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The Thinking Body: A Feminist Revision of Melanie Klein

by Jo Nash.



I. For an interesting discussion of this idea read Forces of Destiny by Christopher Bollas, particularly Chapter Two ‘The Destiny Drive’ (1989, pp, 23-49). In this chapter Bollas pays attention to the psychoanalyst’s function in facilitating not only the analysand’s knowledge and articulation of their internal world, but also as a facilitator of the analysand’s ‘becoming’. In order to fulfil this latter function for the analysand, the psychoanalyst must be prepared to be used by the analysand as an object able to survive destruction in order to allow the potential space for a ‘new becoming’ to take place. The analyst must be prepared for their analysand to use them to articulate, and enact destructive hatred. To become a creative living person, argues Bollas, one must be able to enact instinctual urges without assuming that such urges must always give way to undue reparative work. In order to continue developing, one must be able to assume that love-objects can survive hatred and accept one’s destructiveness alongside one’s goodness.

2. I use the term ‘Oedipal’ here rather than post-Oedipal as it is my contention that despite the myth of the post-Oedipal adult male, most men never attain such a relation to women or mothers. This is because the cultural imperatives bound up with the developmental transition from boy to man entailed in working through the Oedipus complex are dependent upon a continuing part-object relation to women-mother’s bodies, as described in Chapters Three and Four of this study.

3. The idea that fleshy bodies are epistemological registers of affective truth also drives Deleuzian thought which I use increasingly further on in this study. Deleuze draws upon the work of Antonin Artaud who articulated this as follows:

These unformulated forces which besiege me, the day will come when my reason will have to accept them, the day will come when they will replace higher thought, these forces which from the outside have the shape of a cry. There are intellectual cries, cries born of the subtlety of the marrow. This is what I mean by Flesh. I do not separate my thought from my life. With each vibration of my tongue I retrace all the pathways of my thought in my flesh...

There is a mind in the flesh, but a mind as quick as lightening. And yet the excitement of the flesh partakes of the high substance of the mind (1925, pp. 110-111).

4. Deleuzian thought, like Freudian or Kleinian thought, is a discourse in its own right with its own unique terms and conceptual strata. However, I do feel that to pluck out concepts that are useful to an alternative, not necessarily ‘purely Deleuzian’ enterprise is in keeping with the pragmatic approach proposed by Deleuzian thought. That is why I have referred to Deleuze and Guattari’s term ‘becoming-woman’ which they use in their seminal text A Thousand Plateaus (1989). They argue that all ‘becomings’ or de-territorialisations and re-territorialisations of the self must pass through a ‘becoming-woman’, which implies the state of ‘minotorian’ and nomadic flux on route to other becomings. By contrast, there is no ‘becoming-man’ because this is the ‘majortorian’ ‘macrostandard’ of Being, a ‘molar’ identity against which all ‘others’ are evaluated. Becomings disrupt, disturb and subvert molar identities such as Man or Woman. This concept is endlessly re-drafted in Deleuze and Guattari’s text, however, for the sake of brevity and in line with their pragmatic approach I shall define ‘becoming-woman’ as follows. Becoming-woman entails an existential shift in Being which opens one’s bodily experience of self to the ‘affective circularities’ of pre-symbolic or non-symbolic ‘semiotic regimes’ that connect all becomings and Being (whether organic, human, animal or mineral) through the immanent plane of desire. This process of is pre-condition of all other becomings, and will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Six.

