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Engdahl, B. (1994). Autistic States and Transitional Phenomena: Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(2):159-171.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(2):159-171

Autistic States and Transitional Phenomena: Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde

Bonnie Engdahl, Ph.D.

Perhaps poets and artists can best put us in touch with the “let-down” which comes from the cracking of the glaze of pathological autism, the function of which is the avoidance of sensations of disillusionment, annihilation, mutilation, emptiness and cold despair associated with premature awareness of bodily separateness and individuation.

Frances Tustin, Autistic States in Children (1981)

My wound reopened. My wound: where you were torn out of me. Jealous? No. Sick to fainting for the past. Cast off despite all your kindness, Mother. Oh yes, banished from our eiderdown.

Violette Leduc, La Bâtarde (1964)

In her writings on “the semiotic,” a stage preceding the acquisition of symbolic language, French psychoanalyst and cultural critic Julia Kristeva theorizes what Tustin is simply speculating about above: that poets and artists (for Kristeva, certain “revolutionary” poets and artists) indeed do give us access to both primitive mental states and to a kind of presymbolic language of rhythm, pulsions, and sensory/tactile communication emerging from the infant's bodily and affective relation to the maternal body and mind. The way this is manifested in writing is in the creation of a literary language that is material rather than transparent (referential), a “music in language.” Examples include Mallarme, Joyce, and, in painting, Jackson Pollock.

This is the language of Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde in recurrent passages where she crosses from the ordinary referential narrative of her life (language as a window) to a musical language that can be a wailing, a fragmenting, or a hymn to joy and oneness (language as a screen).

My

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