- Pop Music and Schizophrenia:Kylie Minogue’s Telepathic Affect-Objects
What to say when all the words have gone / Promises, promises
What to do when all our thoughts have flown / Promises, promises—Kylie Minogue (“Promises,” 2003)
Feeling, the Ineffable
“How do you describe a feeling? I’ve only ever dreamt of this,” whispers Kylie Minogue to begin her 2008 single “In My Arms.” It’s a good question. If we could describe our feelings, we could communicate them; if we could translate the precise contours of an affective experience into speech, we could share that experience, hold it in common. Feelings could be transmitted across difference and distance. You could look into my mind and into my heart, and I into yours. We could know whether we had found true love or not. Who hasn’t dreamt of this technology? Aren’t all technologies just forms of this dream?
Kylie grows more insistent, pleading: “How does it feel in my arms? / Tell me, I’m listening.” She demands a response that she has defined as impossible. To give Kylie what she wants would require a language we can only dream of, a language of dream and fantasy—the language of telepathy (tele-pathos, feeling at a distance), the transfer of affect across the unbridgeable difference separating two minds and two hearts.
When we talk about “object emotions,” we start to answer Kylie’s question—by thinking of feelings as imbricated with things, we divide the location of such feelings. They pass between an affective subject and a material ground that stands apart from (but also alongside or even within) that subject. They highlight the subject’s otherness to itself, since its affective auto-presence cannot be grounded solely in the self’s immediate experience—which is why Kylie can’t simply name them, but must ask someone, or something, else to describe them. [End Page 207]
Psychoanalysis answers the question of how “object emotions” feel by pointing to the fetishist, who reaps affective dividends of pleasure through an object which is by definition supplementary, never entirely “his.” He must glue the object onto other bodies, although this object merely forms the cadential resolution of his own fantasy, short-circuiting the other’s presence. This fetishist’s thoughts and feelings simultaneously accept and deny the traumatic “truth” of their own division; thus does Octave Mannoni’s “Je sais bien, mais quand même…” [“I know very well, but all the same…”] revise Sigmund Freud’s late concept of “Ichspaltung” [“ego-splitting”]. Telepathically resisting and re-inscribing this cleavage of the self, these “object emotions” suggest a schizophrenic (literally: “split-minded”) concept of affect.
Both fetishism and schizophrenia attempt to reject alterity and insist on the closure and self-sufficiency of the self: while the fetishist rejects the specific form of alterity that is sexual difference or “castration,” the schizophrenic, as Jacques Lacan argues, rejects the very notion of difference itself, the structure of the signifier as a (re)marker of iteration and supplementarity. Unable to bear the thought of otherness, the schizophrenic cannot defend himself against its insistence, cannot escape the busy stimuli, both internal and external, that the preconscious would normally censor. This affective immediacy makes “schizophrenia” an appealing concept for the anti-psychoanalysis of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. For them, a theoretical valorization of “schizophrenia” would restore to the thinking, feeling subject an intimacy with the world that psychoanalysis, solicitously, attempts to manage and control.
Deleuze strives to rethink affective experience outside the dominant mode of the Oedipal triangle. We tend to favor deep, tragic affects as privileged examples of feeling; Freudian psychoanalysis, with its “cathartic” methodology, continues this paradoxical reduction of feeling. Against this tapestry of deep feelings, Deleuze ventures to examine blanker, less colorful feelings—openings and closings, flows, haltings. These feelings might strike us as more “objective,” since they ground themselves in precisely physical relationships, “feelings” as bodily sensations. A self never feels by itself, but instead in a dynamic environment based in infra-feelings and ultra-affects lying elsewhere on the emotional electromagnetic spectrum than in the alltoo-visible rainbow of recognizable, deep emotions.1
Kylie resolves the apparent divisions...