Freud Museum London: Psychoanalysis Podcasts A treasure trove of ideas in psychoanalysis, exploring its history and theory, and bringing psychoanalytic perspectives to bear on a diverse range of topics. Freud Museum website: www.freud.org.uk

Re-reading Freud's 1905 edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

This book presentation is devoted to the newly translated and annotated English edition of Freud’s 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Verso, 2016).

Freud’s publication is one of the grounding texts of 20th-century European thinking. In it Freud develops a highly innovative theory of sexuality for which pathology serves as a model to understand human existence. Freud published this text five times during his lifetime. In the book presentation, the editors will highlight the potential of the text in its relevance for contemporary psychoanalytic theory. This potential concerns three main issues. First, the text is important as regards its theory of sexuality: infantile sexuality is seen as strictly autoerotic and without an object, and hence, cannot be described in oedipal terms – Freud’s first theory of sexuality is a non-oedipal theory. Second, Freud opts for a very interesting, "pathoanalytic“ perspective on sexuality, when using the psychoneuroses (especially hysteria) as the model to understand the general human sexual constitution. Third, Freud offers a profound critique of heteronormative and functional theories of sexuality and the perversions in his contemporary psychiatric and sexological literature. Re-reading the Three Essays shows that we have to reconsider the genesis of Freudian thinking, and psychoanalysis’ potential in contemporary debates on sexuality, gender and normativity. 

Biographies:

Philippe Van Haute is Professor at the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Extraordinary Professor of philosophy at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is a psychoanalyst of the Belgian School for Psychoanalysis and a founding member of the Société internationale de psychanalyse et de philosophie/ International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. He has published numerous books, among them Against Adaptation (2002), Confusion of Tongues (with Tomas Geyskens, 2004), From Death Drive to Attachment Theory (with Tomas Geyskens, 2007), and A Non-oedipal Psychoanalysis? (with Tomas Geyskens, 2012). He is the coeditor of the book series Figures of the Unconscious (Louvain University Press).

Herman Westerink is Lecturer at the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He is a member of the Société internationale de psychanalyse et de philosophie/International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. He has published numerous books and articles on psychoanalysis, including A Dark Trace: Sigmund Freud on the Sense of Guilt (2009) and The Heart of Man’s Destiny (2012). He is Editor of the book series Sigmund Freud's Werke: Wiener Interdisziplinäre Kommentare.

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Analytic psychotherapist and art historian, Robert Snell joins us to discuss his forthcoming book, Portraits of the Insane: Théodore Géricault and the Subject of Psychotherapy.

In the gloomy aftermath of the 1789 Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the French painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) made a series of portraits of patients in an asylum or clinic. The paintings are unprecedented: they show people designated as insane as ordinary, unique individuals. They point to a new, essentially democratic conception of the human being, sane or mad, as available for relationship and communication: a ‘therapeutic subject’. Made during a period of massive social, cultural, and economic transformation, they register a critical moment in the history of subjectivity, and connect us to some living roots of psychoanalysis.They challenge us profoundly, in our own conflicted era, to find responses in ourselves to the stranger in our midst.

‘The scope of this book is remarkable. Robert Snell’s meditation on five portraits of mad people by Géricault is the springboard for a fascinating cultural investigation. He surveys two centuries of change in the understanding of human nature, and considers how this is reflected in changing approaches to the treatment of madness.The breadth and depth of scholarship on offer here is exceptional, and this admirable book is an object lesson in the relation of psychoanalysis to the history of ideas.’ — Michael Parsons, British Psychoanalytical Society and French Psychoanalytic Association

Robert Snell is an analytic psychotherapist and art historian, a member of the British Psychotherapy Foundation, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Therapeutic Education at Roehampton University.

 

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Karin Nohr and Sebastian Leikert: Dr Kundry's Failure

The first part of this lecture sets out to investigate reasons for the well-known fact that Wagner's music and in particular his opera Parsifal evokes divergent feelings and promotes polarization among the audience. After exploring the semantic system of music which Leikert calls ‘kinaesthetical’, three principles are put forth that organize it: repetition, seduction, ritualization. Whereas religious ritualization is conservative and norm-orientated, the ethical orientation of art is creative and encourages the subject to broaden in autonomy and in the recognition of their inner world including their conflicts and the tragic aspects of life. The second part of the lecture discusses the question, if and how Wagner in Parsifal contributes to this progressive aim by analyzing the composer’s concept of empathy (Mitleid) and focusing on the Parsifal-Kundry relationship.

