Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Norman Holland: We Understand Our Perception of Literature

to read an interview with the
University of Florida's
Professor Norman Holland
by Ismail salami, Press TV
'We Understand Our Perception of Literature'
February 10, 2008
"Norman Holland has, over a long career, explored how the human mind relates to literature."
"He is best known for his books concentrating psychoanalytic and cognitive psychology on literary questions: Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare (1966); The Dynamics of Literary Response (1968); Poems in Persons (1973); 5 Readers Reading (1975); Laughing (1982); The I (1985); The Brain of Robert Frost (1988); Holland's Guide to Psychoanalytic Psychology and Literature-and-Psychology (1990); and The Critical I (1992), an interrogation of contemporary literary theory through what we think we know about the way our minds work. "
Professor Holland is also moderator of the online discussion group PSYART

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Review of American Stage's Hamlet

The Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies arranged for about thirty friends and colleagues to attend, then discuss, on March 15th, The American Stage Theater's production of Hamlet. While our group very much delighted in Todd Olson's enjoyable version, many of us were surprised by the depiction of Hamlet, not as a melancholic, but, instead, as a manic. The removal of Horatio from the script had the effect of leaving Hamlet with no trustworthy ear into which he could pour his angst. Consequently, the sense of tragedy (though all main characters are dead in the end) was lost, and, with the notable exception of the very effective rending of garments by Ophelia, Hamlet played almost entirely humorously.

In this quite truncated and up-dated version of Hamlet [perhaps necessarily so in order to appeal to modern day audiences who demand video-game/sit com/internet fast pace with little time devoted to reading], what was more noticeably lost was the beauty of Shakespearean meter, prose and poetry. The love of language is lost here.

Peter Rudnytsky, in his inimitable scholarly fashion, pointed out the use by Shakespeare of doubles and tragic ironies (e.g. that Hamlet is born on the day his father the King has killed King Fortinbras of Norway, only to have the kingdom of Denmark go to the son Fortinbras once Prince Hamlet, et al, are dead), many of which were lost by this shortened version. Please refer to the writings by Rudnytsky for further scholarship about this timeless play.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Ides of March, Day at the Arts in Tampa Bay

The Ides of March, Day at the Arts In Tampa Bay

Film and Theater

FILM: Idlewild

Idlewild (2006,, written and directed by Bryan Barber, his first feature link film, will be shown on Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. in the Memorial Hospital's Auditorium (located in South Tampa on Swann Avenue, between Armenia and MacDill) by the local Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society. Following the film, Drs. Kim Vaz, Lycia Alexander-Guerra, and John Hartman, who have written a paper on the film about sadism, misogyny, and gang participation, will give a brief psychoanalytic presentation before leading a discussion of the film with attendees.

Idlewild stars Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, aka Andre 3000 and Big Boi of the hip-hop group Outkast, whose music videos Barber directed, as Percival and Rooster, respectively. Idlewild follows these two boyhood friends, both motherless, into adulthood in the small, Prohibition-era, town of Idlewild, GA. While Rooster has a surrogate father in Spats (Ving Rhames), a wealthy bootlegger who values Rooster's mathematical acumen and street smarts, Percival, son of Percy Jenkins, the town's well-to-do mortician, goes unacknowledged by his father except as a needed domestic at home and apprentice in the family business where the dead are to be made to look "peaceful, not happy."

But Percival received piano lessons from his strict aunt, and it is, in adulthood, music which is the common ground shared by Percival and Rooster. Rooster, bootlegger by day, sing and performs at the town's popular speak easy, ironically called "Church," where Rooster carouse with women (much to the dismay of Zora, his wife and mother of his daughters). Percival, mortician by day, plays piano at "Church" by night, where he, like the knight at King Arthur's court, keeps his distance fom the "floozies" there, and is, consequently, ridiculed by the other men.

Rooster is caught up in the gangsta scene, but has found a mother in Zora. Percival falls for Angel Davenport, a singer, and shares his original songs with her. (It is interesting to note that none, save Percival, use their real names, but instead go by Ace or Trumpy or Spats or Monk or G.W.)

One of the many treats of this film is its use of multiple segue as it parallels the lives of Percival and Rooster; e.g. Angel knocks at Percival's door and then Rooster walks through Rose's door; or Angel walks to the cab, then Rose gets into the cab; or Percival is saying 'hello' and Rooster in another scene says 'goodbye.' Percival literally saveds Rooster's life, and then Rooster saves Percival's.

Another jewel in Idlewild is the weaving of symbols which are multiply determined in meaning, e.g. the use of a butterfly: To demonstrate how Percival longs to be free of Idlewild, a butterfly travels from his mother's sunlit headstone, across the idyllic cemetary, and onto the window sill of the room where young Percival is imprisoned for piano lessons. Later, when Percival kisses Angel and they make love, 'hey, butterfly' plays on the soundtrack.

