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Chaplin, R. (2020). Necessary violence, necessary pleasure: The common ground of literature and psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(2):288-299.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(2):288-299

Necessary violence, necessary pleasure: The common ground of literature and psychoanalysis

Rachel Chaplin

The nature of the intersection between literature and psychoanalysis has been variously theorized since Freud first acknowledged his debt to the “poets and philosophers”. I propose that one way we might conceptualize the shared work of poetry and psychoanalysis is as the working-through of the founding violence of our initiation into language, a working-through sustained by a bonus of pleasure. A detailed reading of “In the village” by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop suggests that she and Piera Aulagnier may be read as parallel theorists of this necessity for a bonus of representational pleasure. Aulagnier’s concept of the pictogram, a primal psychic representation recording the affect present at the moment of the first encounter between mother and infant, places reciprocal pleasure at the origins of the infant’s capacity to invest in the activity of representing. Bishop’s text stages an initial trauma, a maternal scream, damaging her child’s linguistic functioning. It then charts the progressive revivifying of the child’s representational capacities as she hears a “beautiful sound”. This leads to a partial cure of her linguistic functioning, enabling her to metabolize the initial scream, to find metaphorical resonance within language and to delimit the impact of the initial trauma.

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