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Green, A. (1973). On Negative Capability—A Critical Review of W. R. Bion's Attention and Interpretation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:115-119.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:115-119

On Negative Capability—A Critical Review of W. R. Bion's Attention and Interpretation

André Green

… Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. JOHN KEATS (Letter to George and Thomas Keats, 21 December 1817)

Trying to find out where the title of this book came from, I suddently realized that reading it could not conjure within me the feeling that its content directly dealt with any of the key-words supposed to represent the substance of the work. This led me to think that here again I was faced with one of those instances where the author, while trying to emulate and apply his model's theories, had come up with a container (the title) incapable of housing its content; the substance of the book, as in the case of analytic experience, could not be encompassed within the analyst's consulting room.

Actually, the word 'attention' is not even mentioned in the index and as to the term 'interpretation', what it referred to in the book reminded me, had I had half a mind to forget about it, of the author's warning against the exaggerated importance—and to go as far as the author, against the lack of value—in the act of interpreting of the idea that it is necessarily related to the interpreter's knowledge, experience and personality (p. 105). In fact, the person responsible for the interpretation (my own position vis-à-vis this book I had to comment upon) must do away with the feeling of kinship he might be tempted to establish between himself and the object of his interpretation.

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