Psychoanalysis and the Image - Dr. Sharon Sliwinski (FIMS)
What is the unconscious that it should give us such trouble? In one of his late works, Freud (1938) described the unconscious as the oldest of our psychical provinces: it contains everything that is inherited, everything present at birth, everything constitutionally determined, and above all, the drives originating from the body. This oldest of part of the psychical apparatus remains the most important throughout one’s entire life. Psychoanalytic research takes this as its starting point. In the beginning, one might say, there is the unconscious. Yet paradoxically, our inability to recognize—indeed to see—our oldest psychical province is precisely what constitutes it as unconscious. Our course will bring psychoanalytic discussion of the unconscious to bear on contemporary debates in visual studies and critical aesthetics. It is often said that ours is an increasingly visual culture. Yet psychoanalysis troubles the ideal of “visual literacy” by suggesting that the mind is active in keeping its own activity outside of conscious awareness.
Our course will try to think through the troubles the unconscious presents to thinking about visuality: blindness in the visual field, (screen) memories, symptomatology and the archaeology of sensation, and of course, all the ways visual images are celebrated, censored, forgotten, or destroyed, in short, all the ways they gather significance and force. Theoretical readings will be considered alongside contemporary film, art, and other cultural objects; the course includes a mix of visual case studies and theories of image-work.
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