The Return to Melanie Klein:

Acquiring Knowledge



The work of Melanie Klein can not only reveal one hypothetical source of the ambivalent attitude towards the other, but it will also refer us back to the question of the difficult relation between a self and its outside.  Klein came to England in the late 1920’s and helped to found what is now known as the Object-Relations school of psychoanalysis.  She presided over the British School and her work on child analysis is now legendary.  Klein describes the earliest stages of infantile psychic life in terms of a successful completion of development through certain positions.  A position for Klein describes a set of psychic functions that correspond to a given phase of development, always appearing during the first year of life, but which are present at all times thereafter and can be reactivated at any time.  There are two major positions.  The paranoid-schizoid position occurs at the earliest phase of development and it is characterised by the relation to part objects (parts of the mother etc.), the prevalence of splitting in the ego and in the object, and paranoid anxiety.  The depressive position is ushered in when the infant recognises the mother as a whole object.  It is a constellation of object relations and anxieties characterised by the infant’s experience of attacking an ambivalently loved mother and losing her as an external and internal object.  The experience, according to Klein, gives rise to pain, guilt and feelings of loss.  For either paranoid-schizoid (PS) or depressive (D) identification to occur, two processes are needed.  On one hand an object is introjected into the ego, which then identifies with some or all of the object’s characteristics.  On the other hand the projection of parts of the self into an object results in the object being perceived as having the characteristics of the projected part of the self, which also results in an identification.  For instance, in PS the ego will split the object into an ideal satisfying part, and a persecuting part, in order to achieve an at least partial identification with a good object.  The result of this defence mechanism, which is essentially a denial of persecution, may be that the ego is itself split into two so that identifications can be made with a persecuting part object that can then be projected outwards.  But the projection is now in danger of infecting the good object, threatening to destroy it, or provoking the possibility of retribution.



In her 1940 paper, “Mourning and its relation to manic depressive states,” Klein describes the depressive position as a process of early “reality testing” and argues that this is a prototypical form of what will later become the process of mourning (Klein 344).  She writes:


The object which is being mourned is the mother’s breast and all that the breast and milk have come to stand for in the infant’s mind: namely, love, goodness and security.  All these are felt by the baby to be lost, and lost as a result of his uncontrollable greedy and destructive phantasies and impulses against his mother’s breasts. (345)


So for Klein the earliest active relation to reality, to the outside, begins with an awareness of one’s own uncontrollable greed and an inconsolable sorrow for a plenitude one feels one has destroyed.  What really distinguishes Klein’s theory is her notion of phantasy describing the arena in which these processes are played out.  For the child the outside world is nothing more than a series of images and passing forms that are used to characterise an inner world of phantasies.  The form of the mother, for instance, is “doubled” and “undergoes alterations” as it is internalised (346).  In this way, external reality can be read so long as the forms of the outside world can be “fitted into the patterns provided by the psychic [inner] reality which prevails at the time” (347).  Klein’s work can thus be read as entering into disputes concerning epistemology, particularly where her account of the process of reality-testing is given in terms of an acquisition of knowledge:


In the process of acquiring knowledge, every new piece of experience has to be fitted into the patterns provided by the psychic reality which prevails at the time; whilst the psychic reality of the child is gradually influenced by every step in his progressive knowledge of external reality. (374).


It is important to recognise that the child’s use of external reality is never anything more than an attempt to better understand inner psychic reality.  Reality is itself understood in terms of the doubling bifurcation of images.  So there is, in effect, nothing but unconscious phantasy, on one hand, and the forms and images that flit across the perceptual screen, on the other.  This argument reinforces the sense, which we have already noted, that psychoanalysis remains within the structures defined by the difference between the empirical and transcendental.  The difference is now understood in terms of  the difference between external form and internal phantasy.  Jacqueline Rose argues that it lies at the heart of what is most controversial in Klein, both within and beyond psychoanalytic institutions.  The implications are philosophical and concern the status of traditional notions of truth and certainty themselves.  What Rose suggests is that Klein’s development of Freudian psychoanalysis loosens up the scientific, objective notion of truth, which inevitably informs Freud’s discourse (though as we have seen Freud himself has gone some considerable way in shaking these notions up).  With Klein truth “does not belong to an order of scientifically verifiable knowledge” (Rose 147); but rather Klein’s notion of truth at the very least puts the possibility of any objective truth in suspense.  Donald Meltzer describes the philosophical problem like this:


