Thursday, 28 October 2010

Wonders of the modern world, two

The Guardian has a section/sidebar in which an ‘expert’ reviews or reflects on a work that relates to their occupation. So . . . there was a saleswoman on Death Of A Salesman.

She didn’t like it, I think. She wrote: ‘Sales is about personal development: it’s about being self-motivated and growing as a person, or peopled won’t believe in you.’

She wasn’t that keen on Willy Loman, either. ‘Willy’s problem is his personality or lack of it.’

If only, I found myself thinking, Arthur Miller were still alive to have his greatest character explained to him so . . . unusually?

Meantime . . .

An instrumental and some dancing.

The first of the three before eight, as mimed three decades later. Or: the other thing Orwell missed out on in Wigan. (The first being not finding the pier.)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Where was I?

Oh, yes. In Exhibition Rd, heading north towards Hyde Park and a talk at the Royal Geographical Society — I’d never been there before.

It was by the analyst Ron Britton and it was entitled Between Brain and Mind? I had no idea of the meaning or significance of that question mark at the end of the title before the lecture. And I was no wiser after the lecture. Obviously, it was about the relationship between physical structure etc and consciousness etc. But, basically, as he had no interest in the former, he had nothing to say about its relationship to the latter.

The only point I really took away was his distinction between comprehending and understanding. That is, in a way, a version of the second two-thirds of the Confucian maxim: I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. He used the phrase ‘getting it’. I got it

I remembered a bit about Ron Britton from my course, but not much. He was a Kleinian, I remembered. And he’d written about Wordsworth’s early poetry — the Prelude and Ode: Imitations of Immortality. These poems are, as you might guess if you’ve read them, big in the analytic world.

I quoted him in my dissertation, in fact. I could repeat what I wrote but I won’t. You wouldn’t like the language. I’m not sure I did. The gist, though, was that he came up with a smart idea about how art was arrived at/created: by a continual feedback loop between the two Kleinian ‘positions’mental states, that is. I’m not sure if it’s right — or even necessary — but it’s smart and fun.

Which his lecture wasn’t. It rambled. It missed the point. It ignored the subject of the title. It asserted where it should have argued. It went on and on.

I dozed a little, I must admit. So it’s possible that I missed the good bits, though I doubt it.

There was a good bit during question time, however. Someone from the audience challenged his lack of interest in — and understanding of — neuroscience. He — and his fellow panellist, Peter Hobson — took umbrage, albeit in a very academia-ish way, smooth and accepting.

Essentially, they asserted their position: that neuroscience offers nothing of interest to our understanding of mind. That is, of ourselves. Psychoanalysis: that’s the thing. Of that, they are certain. Of that, they sing. True believers.

It’s a row I’ve seen before. In fact, it’s the row going on in psychoanalysis at the moment. In one corner, the neuropsychoanalysts — led by Mark Solms, a South African who also makes wine. In the other, the traditional Kleinians — led by Rachel Blass who, being a suburban New Yorker, also, er, whines. I heard a debate between the pair of them and it was great fun. The Blass position was completely assured in its own logic. It was like Labour activists’ view of the Conservatives. Essentially, she couldn’t credit her opposition with a brain. There was an air of Prime Minister’s Question Time about the way she argued — fabulously well and completely convincing but, ultimately only in the moment.

To me, for what it’s worth, the neuropsychoanalysts seem more, well, measured. An odd choice of word, perhaps, but the one that came straight to mind. They seem more worldly, less propelled by their own logic.

Significantly, there seemed to be very few psychoanalytic heavy-hitters at the evening with Ron Britton. There were also, to my eye, no non-white faces and far more women than men. Is now the place to mention that there is a theory — a suggestion, anyway — that the reason psychoanalysis’ wider social influence has declined is related to the increasing number of women in the profession?

No, don’t hit me. There is an argument to be made. I will come back to it, too. Soon. Well, in time.

A little reading for the early evening . . .

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Wonders of the modern world, one

Saturday morning, early, on Primrose Hill, with my dog. Bright and chill and damp.

A handful and a half of middle-aged men (mostly) crawling up the hill, in a very strange way. A younger man with an Australian accent is shouting at them (not at all angrily). ‘You’ve got to get under the barbed wire. You’re being shot at. So keep your arses down. ’

Next up What I got up to on a Friday evening in Exhibition Rd.