Karin Nohr was born in Hamburg, Germany, where she studied literature and psychology. For 20 years she worked as a psychoanalyst and lecturer focusing on the use of imagination in the therapeutic process (book publication: Bahrke, Nohr, Katathym Imaginative Psychotherapie. Lehrbuch der Arbeit mit Imaginationen in psychodynamischen Psychotherapien. Springer 2013) Having all her life played a musical instrument and having completed her training in classical singing, she wrote her Masters’ Thesis on the inner concepts musicians develop of their musical instruments (book publication: Karin Nohr, Der Musiker und sein Instrument. Tübingen, edition diskord 1997, Reprint Psychosozialverlag 2010). Many publications on both themes were to follow, among them one on Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner. Karin Nohr was a founding member of the German Society for Psychoanalysis and Music (www.psychoanalyse-und-musik.de); she has been on the board of this association ever since and been responsible for two annual conferences. Since 2010 she has stopped clinical work and has turned to novel writing. Her publications include: Herr Merse bricht auf. Knaus (Random House 2012) and Vier Paare und ein Ring (Knaus 2013). Both novels have been reprinted as pocket books. She lives in Berlin and in Dünsche/Wendland.

Dr Sebastian Leikert is a practicing Psychoanalyst and Training Analyst based in Saarbrücken in Germany. His main research interests include the psychoanalysis of music and the relationship between aesthetical and psychical processes. His recent publications include ‘Beauty and Conflict – Outline of a General Psychoanalytic Aesthetics’ (2012) and, as editor, ‘On the Psychoanalysis of the Aesthetical Process in Music, Cinema and Painting’ (2015). His article, written for the International Journal of Psychoanalysis entitled, ‘For Beauty is nothing but the barely endurable onset of Terror’ – outline of a general psychoanalytic aesthetics’ is forthcoming. He is also the Chairman and co-founder of the German Society for Psychoanalysis and Music.

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

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Patrick Carnegy in conversation with Robert Lloyd

Since he first visited Bayreuth in 1967 as music critic for The Times, Patrick Carnegy's principal research interest has been the stage history of Wagner's works. He was the first person to be appointed Dramaturg (literary and production adviser) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His interests also include Shakespeare and he was Stratford-upon-Avon theatre critic for The Spectator from 1998 - 2013. Dr Carnegy's books include Faust as Musician (1973), a study of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus, and Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (2006) which won a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, and in the USA a George Freedley Memorial Award for its 'outstanding contribution to the history of the theatre'. His current work is on Wagner's indebtedness to Shakespeare, on which subject he is lecturing at home and abroad as a contribution to the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

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Patrick Carnegy: Syberberg's Parsifal and the soul of Germany

Hans Jürgen Syberberg's 1982 film of Parsifal is a psychological exploration of the opera, its roots in Wagner's mind, and its historical afterlife. Abstracted from Amfortas's body, his wound, carried about on a cushion by two female pages, becomes a symbol of Germany's unassuaged shame and guilt, an object of fascination and horror until it can be healed. When Kundry's kiss awakens Parsifal's sexuality, Syberberg sensationally replaces the male hero by a female Parsifal. His idea, in Jungian terms, is that the animus cannot itself complete the therapeutic journey through the psychic labyrinth, for this is given only to the anima, which here also embodies the soul of Germany. Patrick Carnegy offers some reflections on the wondrous complexity and resonance of this brilliant film.

Since he first visited Bayreuth in 1967 as music critic for The Times, Patrick Carnegy's principal research interest has been the stage history of Wagner's works. He was the first person to be appointed Dramaturg (literary and production adviser) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His interests also include Shakespeare and he was Stratford-upon-Avon theatre critic for The Spectator from 1998 - 2013. Dr Carnegy's books include Faust as Musician (1973), a study of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus, and Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (2006) which won a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, and in the USA a George Freedley Memorial Award for its 'outstanding contribution to the history of the theatre'. His current work is on Wagner's indebtedness to Shakespeare, on which subject he is lecturing at home and abroad as a contribution to the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

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Tom DeRose: Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche in Berlin

With reference to Dmitri Tcherniakov’s recent Berlin production, this paper will consider the relationship between the character of Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal and Nietzsche’s conception of the ascetic priest in On the Genealogy of Morals. Although Gurnemanz appears as an un-biased narrator, something akin to the Evangelist in a Bach Passion, just how far removed from the action is he? I will suggest that the insights of Freud and René Girard can help us to gain a deeper understanding not only of this ‘all knowing’ story-teller, but also of the violence which lies at the heart of social systems. 