It requires an immense shift in one’s view of the world to think that the outside world is essentially meaningless and unknowable, that one perceives the form but must attribute the meaning. (86)


So in Klein’s version of reality objective truth is suspended, debarred from any epistemological privilege and thus held in an indeterminate state.  A kind of radical form of expectation that defers knowledge also informs knowledge.  It excites a desire that cannot be fulfilled for a kind of knowledge that cannot be presented as such.  This “attribution of meaning,” then, as an inevitable element in the formative process of psychic development, cannot but be a kind of hypothesising about a reality that is never itself presentable as such.  The only clues available for the acquisition of knowledge are the forms that correspond in some way to the patterns of psychic life prevalent at any given time. 



The Ruined World “et in Arcadia ego”

According to Freud and Lacan we begin with the awareness that something has been lost.  The first thing is something missing.  All attempts to make up for this loss, to find a substitute for the lost thing, intensify the sense of loss, emphasise all the more painfully that the substitute is not the object at all.  There can be no replacement for something that was never there.  So the search continues as a quest to replace the unsatisfactory substitute with one more satisfying, one that is perhaps not perfect but good enough for the time being.  That is the now classic psychoanalytic narrative of psychic development.  Melanie Klein in a controversial move that still provokes violent debate in psychoanalytic circles went back before this beginning, this Freudian beginning in loss, to its prehistory.  She filled out the details with graphic imagery wrenched from the symbolism of children at play.  Freud’s little melancholic was not the beginning, according to Melanie Klein.  For her, psychic life starts with the vivid destruction of an object, the chaotic ruin of what ought to have been a nurturing environment.  Out of a nightmare of terror and outright war emerges the melancholic child fully aware of its responsibility for destroying a world and doubled up with loss and guilt.  Desire for Freud is played out in restless attempts to complete and fulfil an emptiness that is both produced and maintained by these attempts.  But for Melanie Klein desire is tinged with the guilty knowledge of responsibility.  The object is not so much lost as ruined and the infant, in Freud’s own phrase, becomes “criminal from the sense of guilt.” 



Two distinct patterns of phantasy can be outlined according to this basic difference between Freud and Klein.  Freudian fantasy, on the model of the Fort Da game played by his grandson during long absences of the mother, attempts to control the loss by making it good symbolically.  The conservatism of fantasy is exemplified in a defence that is the equivalent of a lie: the mother is not gone (Fort), look!  She is here (Da).  The cotton reel is like the fetishized commodity--manifested in an endless series of objects that are each time symbolic of the one missing thing--circulating in an endless chain where each link refers metonymically only to the next link, as close as you’ll get to a random process.  This may seem close to the experience of the mass media, including mainstream cinema where, if you go often enough, you will be aware only of a kind of continuous series of parts never quite adding up to a single film.  The plot for each film is in the most basic sense the same as the others.  The narrative is reducible to two movements repeated endlessly.  We begin with the awareness that something has been lost or is in danger of being lost (Fort!).  The first thing is something missing.  Then the loss is made good, the missing object replaced, the ruined world mended or replenished, or a fulfilling substitute, more fulsome than the lost or ruined original, is found (Da!).  The variations are illimitable.



