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Eickhoff, F. (2018). Unzustellbar. Psychoanalytische Studien zu Philosophie, Trieb und Kultur [Undeliverable: Psychoanalytic studies on philosophy, instinct and culture] by Wolfgang Hegener. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 99(4):1043-1048.

(2018). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 99(4):1043-1048

Unzustellbar. Psychoanalytische Studien zu Philosophie, Trieb und Kultur [Undeliverable: Psychoanalytic studies on philosophy, instinct and culture] by Wolfgang Hegener

Friedrich‐Wilhelm Eickhoff

Wolfgang Hegener borrows the evocative title of his book ‘Undeliverable’ from the topos of undeliverable letters in Hermann Melville's short story Bartleby the Scrivener. In this moving story from 1853 the enigmatic protagonist Bartleby captivates the narrator, a New York attorney, who has hired him as a clerk in his law office, with his repeated and mild: “I would prefer not to”. The reader learns, after his sad death from starvation, of his former job in a Dead Letter Office. There he sorted undeliverable letters, the messages of which did not reach depressed people. The author focuses particularly on the image of the ‘dead’ letters because he sees in this metaphor an effective illustration of the circumscription of certain autistic emotional states, an expression of the silent workings of the death instinct, unsuccessful attachment and objectalizing functions. As in a dead script the work of translation fails when the memory cannot renew itself in what Freud called ‘retranscription’. With his speculations in ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ Freud marked the point at which there is a remnant, precisely, of these undeliverable remainders. Mindful of this constitutional limitation, Hegener naturally advocates the chance of an articulation and transformation, extending as far as possible, of that which gives the impression of being undeliverable.

In the chapter: ‘Between Counter‐science and the Power of Subjugation, Foucault, the Unconscious and the Place of the Psychoanalyst’ the author struggles hard with Michel Foucault's shadow and his inner contradictions. Before Foucault's ambivalent attitude led him to discard psychoanalysis, the psychoanalytical project played a major role in his work. It is true – the author writes – that Foucault allows Freud a special status, but then repeatedly withdraws it, similar to the ‘fort‐da’ game. On the one hand, Freud is called as a witness for a possible dialogue with unreason; on the other hand he is presented as the heir of psychiatry, in an all‐out attack, so that the Freudian model of the doctor‐patient relationship appears to be an external extension of the psychiatric asylum. Hegener forcefully confronts these polemic arguments by emphasizing the psychoanalyst's relinquishment of safety based on power.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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