THE "ATROCITY EXHIBITION" DISCUSSIONS (from the JGB list at Yahoo Groups)

INTERLUDE ... LIFE AGAINST DEATH


[RMcG: 5 January 2007]

I found this on the web: Eduardo Paolozzi in conversation with J. G. Ballard and Frank Whitford (1971)

JG sez:

JGB: There's something about Surrealism which touched the whole Puritan conscience. It's a variety of Symbolism I suppose, a 20th century variety using psychoanalysis as its main language. And if you accept as a definition of a symbol that it represents something which the mind tries to shield itself from you can understand why people in puritanical Northern Europe and North America have always been uneasy in the face, not just of Surrealism, but of Symbolism as a whole. What sort of incursion into the imaginative life of all the arts in England and North America have the symbolist poets made - Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Jarry, and so on. Almost none. And the Surrealists get the same treatment. But I don't see myself working in a surrealist tradition at all because Surrealism was like Hollywood in a sense, was a one-generation movement. You can refer to the Surrealists in connection with my own fiction, but I certainly don't use the basic techniques of Surrealism, automatic writing, for instance.

amazing... JG sure knows his psychoanalytic stuff....

From Norman Brown's 60s classic 'Life Against Death':

Norman Brown: Fantasy, as a hallucination of what is not there dialectically negating what is there, confers on reality a hidden level of meaning, and lends a symbolical quality to all experience. The animal symbolicum is animal sublimans, committed to substitute symbol gratification of instincts for real gratification, the desexualized animal. By the same token the animal symbolicum is the animal which has lost its world and life, and which preserves in its symbol systems a map of the lost reality, guiding the search to recover it. Thus, as Ferenczi said, the tendency to rediscover what is loved in all the things of the hostile outer world is the primitive source of symbolism.

no wonder "people in puritanical Northern Europe and North America have always been uneasy in the face, not just of Surrealism, but of Symbolism as a whole", as JG has grasped that, in brown's terms:

Norman Brown: ... the hidden aim of sublimation and the cultural process is the progressive discovery of the lost body of childhood....in the words of Spender: 'The world which we create -- the world of slums and telegrams and newspapers -- is a kind of language of our inner wishes and thoughts.'.... the pathogenic material in culture, as in the individual, is not the real experience of childhood, but fantasy." .... and since the dialectic of sublimation in civilization is cumulative, cumulatively abstract and cumulatively deadening, freud's intuition that civilization moves towards the primacy of intellect and the atrophy of sexuality is correct. At the end of the road is pure intelligence, and, in the aphoristic formula of Ferenczi, 'pure intelligence is a product of dying, or at least of becoming mentally insensitive.'... the path of cumulative sublimation is also the path of cumulative aggression and guilt, aggression being the revolt of the baffled instincts against the desexualized and inadequate world, and guilt being the revolt against the desexualized and inadequate self ...

and it goes on... (man, I love this cat!)

mike... I haven't given up on AX.... my reading of brown is beginning to open up the book for me -- in particular, the story now seems to be a symbolic struggle between apollonian rationalism and dionysian instinctualism

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[DP: 5 January 2007]

RMcG: I haven't given up on AX.... my reading of brown is beginning to open up the book for me -- in particular, the story now seems to be a symbolic struggle between apollonian rationalism and dionysian instinctualism.

It's well over 30 years since I read Norman O. Brown's _Life Against Death_, but I do remember thinking at the time that it might be viewed as having some relevance to an understanding of Ballard. So all strength to your elbow, Rick (but please don't bombard us with too many lengthy psychoanalytical quotes!).

"Ferenczi" -- now there's a name I don't recall hearing much since the days when I read Norman O. Brown. Hmm -- I wonder if Ballard read Ferenczi?

Even if he didn't read NOB, the fact is JGB probably read a lot of the same sources -- the stuff that was available from the 1930s to the 1950s -- including, possibly, the somewhat loony Wilhelm Reich, whom, as I recall, NOB also mentions...


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