to overcome forced him to postpone indefinitely his return to hearth and home. I think that the myth of Ulysses is very important for us. We will all be a little like Ulysses, for in searching, in hoping to arrive, and finally, without a doubt, in finding once again the homeland, the hearth, we re-discover ourselves. But, as in the Labyrinth, in every questionable turn, one risks losing oneself. If one succeeds in getting out of the Labyrinth, in finding ones home again, then one becomes a new being.
LEpreuve du labryinthe, 1978, trans. Paul Ricoeur in Narrative Time, 1980
Increasingly in my clinical work I had found myself needing to find what verbal concept in psycho-analytical thinking corresponded with what L.L. Whyte has called the formative principle. Should one use the term id to refer to this? I did not feel sure that this, with its meaning of the impersonal source of the instincts, sufficiently covered the observed facts; or, if it did, must one not include and organizing pattern-making aspect of instinct, somethilng that is shown in a persons particular and individual rhythms and style? Or is the term unconscious integrating aspect of the ego more appropriate? (See Note1) Certainly, some patients seemed to be aware dimly or increasingly, of a force in them to do with growth, growth towards their own shape, also as something that seemed to be sensed as driving them to break down false inner organizations which do not really belong to them; something which can also be deeply feared, as a kind of creative fury that will not let them rest content with a merely compliant adaptation and also feared because of the temporary chaos it must cause when the integrations on a false basis are in the process of being broken down in order that a better one may emerge.
Note 1: I seem to have here shied away from the phrase synthetic function of the ego, which I suppose I first became familiar with through Hartmanns work (1950). I think I had not found it a very comfortable term because of the way in which the word synthetic can be used, in everyday language, to describe a contrived and artificial product imposed from above, as against one that is the result of growth from hidden roots.
The Hands of the Living God: An Account of a Psycho-analytic Treatment, 1969
Freuds technique is successful when it sets free the formative process in the patient; his theories are inadequate, judged by the austere criterion of science, because the dissociated tradition working in Freuds own mind prevented him recognizing the formative process. But this contrast of theory and technique is only partially valid. The technique often failed, because it left the patient without the self-knowledge which is only possible through a unitary form of thought. On the other hand some of Freuds concepts will long continue to bear fruit.
Freuds world of thought lacked the formative principle which could set the spirit free to recover its sense of freedom within the necessity proper to itself It is appropriate that in coming to grips with Freud, unitary thought is forces to develop something of its own conception of the structure of contemporary personality.
If the dissociated tradition has damaged the development of an individual, the unitary method of thought can be used to facilitate the regenerative porcesses which are latent in every organism.
A true therapeutic method will attract rather than repel the mildly unhealthy.
Lancelot Law Whyte
The Next Development in Man, 1944
To articulate the past historically, Walter Benjamin said, means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. For several decades we have been living through a continuous moment of danger, so that our history and past culture presents itself to a danger-alerted mind, searching for evidence of democratic endurance and resources of cultural strength and growth. And that cultural inheritance must constitute not only some part of what we think and feel about, but also some part of what we think and feel with.
if a future is to be made, it must be made in some part from these.
The Poverty of Theory, 1978
I reread Liftons article [Protean Man] because I was thinking of photography, the protean medium incarnate [Those] who do photography may flow with it, omni-attentive, at the beck of an infinite series of obscure transformations.
New Japanese Photography, 1974
Picasso took the photograph
in his small hands. He held it horizontally in front of him, carefully, as though
it were a valuable bowl. After assuring himself that we were watching him attentively,
he ever-so-attentively, and with a concentrated expression of his face, turned
it backward, downward, until the pictures upper edge touched the surface
of the table. After a glance at us, he raised it again and bent it till it became
warjped. Finally, he slowly rolled up. Did you see? he asked. Theres
so much one can do. And how littles actually been done so far! Wherever
you look, therere univestigated and unexploited things. Even this photographwhich,
although it might seem final, can be reused in the most varying wayscan
be re-photographed and yield the most unexpected effects. Every photograph can
be the starting point for a whole series of new photographs, and every one of
those can then be used in a similar way
When one works that way, theres
no end at all.
Begegnungen mit Künstlern der Gegenwart, quoted in The Transformations of Photography, Tusen och en bild, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1979, incident described occurred in the early 1940s