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The art of healing: psychoanalysis, culture and cure

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posted on 2023-06-08, 21:03 authored by Joanna Elizabeth Thornton Kellond
This thesis explores how we might think the relation between psychoanalysis and the cultural field through Donald Winnicott’s concept of the environment, seeking to bring the concept into dialogue with more “classical” strands of psychoanalytic theorizing. A substantial introduction sets out the rationale behind the thesis by reading Freud and Winnicott in relation to the “classic” and the “romantic” (Strenger 1989), or the “negative” and “positive” (Rustin 2001), in psychoanalytic thought. It goes on to outline the value of bringing these tendencies together in order to think the relationship between psychoanalysis, culture and change. The chapters which follow move from psychoanalysis as a “cultural cure” – a method and discourse drawing on and feeding into a broad conception of cultural life – towards a notion of “culture as cure” informed by Winnicott’s theory of the environment. Chapter one examines Freud’s refusal of the “culture”/ “civilization” distinction and considers what it means for the idea of a cultural cure. Chapter two considers whether Winnicott’s thinking about “culture” ultimately prioritises the aesthetic over the political. Chapter three uses Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World ([1932] 1994) to explore an analogy between totalitarianism, technology and maternal care. Chapter four turns to the series In Treatment (HBO 2008-) to think about the intersections of therapy and technology in terms of reflection and recognition. Chapter five employs Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005) as a means to reflect on the capacity of culture to cure. Ultimately, I suggest that social “cure” may require more than “good-enough” cultural forms and objects, but Winnicott’s “romantic” theorization of the aesthetic, coupled with a “classic” attention to structures of power and oppression may offer a means of thinking the relationship between psychoanalysis and culture in potentially transformative ways.


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