Sergio Benvenuto – In recent years, the West has been stage to a vast attack by the lay intelligentsia against “God.” Every country has had its anti-God and anti-religion best-sellers. “God is not a Good thing.” But this way of focusing on the figure of God-as-person (to say that God is no one) can be reduced, within the issue of monotheisms, to a far more radical and arche-ic/archaic question; the question of the «divine» or the «sacred», on which I would like to concentrate.
A Conversation between Sergio Benvenuto and Richard Rorty This conversation, held in Rome on June 7, 1997, deals only marginally with psychoanalysis. Yet, as in our previously published interviews with philosophers, it situates Rorty’s appreciation of psychoanalysis in its philosophical context.
The psychotherapy process of a 28-years-old woman, Anna, is reported. The patient was referred to psychological consultation from the gynecologist with a diagnosis of primary vaginismus. Because of clinical and hospital policy-based considerations, the patient was given a short-term psychotherapy planned for lasting 16 sessions, which were however prolonged for further 8 sessions. The psychotherapeutic process went through 3 consecutive phases of rapid symptomatic improvement, therapeutic stalemate, and final resolution of symptoms.
Comments on “ A Case of Vaginismus ”
The author critiques the long Western tradition of exalting physical and mental pain as privileged means towards learning the essential truths. This idealization of pain, sorrow, and asceticism in general, is an essential part of Western metaphysics, and as such it has influenced Western medicine and other fields, including psychoanalysis. Heidegger’s critique of Western metaphysics can also be extended to our modern ideology of renunciation, to which the author opposes the acceptance of one’s own radical historicity.
It was my friend Sergio Benvenuto who first suggested about the notion of homeland. My initial reaction was that I would have to write directly in English, although nothing coherent would likely come of this venture. The idea seemed to be on the verge of the impossible from the get-go.
In Civilization and its Discontents (1930), Freud initially uses the image of the city of Rome in several historical periods (“Roma Quadrata,” “Septimontium,” the Rome enclosed within the Aurelian Walls, etc.) to stress conservative aspects: nothing that has ever taken place has disappeared. This metaphor was abandoned because, according to Freud, the demolitions and replacements of buildings occur during the most peaceful development of a city. Bion in Attacks on Linking (1959) gives prominence to destructions that are not static and are important in the analytic relationship. Moving from Bion’s clinical reflections, it is possible for the analytic couple to work towards achieving recoveries, transformations and creative redistributions.
When a happily married man and woman take advantage of the romantic atmosphere of Valentine’s day to spice up their sex-life with the help of a tantalizingly ticklish plumed feather, they might feel a touch embarrassed at first by the daringness of their act, yet no one is likely to dispute that they are creatively pursuing the joys of eroticism.
The author challenges some of the traditional views regarding perverse masochism, drawing on a case of a male subject who had carried out perverse practices for much of his life only to eventually abandon them. While some conventional conceptions note common elements to perverse masochism, such as castration anxiety and rich fantasy, the author shows that it’s instead characterized by limited oneiric activity, the absence of anxiety, and suggests that the masochist not only does not fear castration, but even desires it. In contrast to Freud, for whom masochism would be the trace of the combination between Eros and the death drive, the author does not refer to the latter, speaking rather in terms of the constancy principle and constitutional elements. The author argues that perverse masochism could be considered as one tool (among others) for dealing with the excess quantity of drives that a subject is unable to manage through mental mechanisms.
Le titre de mon exposé reflète les limites de la réflexion psychanalytique sur le thème de la Patrie. Il contient une allusion au fameux aphorisme d’Alfred Korzybski, fondateur de la sémantique générale: «une carte n’est pas le territoire», que celui a publié dans un exposé en 1931. Cette expression signifie que la description d’un objet n’est jamais l’objet lui-même, qu’une abstraction, dérivée de quelque chose, n’est pas la chose elle-même.
Man, this being of language, can never be fully and his desire originates from the original loss of a part of himself in the disappearance of his first lalangue. Thus, if the dream of man has in any time been to speak the same language to make himself understood, every attempt to talk the same language can only lead the terror. Making a detour via the theory of discourses of Lacan, the author demonstrates that the homeland remains the trace of this dream of a common language in which the loss would be abolished.
Les termes des langues indoeuropéennes employés pour “patrie” ont tous cette particularité : ils relient la polis, la cité, à une descendance familiale. La patrie française, la patria italienne et espagnole, la Vaterland allemande, etc., lient notre propre terre d’origine ou d’adoption à la paternité. Dans d’autres langues, la patrie est plutôt liée à la maternité, comme dans la mère-patrie. Même dans l’anglais homeland, sa propre terre est « home », la maison. Bref, l’idée même de patrie est une amplification de la famille, de l’oíkos comme disaient les Grecs.
Concept pour le moins polysémique, c’est-à-dire au contenu et au sens variable selon les époques, les lieux et les cultures, Homeland, évoque tantôt le lieu des origines ou de la naissance, la nation ou le peuple auquel on appartient, la terre à laquelle on prétend…
L’intérêt est grand en Ukraine, j’imagine, de comprendre ce qui pousse à l’union des peuples dans une identité collective, alors que et probablement justement, parce que ce pays est encore déchiré par une guerre qui ne dit plus son nom.
A Seminar on the book by Sergio Benvenuto, “What are Perversions?” (Karnac, London)
How best to describe this book, a passionate discourse? Possibly by saying that it invites, and then disrupts, enjoyment, by proposing its own contract: You will read me more than once. This has all and nothing to do with the book’s seemingly central title, What Are Perversions? If viewed through the lens of What-s, the book could be termed an inquiry into a genealogy of the word-act (perversion), once found descriptively useful as the marker of a sick Subject; later to be allotted a ‘dis-order’ shelf within psychiatric glossary.
The purpose of my comments tonight is to invite Sergio to explore and clarify his views vis-à-vis those of Lacan, with whom he shares much conceptual terrain. Despite many convergences, What Are Perversions? seems at critical moments not only to stray from the Lacanian position but to radically question its ethics and political effects.
I would like to take a moment to thank the organizers and Sergio Benvenuto for providing a wonderful reason for this welcome exchange. Thank you.
What are we talking about when we talk about perversion? Are we speaking within a statistical rubric—that is, are we talking about a subject whose sexual practices fall outside some statistical norm? Are we speaking within a legal discourse, about acts or fantasies that, if enacted, could land you in court? Or are we talking more broadly about a certain kind of confrontation with psychic law?
First of all, I apologize for replying only now – months after the public presentation – to the questions my colleagues put to me. It took me a long time because I found it difficult, I admit, to supply the answers. No less because the questions were intrinsically mingled with the comments.
To Paola Carola «I should like to be Alcibiades for one day and one night, and then die!» W. Goethe, from a letter to Herder, July 1772. «Love, love that never gives us respite» A. Boito, Falstaff