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Wilson, E., Jr. (1987). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLVI, 1982: Specifics and Vicissitudes of the Après-coup in Freudian Theory and in Clinical Practice. Jean Cournut. Pp. 534-557.. Psychoanal Q., 56:591.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLVI, 1982: Specifics and Vicissitudes of the Après-coup in Freudian Theory and in Clinical Practice. Jean Cournut. Pp. 534-557.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:591

Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLVI, 1982: Specifics and Vicissitudes of the Après-coup in Freudian Theory and in Clinical Practice. Jean Cournut. Pp. 534-557.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Children ask "how?" and adults give them tales about cabbages, the stork, seeds, etc. When one asks "why," however, things are more complicated. This is embarrassing for parents, for such questions go beyond their ready answers. Parents are being asked about their own desire—why do they make children? "You'll understand more later," is the usual reply. This is après-coup, that is, understanding the past through the future. But it can be terrifying if we do not know what the future will bring: we know even less what the past is reserving for us. One knows it unconsciously very well, however. The simple, common-sense principle of causality is applied linearly: what happens today is the result of what happened yesterday. There is a closed system, sealed by the Divinity or by science, and coherence is guaranteed. In this linear model, the après-coup comes after the event. But this system fails when a "why" appears. Questions of origins are endless; one must ask about the origins of origins. The way out is sometimes to reverse the temporal markers of causality: the future will explain the present and will tell us its origins. Its meaning will become clear later—après-coup! The future produces, gives meaning to, integrates the present. How does the present clarify the past? Is it not a retroactive fantasy, or a reinterpretation of the past? Or does the après-coup mean that there really was an avant coup, a prior event, truly experienced, without which the après-coup would be only illusion? How does the après-coup come about? These are the urgent questions that the concept prompts. Cournut traces Freud's use of the concept and shows the theoretical permutations that came about both in the attempt to use the notion of après-coup, and in the attempt to deal with these difficult questions.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1987). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLVI, 1982. Psychoanal. Q., 56:591

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