"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, July 24, 2015

Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through

The Greek Orthodox scholar and priest John Panteleimon Manoussakis, whom I interviewed here about his recent splendid book, posted something to Facebook recently about a book I had not read, but which he was finding profitable: Marcus Pound, Theology, Psychoanalysis and Trauma (SCM Press London: 2007), 210pp.

Psychoanalytic thought is not entirely foreign to Eastern Christianity, though scholarly efforts to study and integrate it are not nearly as frequent or far advanced as for psychoanalysis and Western Christianity, not least in Jungian terms. I noted here a recent scholarly monograph, and gave some fuller thoughts here to the uses and abuses of Freud.

About this book by Pound the publisher tells us:
Marcus Pound's book develops a specifically theological form of psychotherapy rooted in liturgy and arising from engagement with postmodern psychoanalysis. Jacques Lacans claim that the unconscious is structured like a language radically challenged psychoanalysis and Pound uses this as the basis for his work in this volume. Postmodern psychoanalysis has been anticipated by theology, and Pound goes further in this claim to argue there has been a return to theology in psychoanalysis.
I returned to Freud this year in writing my lecture for last month's OTSA conference at Fordham, where I took up the uses and abuses of "forgetting" in various forms as an integral part of how Christian tradition develops, not least in the history of Catholic-Orthodox estrangement and reconciliation. As I think we have all learned by now thanks to him and modern psychology, not all forms of forgetting are regrettable, and not all forms of remembering are commendable.

So I went back to Freud, especially his short essays "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through" as well as "Motivated Forgetting" from The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (The Standard Edition).

I also found two other works very insightful and helpful here, beginning with Paul Ricoeur's  Memory, History, Forgetting. Ricoeur is of course no stranger to Freud, having engaged him for decades, not least in his Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation.

Even more than Ricoeur the work of a contemporary scholar is very suggestive and illuminating: Bradford Vivian of Syracuse University's  Public Forgetting: The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again is an interesting and suggestive work that argues about how, when it comes to such things as cultural conflicts and reconciliation, deliberate forgetting can be as beneficial ritualized remembrance. In witness of this, consider recent debates over what to do with the Confederate flag in the south. The move to have it removed from official public display suggests that culturally many people are understandably prepared to "forget" that history instead of seeking ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

The importance of forgetting remains an important and under-appreciated one for Catholics and Orthodox still struggling to come to terms with our dolorous and divisive past. We remember and repeat, Freud showed, in order to work through--or (as we say today), "move on." Let it be so, and soon. 

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