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Aesthetic Sensibilities, Primary Process, and Metaphor (Marilyn Charles,PhD)

  • 15 May 2021
  • (CDT)
  • 16 May 2021
  • (CDT)
  • 2 sessions
  • 15 May 2021, 9:00 AM 4:30 PM (CDT)
  • 16 May 2021, 9:00 AM 1:00 PM (CDT)
  • via Zoom


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Marilyn Charles, PhD

May 15-16, 2020

Marilyn Charles, PhD, ABPP is a staff psychologist and psychoanalyst at the Austen Riggs Center. Training and Supervising Analyst at the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis; International Coordinator of the Psychoanalytic Track at the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM); Co-Chair of the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society (APCS); and contributing editor of Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society, she is actively engaged in mentoring, promoting community involvement and socially relevant research. Interests include creativity, psychosis, reflective function and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Marilyn is an artist, a poet, and a writer, publishing over 100 articles and book chapters and five books, including Working with Trauma: Lessons from Bion and Lacan and Psychoanalysis and Literature; and five edited volumes, including: Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Fragments of Trauma and the Social Production of Suffering (with Michael O’Loughlin), Women and Psychosis and Women and the Psychosocial Construction of Madness (with Marie Brown), and The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education: (with Jill Bellinson).  (161)

Seminar title: Aesthetic Sensibilities, Primary Process, and Metaphor

Seminar Description

Psychoanalysis had its origins in Freud's encounters with his own and his patients' unconscious processes that manifested in the forms of slips, symptoms, and dreams.  In his attempts to translate these more primary processes into verbal language, we were offered the term libido as the agent of motivation that marks a desire and intention based upon primary experience.  Over time, this concept came to have a sexualized connotation that spoke to aspects of our more primary drives but, from my perspective, occluded others.  Bion describes three vertices, or orientations, from which 'facts' might be perceived:  The scientific, the religious, and the aesthetic.  Some Bionian theorists have illuminated this aesthetic perspective, even going so far as to describe the aesthetic dimension of the mind.  I would go further, however, proposing that what Freud termed libido, in being a function and manifestation of the unconscious, is primarily aesthetic in form.  This aesthetic achieves meaning through patterned representations that break through conventional understanding to assert new, creative possibilities.  In this seminar, I will invite an exploration of primary process as a way of knowing self, other, and experience through a lens informed by the aesthetic sensibilities referred to by Freud in his descriptions, in particular, of the dream work, and then by Matte-Blanco, in his descriptions of symmetrical logic.  We will then use this lens to look at some ways in which psychoanalytic metaphors are informed by and refer directly to this aesthetic dimension of experience, the aesthetic sensibility that under-rides all human knowing and meaning-making.  (253)

Selected Readings

Bion, W. R. (1990). Brazilian Lectures, London & New York: Karnac.

Charles, M. (under review). The Haunting of Hill House: Psyche, Soma, and Destiny, Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society.

Enckell, H. (2010). Reflection in psychoanalysis: On symbols and metaphors. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 91:1093-1114.

Harris Williams, M. (2005). The three vertices: Science, art and religion. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21(3):429-441.

Lacan, J. (1977). The Four Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis, A. Sheridan (Trans.)., New York: W.W. Norton.

"Nothing human is alien to me"  --Terrence

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