Language on Vacation: An Olio of Orthographical Oddities by Dmitri A Borgmann

By Dmitri A Borgmann

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17: 248n, 14: 371n) Figures of Freudian Theory 31 As with the other passage the problem is one of misrecognition that is the cause of alarm, apprehension, distress. Freud describes how his perception and understanding correct themselves – as they did when he realized that the woman in his consulting room was not his former patient but her sister – and things therefore finally seem to be made right. Freud refamiliarizes himself with himself, reasserting his own knowledge. But there has been a crisis of recognition, the ‘dismay’ it causes here only a little less a perturbation than the ‘dread’ (and ‘shame’) Freud reports he felt when he was confronted by his former patient’s sister.

It would be as though one had conjured up spirits [Geister] and run away from them as soon as they appeared. Sometimes, it is true, nothing else is possible. There are cases in which one cannot master the unleashed transference and the analysis has to be broken off; but one must at least have struggled with the evil spirits [bösen Geistern] to the best of one’s strength. (20: 227, 15: 328–9, 14: 258–9) In this final quotation, Freud explicitly uses the vocabulary of supernaturalism in order to discuss problems of psychoanalytic theory.

It is not enough for Freud to describe the sadness of departure and distance; he adds to the descriptions of those states a figure of wounding – or, to be quite specific, of post-surgical non-healing around a prosthesis. What is most profoundly at issue in this section of Freud’s book is not motorization or telecommunication or the expediency of scientific instruments, but, at its simplest, loneliness. The lost and longed-for womb, the missing child, an absent friend far away – these poignant thoughts chime tonally and emotionally with the solitary confusion of an old man in a railway carriage and also, by implication at least, with the underlying terror caused by the prospect of the ineffable loneliness of being laid in a frozen tomb.

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