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American Imago 60.4 (2003) 401-406
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Peter L. Rudnytsky
Each of the essays in this unusually copious issue of American Imago explores the perennial psychoanalytic theme of the complex interplay between outer and inner worlds, between the social matrix and psychic space. At the same time, each essay not only deploys a sophisticated theoretical perspective, but also displays an exemplary capacity for critical self-consciousness that extends even to the point of view being espoused by the author or authors.
Citing Freud's "On Transience" as a precedent, Karl Figlio and Barry Richards practice a mode of "experiential theorizing" that utilizes two personal experiences—one a child gazing at the lights of his native city from a car by night, the other a demonstration against the mistreatment of animals that unexpectedly confronted shoppers on a busy Greenwich street—as a springboard to reflect on the way that "social life is lived, assimilated to personal experience, and personal experience is, from the outset, social." Whereas the effect of the first example was to produce a feeling of "benign connectedness," the second aroused "primitive anxieties"; but both incidents are characterized by "the stirring into awareness of an unconscious social matrix." Figlio and Richards are led to open up broad questions such as the relations between technological change and fantasy formations as well as between democracy and tyranny. Influenced most deeply by Klein, Bion, and Meltzer, the authors provisionally align the contrasting visions of the social order in their two vignettes with the optimism of Winnicott and the pessimism of Freud, while striving to respect the tension between the "unsettling effects" of psychoanalysis and its capacity to provide "a prolific source of images of hope."
The essay of Figlio and Richards implicitly reminds us that the literal meaning of matrix is "womb," or, more generally, "that within which, or within and from which, something [End Page 401] originates." What is more, when applied to a rock in which a gem or fossil is embedded, the matrix is also "the impression left in such rock when the embedded object is removed," thus pointing to the reciprocity between container and contained. 1 As readers of Thomas More will recall, the literal meaning of utopia is "no place"; and in "Ferenczi, Rescue, and Utopia," Emanuel Berman extends his series of distinguished papers on rescue fantasies and their place in the history of psychoanalysis. While granting that rescue fantasies are frequently part of what leads people to practice psychoanalysis (or one of the other "helping professions"), he stresses that these fantasies are fraught with dangers that may subvert the therapeutic aims they are ostensibly intended to serve. Berman ranges across mythology, literature, and film to make his case, but his prime example is Ferenczi, of whose life and work he is a leading expositor. Berman's admiration for Ferenczi does not prevent him from offering a measured criticism of Ferenczi's classic paper "Confusion of Tongues," just as his analysis of utopian thinking as "a generalized version of the rescue fantasy" leads Berman at once to hail it as "the motivating force of any attempt to improve human life" and to castigate it for being not only a pipe dream but so often destructive in its practical effects.
I take pleasure in noting that, with the papers of Karl Figlio and Barry Richards, Emanuel Berman, and Donald and Jean Carveth, this issue includes authors from not only England and Israel but also Canada and, of course, the United States. The clinical contribution of Roberto Neuburger extends our geographical range still further to Argentina. Although far longer and broader in scope, the paper by Carveth and Carveth, "Fugitives from Guilt: Postmodern De-Moralization and the New Hysterias," may be profitably read in conjunction with Neuburger's "Living Death and the 'Psychosomatic Phenomenon,'" as the two papers address—one from a modern Kleinian, the other a modern Lacanian, standpoint—the same fundamental topic: what Felix Deutsch (1969) termed the "mysterious leap" from the mind to the body.
Taking their bearings from recent books by Elaine Showalter, Christopher Bollas, and Juliet Mitchell, the Carveths forcefully argue that while a...