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Groarke, S. (2020). Dark times: psychoanalytic perspectives on politics, history and mourning: by Jonathan Sklar, Bicester, Oxon: Phoenix Publishing House, 2019, £19.99, 96 pp. ISBN 97812691005. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(3):624-628.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(3):624-628

Dark times: psychoanalytic perspectives on politics, history and mourning: by Jonathan Sklar, Bicester, Oxon: Phoenix Publishing House, 2019, £19.99, 96 pp. ISBN 97812691005

Steven Groarke

The pressure to respond increases as things become more extreme and the assimilation of experience becomes harder, a problem that Lacan identified in terms of the tuché. And the question of what it means to respond to the unassimilable comes to the fore in Dark Times (2019), where Jonathan Sklar applies the central Freudian idea of “trauma” as a deferred experience – Freud’s own “dark and dismal subject” (das dunkle and düstere Thema) – not only to horrific events, but also to what remains untold in the aftermath. The thread of the untold is discernible throughout Sklar’s book in terms of “what really did happen” (70) but was never fully grasped. In the second of the three essays that make up this volume, Sklar cites Walter Benjamin’s 1933 essay “Experience and poverty”, which identifies a crisis of “communicable experience” in the wake of the World War I. Do we still come across people today who really know how to tell a story? In contrast to the ground-breaking studies of Shoshana Felman and Cathy Caruth, Sklar’s account of trauma does not require literary texts to do any real work. One misses the lively connection between literature and politics in these essays. Nevertheless, Benjamin’s historically incisive question, concerning the collapse of (fabular) meaning in the wake of Ypres, Verdum and the Somme, goes to the heart of what Sklar has to say.

[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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