Conference: Mourning and Melancholia
How does an individual human being return from the far reaches of certain terrible experiences?
From the trenches of the Somme. From the sewers of the Warsaw Ghetto. From cities bombed to oblivion such as Dresden, Coventry or the Atomic destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. To the random bombings around the World today and attacks on the meaning of life, or mass movements of people risking death to escape violence and death. And these continuing tragedies contributing to the severe rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and prejudice.
Walter Benjamin developed a view that prior to the First World War, experience was passed down through the generations in the form of folklore and fairy tales. “With the war came the severing of the red thread of experience” which had connected previous generations. (XI The Storyteller). “The fragile human body that emerged from the trenches was mute, unable to narrate the ‘force field’ of destructive torrents and explosions” that had engulfed it. It was as if the good enriching soil of the fable had become the sticky mud of the trenches, which would bear no fruit but only moulder as a graveyard. “Where do you hear words from the dying that last and that pass from one generation to the next like a precious ring?” Benjamin asks in Experience and Poverty.
In this psychosomatic paper I will give an intellectual and emotional account of being in such experiences.
Jonathan Sklar is an Independent Training Analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Association and a current member of the IPA board. He is a Past Vice-President of the European Psychoanalytical Federation (EPF) and teaches three times a year in Chicago and regularly in East Europe and South Africa. Publications include Landscapes of the Dark – History, trauma, psychoanalysis (2011) and Balint Matters - Psychosomatics and the Art of Assessment (2017) both published by Karnac Books
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