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Wilson, E., Jr. (1987). Psyche. XXXVIII, 1984: The Problem of the Death Instinct. Peter Widmer. Pp. 1059-1082.. Psychoanal Q., 56:603.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psyche. XXXVIII, 1984: The Problem of the Death Instinct. Peter Widmer. Pp. 1059-1082.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:603

Psyche. XXXVIII, 1984: The Problem of the Death Instinct. Peter Widmer. Pp. 1059-1082.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Widmer discusses Freud's concept of the death instinct, elucidating it with some ideas of Lacan. When Freud introduced the death instinct in 1920 in "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," many confusions and uncertainties arose. Not only did Freud seek to link the death instinct to biology, he also sought to link it to speech and language. He saw his grandchild's play with the words fort and da as an attempt to master absence and loss. Freud's text does not fully explain the connection between the child's game and the death instinct, but Lacan has pointed out how the substitution of a speech symbol results in a symbolic death; the subject is recognized as mortal, and can be "away" although present in the symbol. The biological subject is transformed into a subject capable of language. Speech is the means by which the self is constituted and distinguished from the not-I, from the world of things separate from the self. Widmer uses this concept of the role of language to examine, under the influence of Lacan, the notions of masochism, sadism, and melancholia. Pain is the price the masochist and the depressive pay to avoid separation from the object, while sadism is the attempt at mastery of what is foreign to the self.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1987). Psyche. XXXVIII, 1984. Psychoanal. Q., 56:603

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