Kleinian desire, on the other hand, forces us to work a little harder.  Perhaps, as violent as the phantasies are, they present a more substantial kind of promise than the hopeless Freudian ones do.  But the promise, like all promises, comes with a warning.  The Kleinian answer to the question “is that a threat or a promise?” is always “both, of course.”  The desire to make reparation demands not only a capacity for tolerating destructive impulses, but also a willingness to return to the scariest environment imaginable, the anxious core of the self.  Symbolic substitution may be necessary but it is certainly not sufficient, for to make reparation, to move forward into an ethical state one must learn to move backwards into the state that produced the ruin in the first place.  On must learn to rediscover the terrifying first months of life, to re-enter the schizoid state of the neo-natal infant.  In science fiction cinema it is possible to read an analogue of this state, represented in the ruined and hazardous landscapes on which so much of the action is played out.  By what looks like a coincidence, Klein’s descriptions of the ravaged world of infantile phantasy compare with some representations in contemporary science fiction cinema.  In the following sections I will provide a reading of a popular cinema genre through the theoretical matrix of psychoanalysis.  I then want to use this reading to fold certain assumptions about analysis back onto psychoanalysis itself.  In this way we will be able to better understand what is at stake in analysing cultural texts.  The key word here is analysis and the key problem concerns what remains unanalysed.        



Kleinian Scientificity (Klein and Bion).

It is claimed that psychoanalytic theory is of a special kind.  Its interest is in areas that are shared by philosophy, psychology and cultural theory, yet its purpose is always practical and clinical.  Psychoanalytic hypotheses are designed for perpetual restatement by practising analysts in terms of empirically verifiable data.  The violent controversy over Klein’s quite radical restatement of Freud’s hypotheses seems to have taken even her a little by surprise because from her own point of view she had simply maintained the ideals of the rational scientist that were Freud’s own--at least some of the time.  If her theories were modifications of Freud’s theories that was because they were based on what her follower Wilfred Bion would later call negative realisation.  A negative realisation occurs when a preconception fails to find support in experience.  The most common defence against this, which is a dreadfully frustrating experience for a vulnerable ego attempting to build itself on good preconceptions, is to counteract it with a variety of possible responses.  I can ignore it, pretend that there has been no negative realisation at all and stick to my preconceptions.  Or I can indulge in phantasies of omniscience and omnipotence and hallucinate a world changed to conform to my preconceptions.  Either way my experience is dominated by the pathological organization known to psychoanalysts as the schizoid state.  If, on the other hand, I have the capacity to tolerate the anxiety caused by negative realisation the thinker in me emerges.  Bion calls an event of negative realisation a thought.  A thought needs a container and thus the self must become a thinker in order to contain the thought--that is Bion’s theory of thinking.  Most of the time the thinker coexists with parts of the self that remain organised pathologically, which, in terms of thought, cling to the lie rather than the truth of the thought that is produced in negative realisation.  The difficulty here of course is that you don’t even get negative realisation without the preconceptions into which the truth comes crashing like a bad dream or your worst nightmare.  The preconceptions are built on the conservatism of defensive phantasy, which is basically reactionary.  Negative realisation is like a tool that the infant must learn to use in order to adjust the frameworks of his internal world.  It is the condition of the internal world that interests the psychoanalyst. 



The first patterns of phantasy are very crude and seem to have been the consequence of extreme terror.  The Kleinian ego is willed into life through an unbearable sense of persecution.  Any of the frustrations of the first stages of life would, one might suppose, be enough to have you crying out for your mother.  Just the failure of a finger in the mouth to maintain the hallucination of food turns the absence of the breast into some vile and ruthless monster, the notorious bad breast.  But Klein insists that the violence of these early persecution phantasies originates within as an archaic negativity, not a negative realisation as such--there’s nothing to be realised at all yet--just negativity pure and simple.  The disappearance of the satisfying breast has been prepared for, in other words, by the harassing presence from the beginning of the death instinct.  When you are hungry the lie that you are not is a difficult one to maintain.  So your hunger takes the shape of a monster.  At the infantile stage the distinction between the self and the object is not clear but it follows the pattern of splitting and is manipulated through the two mechanisms of projection and introjection.  Projection throws undesirable, monstrous parts of the self out into the object, which is either expected to contain and neutralise them or to be infected and ultimately destroyed by them.  Introjection is supposed to extract good aspects of the good object and use them to build up the internal object, the rudimentary core of what will one day be the self.  The trouble is introjection can often bring in fragments of the destructive object too and by the same token the bad self can easily, in extreme hate or envy or in the glory of an omnipotent rage, just destroy the only hope of survival, the good object on the outside.  The thing to stress here is that everything, parts of the object and parts of the self, are just that, parts.  It is a world of part objects divided crudely into good and bad, internal and external.  This is the PS position. 