Tom DeRose is Volunteer Coordinator at the Freud Museum where he helps to organise conferences and runs the Freud Museum reading group. He studied History and Philosophy and has a longstanding interest in the operas of Richard Wagner. 

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

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Mark Berry: Interpreting Wagner’s Dreams: Staging Parsifal in the Twenty-First Century

Parsifal, like all of Wagner’s dramas, has much to tell us at the intersection of authorial intention and latent content. What is revealed and what is repressed? Dreams were certainly of great importance to Wagner, perhaps most famously in his claim that the Prelude to Das Rheingold had come to him in ‘a kind of somnambulistic state … the feeling of being immersed in rapidly flowing water,’ and indeed in the dramatic material of a number of his works. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is explicitly concerned with the formation of an artwork initially revealed in a dream world. That offers an interesting way to consider stagings of his works too, and their claims to fidelity or otherwise at a textual or allegedly ‘deeper’ level. I shall consider the work ‘itself’ and its adamant claim to stand apart from the operatic repertoire as a Bühnenweihfestspiel (‘stage-festival-consecration-play’) to be confined to his artistic temple at Bayreuth. I shall also consider two particular productions: Stefan Herheim (Bayreuth, 2008-12) and Dmitri Tcherniakov (Berlin, 2015-). How do directors and performers navigate the historical, social, cultural, and psychological distances and conflicts between Wagner’s intentions, his ability and inability to fulfil and perhaps even to transcend those intentions, and the needs of contemporary theatres and audiences? What is gained and what is lost? What, again, is revealed and what is repressed?

Dr Mark Berry is Senior Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. He read History at the University of Cambridge, where he remained for postgraduate and postdoctoral study. He is the author of Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire: Politics and Religion in Wagner’s Ring (Ashgate, 2006) and After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from ‘Parsifal’ to Nono (Boydell Press, 2014) and has written widely on musical, intellectual, and cultural history from the later seventeenth century to the present day. He is at present writing a biography of Arnold Schoenberg for Reaktion Books and co-editing the Cambridge Companion to Wagner’s ‘Ring of the Nibelung’. He reviews concert and opera performances regularly, and is the author of the ‘Boulezian’ blog.

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

 

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Eva Rieger: Kundry’s Kiss and the Fear of Female Desire: A Gender Perspective

“Wagner’s operas are largely dramas of incestuous feelings and urges” writes James M. McGlathery (in Wagner’s Operas and Desire). Lawrence Dreyfus has also made it clear that Wagner was obsessed with sexuality, and this obsession determined the composition of operas such as Tannhäuser, Walküre and Tristan and Isolde. In his opera Parsifal, Wagner creates a female character who shows active sexual desire, and then exorcises her qua Woman for precisely that reason. Whereas men can desire women, the opposite is regarded as dangerous. In previous works, Wagner gives women like Elsa, Brünnhilde, Elisabeth and Sieglinde the power to love in a “feminine” way, but unlike Kundry they do not think of sex. I will trace the role of Kundry as she was developed by Wagner from 1865 onwards, using the development of her role to deduce which characteristics of her personality were important to him. A further clue is given by the music which speaks to us and opens up psychological insights. With respect to the semi-religious content of Parsifal, I find that the idea of gender equality is jettisoned here, which means that one can debate whether Kundry’s death is the result of Wagner’s antisemitism or his antifeminism. Finally, the question arises why Wagner should condemn women’s sexuality in such a manner (and thereby condemn the women themselves), although he was dependent on the emotional and physical love of women throughout his life.

Eva Rieger was Professor of Musicology at the University of Bremen until 2000, when she moved to Vaduz, Liechtenstein. She has worked primarily on the issue of gender and musicology and written biographies of Nannerl Mozart, Minna Wagner and Friedelind Wagner. The latter was published in English (Boydell 2013), as was a study of the female roles in Richard Wagner's operas entitled Wagner’s Women (Boydell 2011). Her book on the singer Frida Leider will be published in 2016 (Frida Leider. Sängerin im Zwiespalt ihrer Zeit (Olms)).

 

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?

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Freud's turn to Greek myth is very well known. His Oedipus emerges out of a long history of nineteenth-century obsessions with ancient Greece. But Freud's psychoanalysis of Greek myth was also a response to the nineteenth-century sexological fascination with the sexual decadence of ancient Rome. This talk explores the intriguing story of how the obscene and erotic verse of Roman epigram became an authoritative language for nineteenth-century sexual science, in order to ask, how and why did Freud's interest in Greek myth emerge out of the obscene sexual Latin of Richard von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis, the most famous work of sexology in the nineteenth century?

