Hanna Segal's Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetics Term Paper

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psychoanalytic as portrayed by H. Segal. It has sources.

Psychoanalytic approach to aesthetics can best be understood by understanding the theory/ies that guide us on the study of this particularly complex discipline. The theory and guidelines of psychoanalytic approach enable us to offer some insight into the worlds of literature, art and music, and on the other hand, it also allows us to better understand artists' perception and inner approaches as he applies them to portray his feelings. Psychoanalytic approach also enables us to understand the artists' aesthetic experiences as he or she conjures up his perception and response thereof, interpretation and meaning, and his or her thoughts and feelings. Primarily divided into applied psychoanalysis and clinical psychoanalysis, the discipline of psychoanalytic aesthetics has been studied and commented upon by famous names including Melaine Klein, Hanna Segal, Wilfred Brion, Donald Meltzer, Donald Winnicott and Marion Milner on the clinical aspects. While equally famous names of psychoanalysts including Adrian Strokes, Anton Ehrenzweig, Peter Fuller and Richard Wollheim have studied and commented from the psychoanalytic aesthetics' applied or non-clinical perspective.

Then there is the role of psychoanalysis in the study of aesthetics that is yet another area that demands an equal study on the psychoanalytic approach to aesthetics. Briefly speaking, psychoanalysis provides a detailed understanding of the human mind, and its complex working methods. In clinical language, we can thus say that psychoanalysis provides both the metapsychological and a clinical theory. Psychoanalysis also provides the dynamic, economic, structural, adaptive and developmental perspectives of the human mind, as well as a very highly sensitive approach that includes both the portrayal of the different meanings through the use of intricate wordings applying language as a medium of expression, as well as through the materialistic expressions of the visual arts.

Aesthetics, on the other hand studies three different, yet overlapping areas: the particular nature of an artists' creative process and his experience/s; the interpretation of art; and the nature of the aesthetic encounter.

Though a vast and equally complex discipline, psychoanalytic aesthetics can neither be covered in a single paper, not is it possible to comment, let alone briefly mention the works, criticisms of each and every psychoanalyst, whether belonging to the clinical field or the non-clinical or non-practicing field. The following paper will thus only focus on the comments of clinician Hanna Segal's psychoanalytic approach to aesthetics in general and particularly his quotes on creation and recreation as he notes, "The essence of the aesthetic creation is a resolution of the central depressive situation and that the main factor in the aesthetic experience is the identification with this process" H. Segal, (1981) p. 204. And, commenting on all artists, Segal says, "all creation is really a recreation of a once-loved and once whole, but now lost and ruined object, a ruined internal world and self. It is when the world within us is destroyed, when it is dead and loveless, when our loved ones are in fragments, and we ourselves in helpless despair -- it is then that we must recreate our world anew, reassemble the pieces, infuse life into dead fragments, and recreate life." (1981 p. 190).

Critique on Creation and Re-Creation

Melaine Klein and Donald Winnicott (Klein; Winnicott) both belonging to the fields of clinical psychoanalysis, have noted that the artist takes on the roles of a critic and an audience at the same time, thus diminishing the gap between the art object, that is the work of art, and that of the artists' private world of fantasy. The result of the attainment of this peculiar dual status for the artist is the line of thoughts created by the artist 'with' the object, rather than 'about' the object of art, as would have been the case if the artist had been restricted to a singular status. Kleinian approach thus primarily concerns art with the aesthetic qualities within the art work, as also noted by Langer (1953) and Dewey (1934), both of who commented on the processes in art with those of as esthetic feelings of the artists.

Aesthetic creation has always been seen as a product of the tormented soul. Artist in every civilization is a unique individual endowed with unique experiences. Moreover artists are sensitive then ordinary individuals, they have a different perspective. Though artists and the work of art retained a high status in society, artists and the aesthetic creation was brought into any critical analysis before the nineteenth century. The art theory mainly contended itself to historical description of the works of art and the philosophical debate which mainly concentrated on the issue of beauty. The work of art was itself treated as a given and one did not ask how and where it came from and why it was there in the first place. Creativity the artistic process was also considered an innate and natural quality possessed by certain individuals. There was no systematic study of the artistic process and the aesthetic creation. It was perhaps the psychoanalytical studies of art which has created a lot of attention to the question of the meaning of art. Sigmund Freud was one of the first theorists to have addressed the artwork and presented it in relation to the life of the individual. For Freud a work of art meant something, his method of analysis was one which studied the person who made it and through them what it means to the general man. Psychoanalytic theory of art provides an in-depth insight into works of literature, art and music; it attempts to decipher the artistic creative process and most significantly provides an expansive understanding of the aesthetic experience itself.

There is much truth is the saying "little divides genius from a madman," artistic creation are often termed as the work of genius. Creative artists often display the narcissistic traits but at the same time they are exceptionally mature and productive in their work. The question faced by the psychoanalysts is what constitutes this unique behavior, why an artist is different from general masses and what is the essence of aesthetic creation. Hannah Segal in her book "A Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetics" (1981), gives a definition of the aesthetic creation, she says "The essence of the aesthetic creation is a resolution of the central depressive situation and that the main factor in the aesthetic experience is the identification with this process" [Segal, 1981]. In a context that refers to the work of all artists, Segal says, "all creation is really a recreation of a once-loved and once whole, but now lost and ruined object, a ruined internal world and self. It is when the world within us is destroyed, when it is dead and loveless, when our loved ones are in fragments, and we ourselves in helpless despair -- it is then that we must recreate our world anew, reassemble the pieces, infuse life into dead fragments, recreate life" [Segal, 1981]. Segal's analysis is can be seen sharply in contrast with the Freudian concept of 'unconscious' phantasy life and symbolic processes. Freud in his "Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis" maintains that unconscious conflicts concerning powerful biological derives, such as sexual impulses and even more archaic drives, provided the motivation for creative effort in terms of the energy that must be harnessed for productive enterprise [Freud, 1907].

In his Lectures Freud discusses the concept of symptom building, he explains that neurotic play an important role, as they generate fantasy in contrast to the otherwise forbidden needs. Freud makes similarities of the neurotics with the artistic work; he contends that artists too seek to fulfill via their art needs they cannot satisfy in a direct way. The only difference according to Freud in both these workings is that artists possess a capacity to mould their fantasies in such a way that they not only work for themselves but also to the general masses. Thus works of art have a wide popularity and they attract other persons too and serve as a satisfaction for their repressed needs. Artistic works thus serve as a useful tool to balance one's own depression and turmoil. To get consolation and relieve their pains the people have good reason to admire artists and honor them. With the result of this the artists become a celebrated individual in the society, having a high status and possess a natural ability to create such objects of art. In this way the artists finds in the end not only his fantasy satisfaction for socially impossible and morally forbidden needs, sometimes he even finds real satisfaction for these needs through the workings of his fantasies. As Freud writes: "The artist has now attained through his fantasy, what before he only had attained in his fantasy: honor, power and the love of women" [Freud, 1907]. Freud in his essay on Leonardo introduces the concept of 'pathography'. According to Freud this concept of pathography does not make the works of an artist intelligible but is entails in the in-depth analysis of the works of an artists…[continue]

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