The next position for the infant, moving in at a speculative three months, according to Melanie Klein, is the depressive position (D), which plays two important functions.  First the force of the violent phantasies is reduced.  The world is less frightening, less violent.  The PS violence is considerably lessened.  The key to this function is the capacity for toleration.  The second function is integration.  The split off parts of the object, representing a now ruined and all but destroyed external environment, are brought together to form a single unity.  All the attacks on the monstrous bad breast are now revealed to have been ruinous for the good one too, good and bad now integrated. 



I’ll return to the depressive position a little later.  For the moment we don’t need to explore it in any depth, because it plays a very small role in the first film I want to look at.  The extremely popular Armageddon is a phantasy played out entirely on the PS level and culminates in an omnipotent destruction of the bad object, after it has been filled, literally implanted, with all the bad parts of the mythic self.  A meteorite the size of Texas is hurtling towards the earth and promises to hit it with the force equivalent to 10,000 nuclear warheads.  There are four main aspects to bear in mind during my analysis.  The first concerns the role of the mother, the archetypal Kleinian object, of course, and as potent as a symbol could be, but who is missing here from the beginning.  This is the standard narrative where the father exchanges his daughter with a surrogate son in an ecstatic symbolic union, a classical mythic structure, on the surface at least.  The second point, which is intimately related to the first, concerns the obsessive gendering of both the earth and the rock that threatens it.  The grouchy amateur astronomer who discovers it names the rock “Dotty,” after his wife, because “she’s a vicious life-sucking bitch from which there is no escape.”  There are echoes of Aliens here too of course.  More important than the misogyny, which is an inescapable component of the pathological organisations at work here, is the explicit characterisation of the rock, and spectacularly its cinematic realisation as “the scariest environment imaginable” with razor sharp ice, unpredictable winds and exploding potholes.  And fourth, the structural key to the whole film is coupling.  The rock is attempting to couple with the earth.  Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler are attempting to couple against the wishes of her father Bruce Willis.  The NASA shuttles couple with the Russian refuelling space station.  The drill mechanism is coupling with the earth in order to extract oil and with the rock in order to implant a nuclear bomb.  Numerous incidental couplings or attempted couplings occur along the way.


The Analysis 


1.     The absent mother. 

2.     The gender of the earth and the rock.

3.     The rock as the scariest environment imaginable.

4.     Coupling.




At this stage I can make use of some critical methods that we have already explored.  Following the method of Levi-Strauss’ structural analysis, I’ll take the events of the film as if they were the terms of a system and replace them on a grid that indicates the structural relations between them.



1.       A rock threatens the Earth.

2.       A boy threatens the daughter.

3.       The Father threatens the Boy.

4.       The mother is absent (“She left us both”)

5.       Drilling strikes oil.

6.       Only drilling, rather than assaulting, can save the earth.

7.       Drilling team in 17 day training.

8.       Shuttles refuel in space (destroying the Russian space station in the process).

9.       Shuttles arrive on the rock (one badly damaged).

10.     Drilling takes place on the rock.

11.     Father sacrifices himself so the boy can return home to the daughter.

12.     Earth is saved.




The grid looks something like this:



Valued                           Devalued                       Implanting                     Extracting

Earth                               rock                                rock into earth                 oil from earth/Russia

non-military                     military                            boy into girl                    blood into syringe

oil                                   bomb                              bomb into rock               father into daughter



At the level of myth Armageddon can thus be seen as a deeply conservative and collusive text.  According to the structuralist formula:


                             Fx (a): Fy (b) -- Fx (b): Fa-1 (y)


The myth makes the function of extracting equivalent to the valued terms (oil, earth, non-military personnel) but dissolves a contradiction by privileging implantation as the destruction of the non-valued terms (rock, bomb).  The contradiction is solved at the level of the relation between father and boy, through the sacrifice of the father.  But beneath this the film solves a series of problems.  It takes the problems of technological progress--nuclear war, destruction of ecological resources and devastating pollution--and solves them by dumping them into the symbolic evil of the rock and then exploding it.  All within the technological process itself.   