Sex: Antiquity and it Legacy is published by I.B.Tauris (February, 2013).

Dr Daniel Orrells is Lecturer in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at King's College London. His research examines the presence of classical antiquity in modern cultural, literary and intellectual history. His most recent book Sex: Antiquity and its Legacy offers a fresh, new narrative about the importance of the ancient world for the development of sexology and psychoanalysis.
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May 6, 2016  

Oona Grimes, Rachel Goodyear, Carol Seigel, Dr Cleo Van Velsen, chaired by Jeremy Akerman

Join artists Oona Grimes and Rachel Goodyear, Freud Museum London Director, Carol Seigel and Consultant Psychiatrist in Forensic Psychotherapy Dr Cleo Van Velsen, as they explore the artists’ work in the context of both the Freud family home and the Tall Tales touring exhibition programme.

Oona Grimes is a London based compulsive scribbler, maker and storyteller. She is a visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art, London, and Ruskin School of Art : Oxford University & University of the Arts London, represented by Danielle Arnaud.

Rachel Goodyear’s practice has a primary focus on drawing. Often using familiar but incongruous images, Goodyear’s delicately rendered works reference human fears and desires and pre-sent a precarious balance between the playful and the macabre. Rachel lives and works in Manchester, is represented by Pippy Houldsworth Gallery and in 2015/2016 had a major solo exhibition Restless Guests, at The Drawing Centre, New York.

Carol Seigel has been Director of the Freud Museum London since 2009. Carol is a historian, and has worked at museums in London for over twenty years, including the Jewish Museum, the Museum of London, and Hampstead Museum.

Dr Cleo Van Velsen is currently the Responsible Clinician in the Personality Disorder Medium Secure Unit in East London. She has worked for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and has extensive experience in the assessment, management and treatment of those suffering with personality difficulties, violence and trauma. She is the coeditor of a textbook on Forensic Psychotherapy and section editor of the Edinburgh International Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis.

Jeremy Akerman is an artist and one half of Akerman Daly (Est. 2004), an organisation dedicated to publishing writing by artists. AD’s online presence makes the case for text as image. Akerman’s city and rural landscape paintings deploy a perspectival axis that directs a viewer’s eye through the picture. The viewer’s eye travels in, finding that the painting collapses and re-constitutes itself as they do so.

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Professor Brett Kahr in Conversation with Dan Chambers

What actually happens in psychotherapy? And does it really work?

Psychotherapy has become a mainstay of our emotional wellbeing, and yet, in spite of its century-long track record, many people still regard “therapy” with a certain suspicion. Is psychotherapy simply a self-indulgent exercise in navel-gazing for bored, well-heeled neurotics with too much time on their hands, or is it, in fact, an essential route to the achievement of solid mental health, enhanced creativity and productivity, and richer, more gratifying intimate relationships?

In this seminar, the television producer Dan Chambers will speak with Professor Brett Kahr, one of Great Britain’s leading psychotherapists, and together, they will explore in detail both the myths and the realities about the psychotherapeutic process. The evening will consider such fundamental and frequently asked questions as:
  • What actually happens in psychotherapy?
  • How long might therapy last?
  • Does therapy blame everything on one’s parents?
  • Will I be cured or will I be brain-washed?
  • How do I find an experienced and trustworthy psychotherapist?
  • How much will psychotherapy cost?
  • Will I still recognise myself at the end of the process?
  • Might there be any risks associated with undergoing therapy?
We will consider psychotherapy in its historical context, examining the way in which the art and science of psychotherapy has evolved since Sigmund Freud’s creation of the “talking cure”.

This evening workshop will allow ample time for discussion and questions from the audience.

 

Professor Brett Kahr has worked in the mental health field for over thirty-five years. He is currently Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, and Senior Fellow at the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships at the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology. He has worked in many branches of the psychotherapy profession as clinician, teacher, researcher, author, and broadcaster, having served previously as Resident Psychotherapist on B.B.C. Radio 2. Author of eight books including Life Lessons from Freud and, also, the best-selling Sex and the Psyche, he is also Series Editor of the “Forensic Psychotherapy Monograph Series” for Karnac Books and Series Co-Editor of the “History of Psychoanalysis Series”. He practices psychotherapy with individuals and with couples in Hampstead, North London, and he is a Trustee of the Freud Museum and of Freud Museum Publications.