5. The scapegoat is the person in the group that is used as a container for the negative and destructive feelings, actions and behaviour of others. Often the scapegoat is simultaneously a ‘whistle blower’, in that they are the person who exposes just such negative and destructive tendencies within the group and thereby declare themselves in opposition or out of step with the rest of the group. Laing’s work exposed the common occurrence of scapegoating in families where a female child is denied the opportunity to develop a self, and in this event, defend themselves against the intrusive phantasies, assumptions and projections of others by erecting the intrapsychic shield of psychosis. This work has been criticised for suggesting that dysfunctional families cause schizophrenia, however this work also provides important insights into the psychological effects of shared, or social phantasy systems when they entail the absolute denial of a group member’s individual experience of the group, and deny an individual the right to their autonomy, or sense of self within the group. Should the scapegoat refuse to accept their designated role and turn on the group, then they can in effect destroy the foundations of that group entirely. For the foundations of a group in need of a scapegoat are based on mutual deception between all other members.

Deleuze and Guattari (1987) pay comparable attention to the phenomenon of the scapegoat, who they argue responds to a despotic, paranoid signifying regime by setting to work on their own account. They do this by adopting a line of flight from the group which is then, however, assigned a negative value by that group, subject as they are to a despotic and paranoid signifying regime. Deleuze and Guattari write about groups being possessed by dominant delusions which shift and adapt according to prevailing historical, political and social conditions. The scapegoat is assigned a negative line of flight from the group for daring to disrupt the dominant delusion.

6. Despotic group dynamics are the most rigid and dangerous for any member to disrupt, yet as discussed in the last paragraph to note 5, it is just such groups which excel in their production of the scapegoat. A despotic group leader controls members by instilling paranoia and by pointing toward the fate of the scapegoat. In that sense such a group dynamic may be termed paranoid-schizoid in that they depend on the evocation of primitive terrors based upon splitting groups into ideal/good and spoiling/bad part-object identified factions.

7. For Deleuze and Guattari, the rhizome

. . . accedes to a higher unity, of ambivalence or overdetermination, in an always supplementary dimension to its object... A rhizome as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes... some animals are, in their pack form. Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all of their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion and breakout... any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be... A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organisations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences and social struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive (1987, pp, 6-7).

A feminism of autonomy shares the above ambitions and qualities of the rhizome. That is why I refer increasingly to the rhizome and rhizomatic qualities as this study develops. Deleuze and Guattari also argue that a rhizome must be ‘nomadic’, i.e., not fixed in terms of its locality or destination, in order to enable maximisation of connections, deterritorialisations and reterritorialisations. In other words the rhizomatic, nomadic subject maximises opportunities to produce, to make, to create new ‘assemblages’ (circulations of affectivity, comprised of a multiplicity of the planes of desire).

8. Delueze and Guattari also shatter the illusion of a linear temporality and the investment of this temporal order in linear, dichotomous modalities of thought. They point toward the eternal, cycling nature of time and thinking coalescent in Nietzsche’s concept of ‘eternal return’ They imply that an alternative temporal investment is necessary in a rhizomatic regime of signs ‘not a linear and temporal succession of finite proceedings, rather... [a] simultaneity of circles in unlimited expansion’ (p, 120).

9. Nietzsche’s concept of ‘eternal return’ seems to anticipate Freud’s observations of ‘the return of the repressed’ and ‘the compulsion to repeat’ common to patients suffering from neurosis. For Nietzsche what always returns is the ‘not-known’ of thought. Heidegger uses this idea as his point of departure for his lecture series What Is Called Thinking? What there is to be thought has been for Heidegger ‘forgotten’, and resides in the womb of Memory. For Freud, what is ‘repressed’ are the unknown aspects of a patients internal world. For both, the forgotten and the repressed are rigidly expelled only to return the more insistently, and disturbingly.

Thinking, or knowing involves integrating what has been forgotten, allowing the repressed to return. I suggest that both of these depend upon an ability to articulate the evocative intuitions of the flesh. I also suggest that it is just these intuitions which comprise the not-known of thought which strives always to return, in order to be known.

10. Paradoxically, technical progress evolves only from the ever increasing need to organise the distribution and production of goods and services more effectively. These goods and services are created in order support and extend the limited capacities of embodied human carnality. Machines are products of human desire, just like relationships between human beings, or children.






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