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Rusbridger, R. (2012). Affects in Melanie Klein. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 93(1):139-150.

(2012). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 93(1):139-150

Education Section

Affects in Melanie Klein Language Translation

Richard Rusbridger

In his essay on Jean Delay's biography of André Gide, Lacan (1958) memorably refers to Klein as “a diviner with a child's eyes, an inspired tripe butcher” [tripière inspirée]. He writes:

It was this emptiness [Gide as a child lying awake at night listening to the sobs of servants coming from the garret] that the child filled with monsters - the fauna of which we know, since an haruspex [a diviner in Etruscan and Roman religious practice who foretold the future from animals' entrails] with a child's [or, childlike] eyes, an inspired tripe butcher, catalogued them for us - seeing them in the entrails [les entrailles - the entrails, or the womb, or the innards] of the nourishing mother.

(Lacan, 1958[2006], p. 632)

Although clearly an ambiguous compliment, this says several things that ring true about Melanie Klein and affects. It picks up something of her unafraid and passionate involvement with her patients' feelings - her readiness to get involved with the patient's guts. It conveys how she starts from the body - the mother's body, and the child's own body - as the origin of feelings and phantasies. The image of the butcher says something too about the violence of the world of feared and phantasied attacks between child and mother that she discovered. This was the world she described of biting attacks on breasts, which are in turn feared to be attacking, and of the alarming penis of the father inside the mother. At the beginning of her work she over-stressed this world of what she called sadism, in comparison with loving feelings that she wrote more about later.

[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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