Friday, September 18, 2009

Larry Rickles, Day 5

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NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Larry Rickels taught a course entitled SCHAUER SCENES IN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND FILM. This course explored the genealogy of the "psycho" (and Psycho effect) in mediatic-analytic sessions.

Winnicott was quite aware of Lacan; in one of his chapters he makes reference to the mirror stage, however aptly, the one thing that he would add as a correction would be that Lacan puts the mirror stage first, before the mother's face.

What could this mean?

1) we have the example of a patient that couldn't start her morning until she "put on her face" as an exaggeration of what is normal - trying to get the mirror to notice her. She had to be her own mother. From here he starts talking about Francis Bacon, "in looking at faces... he seems to be trying to get noticed..." See Chapter 9 of Playing and Reality: "Mirror Role of Mother and Family in Child Development" (153-4)
  • Mass media is like a relay, a mass therapy or group therapy where we are able to revisit the good enough mother and father
  • What distinguishes Winnicott from other psychoanalysts was his stressing of the environment and its possible use in therapeutic settings.
All the people we read today are trying to understand what Freud first noticed that we vacillate between identifying projecting

See Viktor Tausk's On the Origin of the 'Influencing Machine' in Schizophrenia (1933)
or perhaps Benjamin's two essays, "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" (from Illuminations) or his "Origin of German Tragic Drama"

2) the transitional object. Differentiating as the new terrain of the pre-Oedipal phase; he tries to increase the legibility of these first two years of human development. This is a study of illusion as this is a phase of between-ness.

Returning to William Wilson (Poe)
He refers to himself as someone that is privileged due to his lineage; he grows up unchecked (he's the master of the household). He is sent off to school where he continues to seek out something that would contain him and immediately he describes a doubling, meeting his doppelganger.
  • He goes to play a prank on his double (11) and does a double-take because at first he sees nothing. He has this corporeal experience of iciness and horror and then goes on to describe an inability to contain the experience.
  • We can look to Winnicott's case of the child George who drew a "nothing" which Winnicott interpreted as George drawing his death, a child who has everything available but nothing there, no one to receive it.
  • The double in William Wilson is so close that it is like a mask, a low-volume echo, a sound effect that we hear in the film Halloween. In the relationship to the double is not simply descent: undermining oneself in the doubling. As Wilson moves from environment to environment, he does develop (cheating, lying) and somehow coming into contact with the outer world, he is developing psychotically.
  • The double (16) has issued an order to stop doing wrong, now the double has interfered in an amorous design. Freud's Uncanny says that there will be an interruption or threat of castration.
  • In averting his eyes he has to look at the large mirror (19) and he sees his context as the voice that has been muffled to this point has become louder, (I could have fancied that I myself was speaking..." (20)
Halloween, John Carpenter (1978)
How will this work with the beginning and ending of Carpenter's Halloween? We look to that moment in Texas Chainsaw Massacre where she's being cut-up by the camera and while this is happening there is that terrible laugh track from the cannibal family, this moment of (s)laughter.
  • The camera itself is a chainsaw and the projector is the site of both destruction and reconstruction. It's in passing through destruction that these relics of us that survive we can have a sense of self. This is the internal logic in both Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM). They begin in TCM at the mirror stage, going to the neighbor's house, this uncanny place and they are CHAINed to what they SAW; survival is tenuous.
  • Everything begins to change with the advent of Carpenter's Halloween because we are allowed to remove the mask. Michael Myers as a figure of violence and his relationship to Laurie - there is a question of adolescence here. The film begins with an unlikely event: a six-year-old taking a knife. (Fast forward to ~ 3:30):

In this film we will have a survival that is not stuck on the killing (unlike in TCM) or survival-through-killing (unlike in Night of the Living Dead); this is the first incident of survival that can be thought of as therapeutic.

In Halloween we're looking at the revalorization of survival. Let's mark that in Texas Chainsaw Massacre what is murderous is the inclusion of humans as something to be consumed. There is a barrier, a failure to distinguish between human and animal as well as a motif of mirror-reversal-world. This is noted in Hegel's Spirit of History - that the animal kingdom is able to strike back. The Evil Eye comes from the hunting scenario where the animal's dying look would curse the hunter - haunting is this look isn't it?

The notion of the reverse world can be seen in Germany, among numerous other places, where you poke your head through a wooden screen to reveal the pig is cooking you rather than you cooking the pig:

The shift from being hunters to keeping animals creates problems of food and death: we spare the animals life and so their lives are at our disposal. In killing an animal a totemic ritual began, where the community had to come together and, in a sense, reintroduce the animal into the community

Interesting to note that at the time of the advent of the large Chicago slaughterhouses we also have the first records of serial killers.
  • We can't get around the problem of food and death - it's related to the family, identification is phantasmatic cannibalization of the mother: we share an identity with what we eat.
  • There is a delicate balancing act between the animals and humans such that we don't destroy one another.
With the cargo cult the white man became vengeful spirits that withheld the means of communication with the dead. They established a date when the dead, who make cargo, would return and in order for this to happen the had to destroy all their things. They are thus creating an uberviolence to deal with the dead.

There is an ambiguity in how the film ends; it does begin the epidemic of slasher films.
  • the scanning of the rooms at the beginning of the film has a hunter quality that is different from the scanning of empty homes at the end of the film.
  • There is not, perhaps, the looking forward to future violence, but that we walk away from this traum
Stations of Laurie's Survival
In the course of the struggle at the end we see stations of her survival:
  • will she be like Sally, at the end of TCM, paralyzed on the couch? He's not dead yet. Since he is unkillable, doesn't it relieve survival from having to kill to survive?
  • We have the next station where Michael is slashing through the door (a la Psycho), she inherits the knife.
  • The psychiatrist joins in the fray, perfectly fine with his patient being a demon figure that we can only hope to kill.
  • At this moment she unmasks him. This changes everything because we can no longer be in his POV - her survival wouldn't be possible were we to continue in his mask.
  • We can't help but notice her breathing - we're no longer at his disposal as his container, we now have room for Laurie in the film.
"Struggling Through the Doldrums"
In Winnicott's "Struggling Through the Doldrums" he argues that because of the atomic bomb we can no longer have a world war and so we can no longer justify military discipline.
  • This ushers in adolescence and the Teen Age because whatever adolescent psychology is, it is group or mass psychology.
  • Within the teen group the identified member (members of deviance) are essential to adolescence containing itself and group adhesion.
  • Groups are adhered through the most inconsequential lines: a makeshift operation and it's at its strongest when one figure, mascot, forces the environment to react and thus the group reinforces itself in being attacked.

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