Paranoia from Salvador Dali to Jacques Lacan: psychoanalysis culture and the 1930s

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PhD thesis (EN)

2012 (EN)
Η παράνοια από τον Σαλβαντόρ Νταλί στον Ζακ Λακάν: ψυχανάλυση και πολιτισμός κατά τη δεκαετία του 1930
Paranoia from Salvador Dali to Jacques Lacan: psychoanalysis culture and the 1930s

Constantinidou, Despina - Alexandra
Κωνσταντινίδου, Δέσποινα - Αλεξάνδρα

In his short 1933 article commenting on Lacan’s treatise on paranoia, the reconciliatory surrealist René Crevel posed the following question: “Consciousness, thesis. The unconscious, antithesis. When will there be a synthesis?” (49; my translation).2 Béhar1 This statement dates from 1966, and it appeared in a four-page review presenting Duquenne’s translation of Schreber’s Memoirs. This was, in fact, the first translation of Schreber’s book in the French language, the biggest part of which appeared in volumes five to eight of Cahiers pour l’analyse. Translating Memoirs into French was apparently inspired by Lacan’s 1955-1956 third seminar, entitled Les psychoses, where Lacan dealt with psychosis as a rupture in the symbolic order, due to the expulsion or foreclosure of the basic signifier, the “name-of-the-father.” In the 1950s, Lacan saw in Freud’s views about the psychotic’s “withdrawal from reality” a gap in the symbolic, which disturbs the patient’s connection to reality, as well as the balance among the symbolic, the real and the imaginary order. Although Lacan’s views in The Psychoses are widely regarded as extending his early work on paranoia, the careful study of the relation between the theory presented in the aforementioned Lacanian seminar and Lacan’s encounter with Dali in the 1930s would require the academic scope and the length of another doctoral thesis. A translation and reading of Lacan’s statement on Dali will appear later in this section.2 Up to the time of his suicide in 1935, Crevel sought to link surrealism and communism, just as he sought to bring together politics and psychoanalysis in his 1933 essay on psycho-dialectic, which Eburne describes as “a model of revolutionary uprising understood as an empowerment made possible by an increasing consciousness of repressed desires and repressive forces” (101). Fascinated by Lacan’s views on the dynamic unconscious and on the curative power of self-punishment in paranoia, Crevel attempted to combine in that essay Marxist dialectical materialism and a valid theory of the unconscious (102). Although in Crevel’s essay there is no reference to the Catalan’s method, Eburne claims that Crevel opts for Lacan’s thesis and Dali’s work on paranoia because ofConstantinidou 271and Carassou, two of the critics who acknowledge the influence of Dali’s work on paranoia upon the young Lacan, wonder half a century later whether the synthesis would be Lacan’s own 1930s work on the illness (210). In the sense that Lacan’s study on paranoid psychosis highlighted the way the paranoid mechanism mediates between reality and the unconscious, the answer to the question of the two critics is affirmative, and the Frenchman’s work on paranoia inheres in the cultural context of the interwar surrealist Paris that Dali inhabited too. Nonetheless, the significance of Lacan’s encounter with Dali in the 1930s lies beyond the corroboration of their similar approach to paranoia.This study has attempted to prove that the conceptualisation of paranoia in the 1930s work of Dali and Lacan addressed the function of perception, or better the way we get to know the world, which was essentially one of the fundamental topics that the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century scientists, including Freud, were interested in. Given the nature of paranoid psychosis, and in tune with surrealist culture, the approach of Dali and Lacan to paranoia and perception departed from empiricism and biologism, and focused on the role of the unconscious. What is of significance for my research is that it was the study of the paranoid delirium and of the vital role of the unconscious in the process of its formation that proved to be fertile ground for the shift to representation in the theory of the two men. As we have seen, they both explored issues of representation in their discussion of the paranoid mechanism. And although Dali’s pursuit of a theory of representation was more obvious in his writings, Lacan trod the same path which would later, and especially with the help of structural linguistics, become the core of his comprehensive theory of psychical functioning.their understanding of its structure as one that systematises reality (102). Crevel’s “Notes en vue d’une psycho-dialectique” may well be the first piece of writing on Lacan and politics.Constantinidou 272Despite the fact, therefore, that the period of Lacan’s comments on the link between psychosis and the symbolic order lay far ahead, the study of the paranoid delirium and of Aimée’s writings pointed at paranoid discourse, just as Dali’s paranoid method and its products did. Most importantly, my study has explored the confluence of the work of the two men, especially as concerns the links between paranoid discourse and interpretation. Predicated, in one way or another, upon Freud’s remark on “assimilative fictions,” upon Kraepelin’s views about the existence of a stable system in the paranoid delirium, upon the concept of the “delirium of interpretation,” Lacan’s 1932 statement about the paranoid delirium being an “interpretive activity of the unconscious” problematised the distinction between Freud’s manifest and latent content, between word and meaning – or, better, between the signifier and the signified, in a way that Lacan would deal with many years later.In Dali’s theory, on the other hand, paranoid discourse, where his emphasis on form and Lacan’s findings on interpretation merge, was primarily a visual discourse. “The ‘paranoiac phenomenon’ (delirium of systematic interpretation) is consubstantial with the human phenomenon of sight,” he claimed in “Dali, Dali!” written in 1939 (CW 335).3 The paranoid simulacrum in Dali’s paintings, in particular, inasmuch as it aimed at usurping and eventually systematising and interpreting reality in accordance with a projected unconscious idea, illustrated Lacan’s own views on the paranoid mechanism. This is not to say that this was done deliberately by the Catalan artist, who, as we have seen, struggled to maintain his individual outlook amidst the swarming surrealist context of the 1930s. Instead, it was due to their theoretical confluence, as well as to the fact that Dali and Lacan worked in different disciplines while at the same time were3 Although it is beyond the scope of this study, a comparison of Dali’s words with Lacan’s later theory of the “dialectic of the eye and the gaze” is not only justified by Lacan’s reference to surrealist painting in his argumentation, but also by the 1930s conceptualisation of the paranoid mechanism as one that partakes in both perception and desire.Constantinidou 273both integrating psychoanalytic notions into their 1930s work. What has been a constant yet fascinating struggle for this study, tracing and then “translating” similar viewpoints in dissimilar jargons, proved to be the catalyst for a prolific exchange of ideas between the two men.

Παρανοϊκή - κριτική μέθοδος
Σρέμπερ, Ντάνιελ Πωλ (1842-1911)
Dalí, Salvador Felip Jacint Domènech (1904-1989)
Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939)
Λακάν, Ζακ (1901-1981)
Lacan, Jacques Marie Émile (1901-1981)
Νταλί, Σαλβαντόρ (1904-1989)
Φρόυντ, Ζίγκμουντ (1856-1939)
Schreber, Daniel Paul (1842-1911)
Paranoiac - critical method

Εθνικό Κέντρο Τεκμηρίωσης (ΕΚΤ) (EL)
National Documentation Centre (EKT) (EN)



Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης (ΑΠΘ)
Aristotle University Of Thessaloniki (AUTH)

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