The Kleinian terminology, which gives flesh to the abstraction of structuralist terms and functions, and which corresponds to the visual field of cinema rhetoric, can add further insights.  Part objects in the unconscious take the form of greedy vaginas, monstrous breasts and pseudo-penises.  This corresponds in obvious ways with the iconography of Armageddon.



The grid now looks something like this:




Valued                           Devalued                       Implanting                     Extracting

good breast                   bad breast                     projection                      introjection

earth                               rock                                rock into earth                 oil from earth/Russia

non-military                     military                            boy into girl                    blood into syringe

oil                                   bomb                              bomb into rock               father into daughter



So it might be easy to argue on the basis of this grid that far from arriving at any sense of depressive realisation of responsibility, Armageddon simply satisfies the desire for omnipotent destruction of all that is bad in order to preserve all that is good.  The ruined and destroyed object is replaced through the sacrifice of the father, which allows the fantastic replacement of the object in terms of the endless boy-gets-girl narrative of Fort-Da.



Something like the process of negative realisation that produces thinking grounds Kleinian aesthetics too.  The difference here is that the capacity for toleration is directed towards the inner world of phantasy as opposed to the outer world of events.  The artwork, for the Kleinian, is the result of two special talents and it allows for two types of identification.  The artist, according to Hannah Segal, must have an intimate knowledge of their material (clay, words, rhetoric, paint, etc.) and must also have the capacity to tolerate the internal death drive “as fully as can be borne.”  She says that the work must embody “the terrifying experience of depression and death.” (219).  The artist must be able to acknowledge the death instinct, both in its aggressive and self-destructive aspects, and accept the reality of death both for the object and the self.  The spectator thus identifies the artwork as a reparative recreation of the ruined inner world and identifies with the artist as another through the medium of the work.  In this case phantasy is not just the conservative force that militates against the truth.  We see that it is the very principle and power of world creation.  There would be no world without it.  The artwork reveals the source of the world in negativity, but in a negotiated way, in a way that can be borne.  These identifications allow vicarious access to the negativity of the death-drive upon which all experience is grounded.   An omnipotent phantasy like Armageddon would not pass the test for while in terms of cinema rhetoric it is exemplary, in terms of its presentation of negativity it is just an infantile phantasy.



Soldier on the other hand provides a glimpse into something a bit deeper.  Soldier at least takes us out of the paranoid-schizoid position.  This is how Hannah Segal describes the depressive position:


[It] is reached by the infant when he recognises his mother and other people, and among them his father, as real persons.  His object relations then undergo a fundamental change.  Where earlier he was aware of ‘part objects’ he now perceives complete persons; instead of ‘split’ objects, ideally good or overwhelmingly persecuting--he sees a whole object both good and bad.


It is during the depressive stage that a sense of an inner reality is developed in contradistinction to a sense of outer reality.  The infant now has to be able to tolerate not only the frustration of learning that its preconceptions about the object world are wrong but also the guilt in becoming aware of its own ambivalence to the object world, which includes large amounts of hate and envy previously projected into its objects.  Inability to tolerate this--especially at first--results in varying degrees of regression into PS and its defences: splitting, idealisation, denial, projective identification.  Phantasies like Armageddon represent a kind of cultural version of this regression--there are many other examples.  Soldier seems to me to present a slightly different kind of phantasy. 



One of the things that critics didn’t like about Soldier was Kurt Russell’s character.  One popular critic said that, if we are going to have another gun toting kill-em-all hero, then at least he should be of the wise-cracking slick and articulate kind.  But no, Kurt Russell says virtually nothing throughout and every short clipped phrase is closed off with a barked out “sir”:  “Yes, Sir,” in response to an order at the beginning; “I was replaced Sir,” when asked why he was separated from his company; “I’m going to kill them all Sir,” as an answer to the woman who asks, “what are you going to do?” just before the bloody denouement.  It is an essential part of his character once we see the film as an allegory for PS and D in the development of psychic life. 



