Freud and the Scene of Trauma

Freud and the Scene of Trauma

Freud and the Scene of Trauma

Freud and the Scene of Trauma

Synopsis

This book argues that Freud's mapping of trauma as a scene is central to both his clinical interpretation of his patients' symptoms and his construction of successive theoretical models and concepts to explain the power of such scenes in his patients' lives. This attention to the scenic form of trauma and its power in determining symptoms leads to Freud's break from the neurological model of trauma he inherited from Charcot. It also helps to explain the affinity that Freud and many sincehim have felt between psychoanalysis and literature (and artistic production more generally), and the privileged role of literature at certain turning points in the development of his thought. It is Freud's scenography of trauma and fantasy that speaks to the student of literature and painting. Overall, the book develops the thesis of Jean Laplanche that in Freud's shift from a traumatic to a developmental model, along with the undoubted gains embodied in the theory of infantile sexuality, there were crucial losses: specifically, the recognition of the role of the adult other and the traumatic encounter with adult sexuality that is entailed in the ordinary nurture and formation of the infantile subject.

Excerpt

This book is a study of the central role of trauma in Freud’s thought. It argues that it is Freud’s mapping of trauma as a scene, the elaboration of a scenography of trauma, that is central to both his clinical interpretation of his patients’ symptoms and his construction of successive theoretical models and concepts to explain the power of such scenes in his patients’ lives. This attention to the scenic form of trauma, and its power in the determination of neurotic symptoms, presides over Freud’s break from the neurological model of trauma he inherited from Charcot. It also helps explain the affinity that Freud and many since him have felt between psychoanalysis and literature (and artistic production more generally) and the privileged role of literature at certain moments in the development of his thought.

A number of alternative theoretical models are to be found in Freud’s work: traumatic seduction, screen memory, inherited primal fantasy (Urphantasie), the individually constructed originary fantasy (ursprüngliche Phantasie). All involve the analysis of sequences of scenes layered one upon the other in the manner of a textual palimpsest, with claims to either material or psychical reality. The notion of a ‘primal scene,’ a central term for this study (which argues that it has been misconstrued by later generations of psychoanalysts), designates the site of a trauma that deposits an alien and disturbing element in the suffering subject. These signifying traces of the seductive or traumatizing other person resist assimilation and binding into the ego’s narcissistic structures and personal archives; they function as an internal foreign body and so give rise to deferred or belated aftereffects. Trauma, involving the breaching of psychical boundaries by an excessive excitation and leading to an unmasterable repetition, characterizes both Freud’s first encounter with sexuality under the sign of . . .

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