Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A tonalist unconscious

Reading H.D. recently it occurred to me that I had no idea whether we still have an unconscious. A lifelong aversion to psychoanalytic theory and, well, the 80s has produced this perhaps not untypical contemporary dilemma. I have been asking around. Alan Halsey replied helpfully:

"And there I was thinking that I'd abolished the unconscious mind years ago -- 'the discovery of railways coincides with the invention of the unconscious mind' -- & so I'm a bit alarmed to hear that it's still out & about. It occurs to me though that my 'wordland' thing fulfills some of the functions of the unconscious, in so far as I don't conceive it to be itself language (& much less A language) but rather the ground which the languages inhabit & where all the little words can relax when they're not in use. For the question 'where are words when we're not using them?' is very similar to the one about what becomes of the self when inactive, or conversely from what ground the self arises, which leads directly to the supposition of an unconscious. A line of thought which is certainly pre-Freudian -- Leibniz is very explicit about it, and I suspect it is present in medieval theology but disguised by Xtian scholastic terminology, and from a western point of view goes back to the Greek philosophers. But re Freud himself (and leaving aside his obsession with railways) it's striking that so much of his analysis is actually about words, so that his speculations about the subconscious often seem a transposition of observations about the way words work and indeed the way we are the creatures of our language-governors. Or, put another way, bound by words to be ourselves inhabitants of the wordland."


Blogger Radish King said...

I used to live in the second to the last building on the right in this photo, on the second floor, above a tavern. The apartment had 18 foot high ceilings and a beautiful claw foot tub that I could lie completely down in.

7:45 AM  

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