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Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIII, 1979: Notes on Some Problems Posed by Sublimation in the Pictorial Arts. Pierre Luquet. Pp. 901-922.. Psychoanal Q., 53:636-637.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIII, 1979: Notes on Some Problems Posed by Sublimation in the Pictorial Arts. Pierre Luquet. Pp. 901-922.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:636-637

Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIII, 1979: Notes on Some Problems Posed by Sublimation in the Pictorial Arts. Pierre Luquet. Pp. 901-922.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Freud's certainty that in finding the laws of pathology he had at the same time discovered those of the human psyche remains valid today. However, the more the weight of the past diminishes, the more the individual acquires autonomy, becomes

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capable of novelty and creation, and tends to escape these simple laws. Psychoanalysis has unfortunately remained reductionistic with respect to the arts. It is a serious fault of theorizing to confuse the paths of integration with the diverse regressions discovered in psychopathology. This confusion leads us to overlook one of the most important aspects of human psychology, its capacity to evolve. And if we understand anything of the essence of art, it is its integrative function. Luquet proposes a "metaprimary system." In this theory, the preconscious has two poles, one oriented toward the unconscious and the other toward consciousness and language. The first is the metaprimary system. It uses the mechanism of the primary process, organizes symbolic material, and may find expression for itself in language, in music, in pictorial art or in other functions which are more or less autonomous with respect to its own integration. The metaprimary preconscious is an essential part of the ego. Its mode of functioning, however, is centered on mentalization without being clearly conscious. It offers many diverse possibilities of expression and is intuitive, in contrast with the intellectual and verbal functioning of the ego. It is primary in art and love and in experiential rather than intellectual knowledge. The pictorial arts are to be understood at the level of the metaprimary preconscious. Freud wrote of sublimation in terms of the displacement of the instinctual aim. Luquet focuses on the question of what the displacement shifts to. His thesis is that it contributes to the organization of a complex function that involves several distinct underlying instinctual fantasies. Unless there is such a function on the way to being organized, there cannot be a displacement of instinctual aim. With the abandonment of the object, instinctual energy is added to ego energy, and instinctual fantasies find an important discharge in the change of aim. The problem is not what impulses are most easily sublimated: it was once thought that these were pregenital impulses, but in fact sexual and genital impulses are equally capable of sublimation. Luquet's argument is that simplistic explications of art and artistic sublimation as merely perverse and pregenital fixations are not tenable. Analysts are confused sometimes by the presence of preoedipal impulses integrated into a postoedipal structure. This does not constitute a regression of the ego. A strong ego permits all libidinal regressions without fear, without eroding its structure, and without rigidifying its defenses. This is indeed the principal quality of artists, who are ready to run the risks so carefully avoided by those with character neuroses. An impulse integrated into a sublimation by pictorial representation is not a perversion, any more than talking of an act one would like to carry out is an acting out. Using such terms as perversion psychopathologizes art. For the pictorial arts, a preconscious interest in representation and the pleasure of seeing are involved, but the sexual aim is abandoned in favor of the aim of exteriorization of the representation. In the course of this complex and interesting paper, Luquet also discusses the drawings of children, the theme of narcissism, and the importance of self-portraits in almost all artistic productions, as well as the importance of the artist in the sociocultural context and tradition.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIII, 1979. Psychoanal. Q., 53:636-637

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