Dan Chambers is the Creative Director of Blink Films, one of Great Britain’s leading factual independent television production companies, with an output covering history, science, documentary, and cookery for all the key channels in the United Kingdom and all the leading factual channels in America. Previously, he has been Head of Science Commissioning at Channel 4 and the Director of Programmes at Channel 5. He has directed science documentaries for the Equinox science strand, and he has produced the Channel 4 and P.B.S. history strand, Secrets of the Dead. Dan studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and he is currently a Governor of the London Film School and a Trustee of the Freud Museum.
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Part 5: Joseph Calabrese - Therapeutic Emplotment in the Native American Church

In this talk, I will outline my analysis of the Native American peyote ritual, which involves a dialectic between therapeutic symbolism and the use of the psychedelic peyote cactus within an alternative semiotic-reflexive paradigm of psychopharmacology. I will discuss the design features of the ritual intervention as well as examples of healing experiences, which demonstrate the ways in which therapeutic efficacy is embedded in ritual symbols and cultural mythology, generating healing transformations and enduring insights. 

Joseph Calabrese is Reader of Medical Anthropology at University College London. He completed his PhD at the University of Chicago, training in anthropology and clinical psychology, with two postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School in Clinical Psychology and Medical Anthropology. He was also the Cannon Fellow in Patient Experience and Health Policy at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. He is author of A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church (2013).


Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?

This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.

Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.

This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.
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Part 4: Darian Leader - Symbol and Symbolic Function

This talk will explore some common misconceptions about symbolism, and discuss aspects of the formation of symbols and the establishment of the symbolic function.

Darian Leader is a writer, psychoanalyst, trustee of the Freud Museum and founding member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research. He has written numerous books, including Strictly Bipolar (2013), What is Madness? (2011), The New Black (2008) and Freud's Footnotes (2000)

Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?

This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.

Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.

This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.
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Part 3: Boris Wiseman - Symbolic efficacy: From Ritual to Psychoanalysis and Back Again

In this paper I will address the question of the efficacy of symbols by exploring some echoes between ritual and psychoanalytic practices. I will start by examining Lévi-Strauss’s seductive theory of symbolic efficacy and will then turn to a contemporary anthropological revision of that theory by Carlo Severi (Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale) and its psychoanalytic resonances. I will conclude by turning the lens of anthropology onto psychoanalysis and by asking what Amerindian ritual practices may tell us about the talking cure.

Boris Wiseman is Associate Professor at the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen. He is the author of several books, including Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology and Aesthetics (2007), and edited The Cambridge Companion to Lévi-Strauss (2009).
Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?


This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.

Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.

This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.
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Part 2: Henrietta Moore - Exclusion, Unsustainability and the Determinations of the Symbolic

This paper discusses the difficulties of adhering to Lévi-Strauss’s view of the symbolic and his account of the effectiveness of symbols. It uses material from Papua New Guinea and China to explore the relationship between desire and ethics as a means of exploring some contemporary problems in articulating the relationship between the psyche and the social.

Henrietta Moore is the founding Director of the new Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London where she also holds the Chair of Philosophy, Culture and Design. She is an internationally renowned social anthropologist who has written extensively on the interrelation between material and symbolic gender systems, embodiment and subjectivity. She is the author of several books, including The Subject of Anthropology (2007), a cutting-edge analysis of gendered subjectivity and a ground-breaking contribution to the debates between anthropology and psychoanalysis.


Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?

This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.

Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.

This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.

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Part 1: Stefan Marianski - Introduction

By means of introduction, Stefan will present a short synopsis of Levi-Strauss’ paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, discussing some of its key ideas, its psychoanalytic influences, and how Levi-Strauss’ thought was in turn taken up within psychoanalysis.


Why do symbols have such a powerful influence on human beings?

This question lies at the heart of both psychoanalysis and anthropology. In his seminal paper ‘The Effectiveness of Symbols’, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss compared the healing practices of shamans and psychoanalysts in terms of the structuring effects of symbol and language on the body.

Lévi-Strauss opened up new ways of thinking about the symbolic dimension of human life, offering a subtle reformulation of the Freudian unconscious and putting forward a theory of symbolic function that continues to resonate within both fields.

This conference brings together eminent speakers from the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology to reflect on Lévi-Strauss’ paper and its influence, and to discuss symbolic effectiveness in their own research and practice.

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