Percival has his Angel, and Rooster has his own angel in Mother Hopkins (Cicely Tyson). Both angels serve to free/redeem the men, one, from inhibition to success away from Idlewild, the other, from a life of disrepute back to legitimate business and family.

The psychoanalytic jewels will be elaborated at the discussion on March 15th. Dr. Vaz will talk about male appropriation of the maternal, Dr. Alexander-Guerra, about the loss of the maternal, and Dr. Hartman, about the dream sequence (a kind of dream within a dream, or, as in Hamlet, a play within a play). Speaking of Shakespeare, Percival's recurring refrain as narrator is "All the world's a stage..." (from As You Like It).

And after Idlewild, another psychoanalytic organization, the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies contines a day at the arts across the bay with Hamlet.


Though March 15th is the Ides of March, the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies will be sponsoring an outing, not to Julius Ceaser, but to Hamlet. After the 3:00 p.m. matinee of Hamlet at the American Stage Theater (see reviews in local St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune by John Bancroft and Kathy Greenberg, respectively), at 211 3rd Street South, in St. Petersburg, FL (727-823-PLAY, Click Here for Directions), interested parties will continue at the nearby Parkshore Grill for discussion and dinner with Peter Rudnytsky, Ph.D., Shakespearean Scholar at University of Florida, Gainesville, and Editor of Imago.

To whet your appetite for the psychoanalytic discussion, consider some of the following musings:

We are all familiar with Freud's idea that Hamlet hesitates to avenge his father's death because Claudius' acts have rekindled Hamlet's own infantile (Oedipal) wishes to kill his father and marry his mother. (He is freed to act after Gertrude dies.) Is Hamlet's infantile fear of the abandoning or engulfing mother not also reawakened by absence of his father and by confrontation with Gertrude's otherness as a sexual being? Must he remake his mother as a 'good lady' without sexuality to restore the lost parents?

Must Hamlet split or distort his parental objects to maintain narcissism, with its conflict of passage of authority from the dead father's generation to that of the son's? Is the universal experience of disappointment in the imperfect parent and the discovery of the subjectivity of the object such that the parents of the imagination must die a violent death?

Does Hamlet, having idealized his biological parents and internalized these idealized objects to solidify his own identity, now struggle with confusion, self-revulsion, and guilt when forced to confront the bad objects of his parentage? And to regain the good object mother, must he incorporate Claudius in order to wrest her from Claudius, or, to regain Gertrude, must he merge with the maternal object in death? (death by poison is, after all, a death from the inside)

Is the murdered king's Ghost a projection of disavowed parts of Hamlet's self, allowing voice to Hamlet's ambivalence about his mother and uncle?

Does Hamlet project his aggression onto others (e.g. Ophelia and Polonius) in his creulty?
Does he struggle for his own agency, instead of impotent words, when condemning Ophelia to a nunnery or joining her in her grave? Does Ophelia, now dead, serve as a projection of others with the capacity to arouse fear as the uncanny/able to see what could not be seen?

Does Gertrude, in violating mourning with the festivities of a marriage, seem, to Hamlet, to legitimize Claudius, thus barring Hamlet's agency, and violating his father's legacy? Does Gertrude, outside the patriarchal order, in death, free Hamlet, while Denmark falls into enemy hands? Is Gertrude the object of desire or the cause of it?

Would the Jungians see Polonius as an archetype of the wise old man or an ambitious fool. Both Polonius and Hamlet, in death, are sacrificed/scapegoated.

Has the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern symbolized Hamlet's attempt to kill off his childhood and take on manhood? Is he calm at play's end because he has recognized this sought after agency? Or, as structural psychology might dictate, is Hamlet calm because his superego has now taken revenge on Hamlet's ego/self?

Just a few thoughts before we enjoy the production. Post your musings, anonymously or owned, by hitting 'comments' at the end of this article.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Division of Psychoanalysis (39) 28th Annual Spring Meeting
April 9-13th, 2008
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, NY

Click here for full program booklet

Keynote Speakers:
Philip Bromberg, Ph.D.,
“The Nearness of You”: Navigating Selfhood, Otherness, and Uncertainty

Arnold Modell, MD
“The Unconscious as a Knowledge Processing Center”

~ Note from TBIPS ~
Our Tampa Bay area community may be interested to know that the
Division 39 Spring Meeting speakers will include such familiar faces as
Nancy McWilliams, Donna Orange, Frank Summers,
Jessica Benjamin, Elliot Jurist, Otto Kernberg, Isaac Tylim,
Albert Brok, Maurine Kelly, Janice Lieberman,
and more....