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  • Preface
  • Lewis A. Kirshner

This special issue of American Imago is both formally and substantially devoted to working in a conceptual space between two seemingly incompatible psychoanalytic theories of the origins and structure of the human psyche—those of D. W. Winnicott and Jacques Lacan. After Melanie Klein, who preceded them, Winnicott and Lacan (along with W. R. Bion) are generally acknowledged to be the major psychoanalytic innovators since Freud. Although coming from heterogeneous cultural and professional backgrounds, Winnicott and Lacan questioned received theory in parallel ways that even now have not been fully integrated into clinical practice by many analysts. Winnicott developed a model of self, born in the context of a pediatrician's notion of a "good-enough" mothering relationship, while Lacan constructed a theory of the subject, derived from phenomenology and linguistics. Neither of these terms had found a place within classical analytic theory, whose language of psychic energies, instinctual conflict, and defensive mechanisms grew increasingly detached from traditional humanistic and spiritual concerns. Underlying the writings of Winnicott and Lacan is a complex struggle to conceive of a human being who is and is not part of the natural world and who overflows any unitary constructions of identity. They were not interested in adaptation or successful functioning as an ideal (if incomplete and illusory) therapeutic goal but in catalyzing a more authentic form of existence. In this way, they, like Bion, addressed profound philosophical issues that give their work continuing relevance.

Although the two articles by Steven Groarke and Christopher Reeves focus on the roots and affinities between Winnicott and the Christian poetic tradition, exemplified most notably by the writings of T. S. Eliot, the religious themes they draw on evoke numerous comparisons with both Bion and Lacan. For example, Reeves's observation that Eliot's concern with [End Page 327] transcendence points to a beyond involving the "intrinsically unsatisfiable nature of our human wishes" makes us think of Lacan's notion of the Real as the beyond of Freud's pleasure principle. We might also reflect on Bion's search for the ineffable "O." Similarly, Groarke speaks of the dimension of faith implicit in Winnicott's belief in the analyst's capacity to reanimate a frozen developmental process in the wake of a traumatic rupture before words. Groarke makes an explicit link to Michael Eigen's earlier articulation of the role of faith in Winnicott, Lacan, and Bion.

Perhaps the faith involved for these authors has something to do with their belief in the creative capacity of the subject to make use of psychoanalysis (and, certainly, other occasions) to invent a new shape, a new way of being in the world. In my own paper and in that of Mari Ruti, this implicit creative potential is seen as the basis of therapeutic action for Winnicott and Lacan and as an antidote to more mechanistic conceptions of the human psyche. Both men, we argue, envision not the sage interventions of the analyst but the creative process that can flourish in a relationship with the Other as the source of meaningful transformation of self in analysis. For Ruti, bringing Winnicott and Lacan together also offers an alternative to a bleak postmodern view of subjectivity that seems to eliminate the existential possibility of discovering new forms of personal meaning. Namiko Haruki's discussion of Japanese Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata's late novel, House of the Sleeping Beauties, can be read as an illustration of this process. The mysterious house where old men come to lie and dream beside sleeping girls installs a special kind of potential space, an invitation that yields only a confrontation with self, not a satisfaction of desires. Like a Lacanian analysis, she observes, the "hospitality" of the house gives access to a new subjective dimension by undoing a prior construction of identity.

Our two book reviews are important essays in their own right. Sara Boffito discusses James S. Grotstein's two volumes dealing with theory and technique in the "Kleinian/Bionian Mode," while Grotstein himself appraises Meg Harris Williams's readings of Bion's autobiographical writings. The journal's three regular columnists also echo the themes of this issue. [End Page 328] Ellen Handler Spitz...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-7931
Print ISSN
0065-860X
Pages
pp. 327-329
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-28
Open Access
No
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