Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Seven: Escaping the Phantom's Ghostly Grasp: On Psychoanalysis as a Performance Art in the Spirit World

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Seven: Escaping the Phantom's Ghostly Grasp: On Psychoanalysis as a Performance Art in the Spirit World

Article excerpt

Those who have seen your face draw back in fear...

/ am the mask you wear. My spirit, my voice in one combined.

The Phantom of me Opera is there... inside my mind...

-Christine Daae and the Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera

He often comes to her in her dreams at night, gently calling her name. She never actually sees him; she only hears his hauntingly beautiful voice speaking to her until, one evening, he quite unexpectedly materializes in the full-length mirror in her dressing room. As her father had promised her before he died, the Angel of Music had come to teach her to sing the music that she herself had inspired him to compose, the love story told in The Music of the Night. His face half-obscured by a white mask, he tells her to look at her face in the mirror and there she will see him inside. And he then invites her inside the mirror. As she enters, she is led by her ghostly guide and guardian through a gloomy maze of passages beneath the Paris opera house, across a great subterranean lake, and into the deepest and darkest regions of his inner world where she comes to know him and why he must hide behind his mask. And so begins the powerful and passionate story of The Phantom of the Opera, a journey into the wellsprings of desire and passion, innocence and tenderness, and darkness and hatred found deep within the phantom's obsession with Christine.

First published by Gaston Leroux (1910) as a dark tale of suspense and obsession, The Phantom of the Opera was later adapted to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night (Levan, 1990).1 In so doing, the minds of author and composer came together to reach deep inside the old Paris opera house, enter the shadowimage of Christine's phantomlike other, and unleash the power of this basic human drama. And through the magical interweave of the transformative arts of storytelling, song, and poetry with the performance arts of the theatre, they invite the audience to join with Christine in looking beneath the mask and witnessing her escape from her phantom's ghostly grasp.

Wherever there is culture there are forms of theatre. And as a cultural phenomenon, the theatre is generally seen as a source of entertainment or as a diversion from real life (Fischer-Lichte, 1992). Rarely is the theatre thought of, however, as being necessary for sustaining life itself. A very different meaning, function, and significance emerges when the mind of the analytic practitioner reaches into the theatre, steps onto its stage with another human being, and blends the transformative arts with the performance arts to speak with the ghosts of the person's spirit world. In Theaters of the Mind, for example, McDougall (1985) considers the theatre as a metaphor for the human dramas of everyday life, a way of understanding the psychoanalytic process and psychic reality, and the stage upon which these dramas can be re-constructed, re-lived, and re-experienced in the analytic space. In her Theaters of the Body, McDougall (1989) reaches even further to include those people accustomed to speaking their stories through their bodies and, in so doing, giving expression to their psyche's primitive messages in the form of allergic, gastric, cardiac and other such physical symptoms. Both her books trace their genealogy to Anna O's private theater and her mysterious "chimney sweeping" through which process her deafness, visual disturbances, and muscular paralyses gradually disappeared as she expressed her experiences surrounding her father's death; chimney sweeping had somehow enabled her escape from her phantom's ghostly grasp. This chapter poses the question. Is there another stage onto which the analyst might step, reach even further into the spirit realm and, in so doing, speak with the phantoms that reside therein?

Described as a madman-philosopher, a poet-dramatist, and a theorist-playwright, Antonin Artaud (1895-1948) wrote a collection of essays on the theatre during his nine years in various mental asylums in France in the 1930s. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.