Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Vale of Soulmaking: The Post-Kleinian Model of the Mind and Its Poetic Origins

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Vale of Soulmaking: The Post-Kleinian Model of the Mind and Its Poetic Origins

Article excerpt

The vale of soulmaking: The post-Kleinian model of the mind and its poetic origins by Meg Harris Williams London: Karnac. 2005. 251 p. Reviewed by Gilead Nachmani, 185 E 85th St #29J, New York, NY 10028, USA - gilead18@aol.com

In his foreword to this beautifully written book, Donald Meltzer acknowledges that Harris Williams had, many years ago, taken his own work seriously by considering it and contextualizing it in combination with Bion's work and calling it 'post-Kleinian.' He added that Klein gave psychoanalysis a distinctly platonic orientation, in contrast to Freud's 'scientific orientation,' by discovering that the inner world had its own type of geographic concreteness, and that it was from the 'transactions' of this inner world (dreams and unconscious phantasies) that the meaning of the outer world derived its origin. While external objects modified internal objects, it was the objects of the internal world that gave particular and individual meaning to the external world. It was not from external consensus. Some meaning and the development or formation of earliest character can be found in utero where the child-to-be relates to its intimate environment and its containing mother. At birth, there are the potential for 'love at first sight' moments of 'passionate contact' between the two. For Harris Williams, such moments of passionate contact possess the capacity to express love of the world, hatred of the constraints of desire, and the desire for knowledge. Both Meltzer and Harris Williams refer to a 'thirst for knowledge,' a concrete but poetically delicate semantic affirmation that, at the site of nurturance and feeding, it is not simply the body that is nourished (thirst), but also the site where exploration and the creation of meaning (epistemology) outside the womb begins through holding and the eye-to-eye gaze of the mother-baby: feeding and learning are vitally linked. At this wondrous transforming nipple and breast, eye-to-eye contact with mommy, the 'beautiful object' is internalized. For the infant, this can happen with mommy and other intimate caregivers, and later in life with one's muse. This is a far more sophisticated, subtle, and emotionally impactful experience than the 'internalization of the ideal good object.' It is rich with passion. For Harris Williams, the wealth of psychoanalytic understanding and applicability is moving out of the consulting room and into an internal artistically beautiful 'sacred chamber,' an internal studio, where internal objects dwell and are created in response to the perception of beauty and passion in the eyes of one's muse-the soul. This is one of the major theses of this book. Psychoanalysis is leaving science and entering the world of art, beauty, and aesthetics. Although internalized, these objects are not rigid or fixed in time and in character forever, but they are dynamically open to change, and so the capacities to create meaning and love of knowledge can flourish. They require a muse. The muse is the intrapsychic partner of creativity in the self, as the psychoanalyst is the analysand's partner, as the loving caregiver is the external source of love at first sight for the infant who becomes internalized. In this experience of love at first sight, one can begin to comprehend the radical post-Kleinian revision of theory, in that the temporal location of the depressive position precedes the paranoid-schizoid position in the development of object relations: soulmaking.

Harris Williams elaborates on the aesthetic conflict (Meltzer and Harris Williams, 1988), the pursuit of knowledge, ethics, and beauty, through a developmental psychoanalytic exegesis of examples from poetry, mythology, and theology. It is from these contexts and domains of creativity that she offers her own perspectives on the development of the mind-the vale of soulmaking. She is surely no stranger to English literature, poetry, and the critical deconstruction of mythological and theological texts as well as post-Kleinian psychoanalytic thinking. …

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