A few prefatory remarks, theoretical, personal, before we get to the root, or at least the root of the title. What I want to reflect upon eventually are the limits of performance, to the degree that approaching those limits seems to resemble an obsessional neurosis, in theater as in sports or any activity exceeding itself, its very discipline not only demanding but threatening, perilous, self-punishing in extremis - as it may be in psychoanalysis, where the accretions of the subject’s symptoms may push things to the limit. It is there, as Lacan remarks in his thesis on aggressivity as ‘intended aggression,’ that ‘the analytic experience allows us to feel the pressure of intention,’ while the symptoms - hesitations, evasions, parapraxes, the improvised or calculated deceits, sullen breakings off, remorse, returns, excesses of renewed commitment, and then again the vacillations, the turning off or against, ‘recrimi-nations, reproaches, phantasmic fears, emotional reactions of anger, attempts at intimidation’ 1 - might constitute a repertoire familiar in the course of rehearsal, especially to the director whose own pressures of intention may be arduous to the point of cruelty. I like to believe that Freud was right, however, when he observed
that the instinct for knowledge can actually take the place of sadism in the mechanism of obsessional neurosis. Indeed it is at bottom a sublimated off-shoot of the instinct for mastery exalted into something intellectual, and its repudiation in the form of doubt plays a large part in the picture of obsessional neurosis. 2
It is the instinct for knowledge to which I’ll also return, and to theater as heuristic, interrogative, a function of thought. But when I first began working with actors, the American theater was profoundly thoughtless. The repudiation of the intellectual, next to no doubt at all, accounted in part for my own obsessions - all of which were registered in The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto, which I wrote in the early 1960s, 3 anticipating the dissidence about to break out. Before that happened, however,
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Publication information: Book title: Psychoanalysis and Performance. Contributors: Patrick Campbell - Editor, Adrian Kear - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 21.
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