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Related Topics
The Art of the SubjectReview - The Art of the Subject
Between Necessary Illusion and Speakable Desire in the Analytic Encounter
by Mardy S. Ireland
Other Press, 2003
Review by Petar Jevremovic
Aug 8th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 32)

Any serious thinking about (classical or modern) psychoanalysis implies really serious thinking about some concrete personalities and psychoanalysts. Psychoanalysis is deeply personal experience, not just abstract theory.

The names of Donald Winiccott and Jacques Lacan are, I believe we could say, among the most important symbols of the future possibilities of the modern psychoanalysis. Their well-known theoretical contributions (their interests in human development, dynamics of personality and psychotherapy) and of course a great number of followers makes them so important for us now.  We all know that Winnicott and Lacan are do not share the same basic theoretical and practical positions concerning the most fundamental questions of psychoanalysis. Their positions could be seen as divergent, as mutually exclusive. But also, we could see them as (potentially) complementary.

Ireland's recent book, entitled The Art of the Subject. Between Necessary illusion and Speakable Desire in the Analytic Encounter, can be seen as an important attempt to provide a kind of creative synthesis. A synthesis of Winnicott's and Lacan's ideas about psychoanalysis. In the focus of author's interest is a question of human singularity and analytically deeply rooted intuition of the importance of human relatedness towards the Other. Winnicott's ideas about transitional objects and transitional phenomena are skillfully related to the famous Lacanian conceptions of the Other. Mardy Ireland is more than just well informed in the matters of psychoanalysis. She can think creatively about classical Freud, the Kleinian school (especially Bion), Ogden, Green, Lecours; she can be clearminded and (if necessary) critical about modern infant observational methodologies.  Her clinical illustrations are convincing, her discourse is complex yet easy to follow.

The various possible levels of symbolization (so important for human development and psychoanalytic practice) are seen in reference to the subject's relatedness to his own body experience and to the other. The subject's experience of his own (not just biological, but personal) corporeality is the function of his (ontologically fundamental) object relatedness, and the same object relatedness that is always deeply triangular.

From the moment a pregnancy is known, a third enters the prenatal scene through woman's imaginings of her yet-to-beborn infant, as some "one" who will be an Other itself. These unspoken fantasies  are crucial elements in weaving baby's safe, or not safe, psychic net. The threads a mOther uses to weave such a psychic net are not random ć they are culturally and familiarly determined. Each culture has its own consensual expectations of how the world is to be ordered.

As we have seen, there is always imaginary third. But also, there is (or there must be) the symbolic third.

A particularly impactful facet of the Symbolic Third concerns mOther's degree of integrative thinking and feeling capacities, that is, to what extent she is able to allow, to give form to, and to express experience, and to what extent is she able to recognize and respect the psychic boundaries of another person. But, of course, symbolization does not entirely capture the whole of human being's experience. There is always something more, something other, something unsymbolized.

The relational structure of the human being implies great amount of freedom and contingency. Ireland's word for this would be art-making. The analytic encounter is a structure akin to the triangular configuration of the infant-mother matrix. Being a psychoanalyst implies being and working in the field of continual intersection of symbolized and unsymbolized. From the beginning of an analytic encounter and increasingly over time, the subjectivity of the analyst and the analysand is subject to distortion. The distortion depends upon the movement and force of all those protosymbolic particles (in Imaginary) of both the analysand and the analyst upon the analytic dyad.

The main importance of this book, I believe, lays in its author's courage to see things from rather different perspectives. It is not necessary to agree with her in all of her ideas. On the contrary, the questions are more important than the answers. And the questions that are posed here represent the richness of this book. The method is original, her style is thoughtful and evocative.

This book could be of great use for psychoanalyst-practitioners and for all those interested in complicated questions of human personality (its development, its structure and its dynamics).


© 2004 Petar Jevremovic


Petar Jevremovic: Clinical psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of Heintz Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.


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