Please be aware that it is by no means necessary that we see the film as an allegory for anything.  What interests me, in the context of critical theory, is the possibility of allegory.  My reading is based upon an analogy between psychoanalytic and cinematic presentations and as such any authority governing my reading rests on the accidental, on analogy itself.  Later we must explore the grounds of analogy in order to tighten up the reading. 



Russell’s character Todd is a veteran soldier of the future, a survivor of numerous galactic conflicts.  The beginning of the film shows his selection at birth and consequent training.  The story proceeds with the arrival of a new breed of genetically engineered soldier, one of who fights off three of the old kind, including Todd himself, in an exercise to prove the superiority of this new breed.  Todd loses the fight but not before prising an eye from his enemy’s head.  The unconscious Todd is then discarded on a planet that is used only for dumping waste.  He becomes conscious on this wasteland littered with sharp-edged rusting metallic technological waste and is almost immediately attacked by a sudden ferocious wind that threatens to pick him up and dash him onto some jagged shard.  Welcome again to the scariest environment imaginable. 



However this deserted planet of the Arcadian system, whose name turns out to be “Arcadia 234”, is not deserted after all.  A community living in the protective dome of some discarded rocket has crash-landed on this planet on the way from Earth to a utopian new beginning.  They gather what they can use from the wasteland around them dodging the persecuting and unpredictable winds as well as they are able.  They take Todd in on the word of their leader, a firm but fair matriarch, who says, “we must do the decent thing and the decent thing is to help him.”  The core for Todd of this community is the small oedipal family of Case, his wife and their son Nathan who has been struck dumb from a snake bite--another of the significant terrors of Arcadia 234.  The crucial identification is the one between Todd and Nathan, the two near speechless, perhaps autistic children, who form the core of the film’s own ego.  Let’s map it out.  It is a terrifying and persecuting wasteland, in which a small and vulnerable yet nurturing society maintains a semblance of gentle civility.  The most obvious associations of Todd’s name are first, from the colloquial “On your Todd” meaning on your own and second, probably more significantly, from the German Tod for death.  Death comes into Arcadia.  There is an irony of course here.  Arcadia is at once the determined innocence and the stubborn pastoral of the new Arcadians, but this Arcadia is number 234.  How many are there?  They must be cropping up in the universe like shopping arcades in California.  Into this Arcadia comes death.  This nurturing society is built on matriarchal lines exemplified in all kinds of ways by the rhetoric, which aligns it with the quiet strength of femininity. 



Despite the fact that Todd has saved someone’s life from the ferocious wind the community find they cannot incorporate this efficient death-machine into their society.  The crux comes not after Todd has in a pathological moment of confusion almost killed the hapless Jimmy, who has knitted him a scarf in repayment for saving his life.  It rather comes when Todd fails to kill a snake in an attempt to teach young Nathan to do his own killing.  For this he is cast out.  Here is the significant scene.  He sits outside in the dubious shelter of a huge cast iron pipe and a tear forms on his cheek causing him some surprise.  This is the beginning of two realisations.  The first amounts to mourning the destroyed world, as the first sign of realization that the external world is peopled by beings that one might not want to kill.  And the second is that for the first time Todd’s inner and outer world become distinct; he is able to reflect on his own role in the ruinous destruction of his life. 



When Nathan does kill a snake that is just about to bite into his sleeping father the parents and the rest of the community realise their error.  Even the most nurturing environment must find a place for Todd, the extreme vigilance of the soldier, just as the soldier must find an integrated world in order to exist.  So far so good.  Except the new breed make their inevitable reappearance on manoeuvres as an irrational and persecuting force more terrifying than the landscape itself.  After blowing off Case’s leg they proceed by disintegrating the community’s matriarchal leader, followed by the community itself.  All that is left now is for Todd to “kill them all sir”. 



