Saturday, 5 December 2009

Eine kleine nacht spiel, part six: the contents of Mrs Klein’s drawers

There is a joke in the play about Mrs Klein’s filing cabinet. It’s of a kind that Ray Cooney would have constructed an entire play around. An intellectual version of Benny Hill could have made a career out of it.

The gag is this. Mrs Klein files her her correspondence into three different drawers of the cabinet, according to the divisions of Freud’s 1921 structural* model of the mind: ego, superego, id. (I’ve no idea whether Mrs Klein's filing strategy has any historical accuracy. Nor can I decide whether that matters — or whether I wish it did or didn’t.)

So, of course, Mrs Klein puts letters from the taxman in the superego drawer. And she puts the letter from Melitta which is the driving force of what plot there is . . . well, to be honest, I can’t remember which drawer she uses for her daughter's correspondence. However, I do suspect, that my not remembering is an accurate reflection of a similar confusion in the characters’ minds about which drawer the letter properly belongs in.

I had an irritating question about this gag, though. It’s a topographical one. Filing cabinets (including the one in the play) have four drawers, not three. So what does Mrs Klein call her fourth drawer? And what might she keep in it? What, in the Kleinian administrative universe lies beyond (or below) the ego, superego and id. Possible answers welcome in this posting's comments section. (Facetious ones, hopefully.)

PS1 How can I have six sessions in a week? Isn’t that transgressing a central rule of analysis? No. Freud himself regularly did six-day weeks for his patients. (I’ll be writing more about Freud’s work practices when I get back to writing about my dissertation.)

PS2 Kleinians, of course, would never do six-day weeks. That would mean they couldn’t demand of their patients** on a Friday morning: so how do you feel about how much you will miss me over the weekend? Or, of a Monday: so tell me about your missing me over the weekend.

PS3 Yes, I do know that ‘spiel’ is a masculine noun in German but ‘ein klein nacht spiel’ just didn’t roll right.

PS4 The play’s run finishes tonight.

* The structural model — the ‘second topography’, to the French — eclipsed the previous, topographical which divided the mind/brain into conscious, unconscious and, sometimes, pre-conscious. Almost without exception, modern analysts slip — promiscuously, with polymorphous perversity even —between the two models.

** At first, I typed ‘parents’ — a significant slip, of course, and one that neatly matches (and ironises) Kleinians’ view of the transference thing. The patient as parent to the analyst is as good a construction as any to start a discussion of the meanings of transference.

Next up I shoot a model


Lo Jardinier said...

The Affair of The Fourth Drawer.
It's surprisingly little known that in real life Melanie Klein carried on her mother's business running a shop selling plants and reptiles in Camden. She told a reporter for the Camden Clarion: 'This whole psychoanalysis thing just started as a joke with the other shopkeepers in the street. But people took it seriously - and no matter how much I tried to wind them up, I couldn't get out of it. Hilarious - I was splitting myself'
The 4th drawer is for the 'Lizards'r'us' invoices.
PS My filing cabinet has 2 drawers - now I'm worried what's missing. Could explain a lot.

Peter Silverton said...

Another possibility is that she went into the corsetry game: brassieres, that is. Come to think of it, I reckon there would be a market for Melanie Klein novelty bras with one cup marked 'bad' and the other 'good'. It would, of course, only be a market in the NW postcodes of London. Maybe I should suggest it to the Tavistock for next Xmas. They could also do Winnicott ones, too, I guess — 'good' on one cup, 'enough' on the other.

So, I also guess, Mrs Klein's fourth drawer could also be for her 'breasts' or perhaps her 'positions'.

Lo Jardinier said...

I can hear the advertising jingle now: 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teats'