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Title: Psychoanalysis as Poetry in Lacan's Clinical Paradigm
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Citation: After Lacan: Literature, Theory and Psychoanalysis in the 21st Century, 2018
Abstract: To write about psychoanalysis as poetry is risky; it might even be considered inappropriate, reckless and outright dangerous. To be clear, I do not intend to write about how psychoanalysis might be employed to interpret poetry, about how certain poets have taken inspiration from psychoanalysis, about the creative dialogue between psychoanalysts and poets, or about the healing power of poetry, but about how psychoanalytic theory and practice, and especially its Lacanian modality, is inflected and refracted by poetry. My argument is that in the Lacanian tradition, the psychoanalyst is expected to embrace the richly evocative playfulness of the ars poetica, which celebrates the polyphonic musicality of language whilst simultaneously adhering to specific formal structures and metrical patterns, in order to stay attuned to the uniquely human subjective truth from which the discipline derives its raison d’être. Developing such an argument appears to be in flagrant violation of Freud’s lifelong aspiration to secure the formal recognition of psychoanalysis as a proper science. In fact, it may even be perceived as jeopardizing contemporary attempts at rehabilitating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis as an effective, evidence-based treatment for various mental health problems. It will, no doubt, also play into the hands of all those who have been claiming for years that psychoanalysis firmly belongs in the arts and humanities, and that psychoanalysts (Freud included) are first and foremost creative writers, argonauts of the literary mind, dreamers with an eye for a show. The danger is not imaginary: in fact, the risk is real. Nevertheless, it is my conviction that by ignoring the poetic dimension of their work, psychoanalysts stand to lose more than risking their scientific credibility or undermining their professional legitimacy. In failing to appreciate how much their discipline owes to literary craft and poetic artistry, they risk rendering psychoanalysis soulless. Moreover, to acknowledge the poetic quality of psychoanalysis does not de facto imply that the discipline becomes completely devoid of scientific respectability. Even scientists bent on rigorous empirical verification occasionally admit that science and poetry are not strictly incompatible, that science contains poetic elements, and that unverified ‘poetic’ theories may over time become validated scientific principles.
Appears in Collections:Dept of Arts and Humanities Research Papers

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