In classic omnipotent style Todd does indeed kill them all and joins up with the now disarmed members of his old company to steal the spaceship and take off with the survivors from Arcadia 234, just before it is blown to fragments by the bomb left on there by the evil commanders, who of course get blown to pieces as well.  The film ends with young Nathan in Todd’s arms, the ship on course for the original utopian planet—we might suggest it represents the idealised good breast.  It is not so much the narrative, but rather the manipulation of cinema rhetoric and imagery that is interesting.  The narrative mates Todd with Nathan rather than boy with girl.  As such it is an allegory of the ego built on the integration between PS and D elements.  As cinema rhetoric it succeeds as a vivid evocation of the inner world.  The problem with D is that there is now no way of allowing access to the shocking, surprising, contingent newness of events.  Whole objects tend to be what you expect them to be and the patterns of phantasy that maintain your expectations are now hidden from consciousness.  The return to PS can culminate in radical defence, but it can also open experience to unpredictable changes, if the anxiety can be tolerated.  Todd represents, in the combination of fear and discipline, the capacity for tolerating extreme danger, yet he has no capacity for social integration.  His super-ego sets Doberman dogs onto squealing pigs and shoots children if thay cannot run fast enough.  Nathan on the other hand is too protected by his parents’ depressive anxieties.  His super-ego keeps him from reality.  It is too nurturing.  The film’s fundamental drive is to unite Todd with Nathan, to bring PS and D together, to unite the persecuting super-ego with the satisfying one.  It culminates in a satisfying way, with an all out omnipotent phantasy that places the utopian good breast in sight through the outright destruction of the bad one, with all the bad elements of the self on it.  As in Armageddon there are two planets and one must be destroyed.  This is a rapid retreat from mourning and perhaps represents the ultimate capitulation to pathological forces of organisation.  We begin with the awareness that something has been lost.  The first thing is something missing.  Et in Arcadia ego.




There is a problem with the analysis I’ve just provided that is a concern both for psychoanalysis and for the process of analysis generally.  Analysis, as we have seen, involves the division into subject and object.  As such it depends upon an unanalysed distinction between the transcendental (as theoretical matrix) and the empirical (as the passive object or example).  I’ve just mapped a fully formed theoretical matrix derived from structuralism and psychoanalysis onto a couple of examples from contemporary mainstream cinema.  What I have failed to analyse is the distinction between the analysing subject and the analysed object (the transcendental matrix and the empirical event).  On what grounds can I privilege the psychoanalytic representation over the cinematic one?  How can I support the implicit assumption of scientificity in psychoanalysis against the fictionality of film?  It seems to me, in looking back over my analysis, that I have been using the psychoanalytic apparatus, the instruments of analysis, to probe these textual objects, drawing out of them what I need to support the argument and then demolishing what is left, exhausting the signifying potential of these films.  The psychoanalytic apparatus is thus left untouched, not at all affected by the ruin it finds about itself, whereas the wretched films are shredded to nothingness by my analytic acuity.    But then if that is the case, Armageddon could even be read as a kind of satire on psychoanalysis.  Let’s have another look at that grid:



Valued                           Devalued                       Implanting                     Extracting

good breast                   bad breast                     projection                      introjection

psychoanalysis              cinema                           analysis                         interpretation

science                           fiction                            insight into film             truth out of fiction

earth                               rock                                rock into earth                 oil from earth/Russia

non-military                     military                            boy into girl                    blood into syringe

oil                                   bomb                              bomb into rock               father into daughter



It seems now that the whole analytic, interpretative enterprise (science approaches its object fiction) is thematised and contained, dramatised and satirised, within the object itself (science fiction).  What this perhaps illustrates is the way in which the undoubtedly illuminating theoretical turns in the works of Freud, Lacan, Klein and others can too easily give rise to a kind of analytic triumphalism similar to that portrayed in Armageddon.  Psychoanalytic interpretation tends to find itself in the texts it analyses.  And this finding itself is how psychoanalysis, as an institution, founds itself rhetorically.  According to what we should now recognise as a circular argument, its truth is an interpretation of the other.  But, as Klein herself teaches, our analytic judgements of the other should rather teach us more about the phantasy of analysis itself, its projections and introjections and its positive and negative identifications.










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