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Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Religion and Postmodernism) Hardcover – 9 Jan 1997
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From the Back Cover
In his latest work, Jacques Derrida deftly guides us through an extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology - all fruitfully occasioned by a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving. The archival concept has of late played a pivotal role in critical debate. A place of origin, yet of perpetuity, a place of stasis and order, yet of discovery, the notion of archive houses a fascinating complex of diverse, and often disparate, meanings. As a depository of civic record and social history whose very name derives from the Greek word for town hall, the archive would seem to be a public entity, yet it is stocked with the personal, even intimate, artifacts of private lives. It is this inherent tension between public and private which inaugurates, for Derrida, an inquiry into the human impulse to preserve, through technology as well as tradition, both a historical and a psychic past. What emerges is a marvelous expansive work, engaging at once Judaic mythos, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Marxist materialism in a profound reflection on the real, the unreal, and the virtual. Intrigued by the evocative relationship between technologies of inscription and psychic processes, Derrida offers for the first time a major statement on the pervasive impact of electronic media, particularly e-mail, which threaten to transform the entire public and private space of humanity. Plying this rich material with characteristic virtuosity, Derrida constructs a synergistic reading of archives and archiving, both provocative and compelling. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was director of studies at the ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris, and professor of humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of many books published by the University of Chicago Press.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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In Archive Fever we are taken on an exhibition of the Freud archives by one who knows the rarity of gaining access to the works of (psycho)analysis. By a legitimate hermeneutic authority, the archivists or archons (guardians of it's contents) live and work each day with the documents. They alone secure both to protect and to give authoritative readings (what the author would have intended us to eventually uncover.) As Derrida say's the archons secure and are accorded the place of hermeneutic authority and competence, they have the power to interpret what is held in the archive (i.e., to command or posit what is deposited in the archive.) To authorize who can enter as well as who can give proper interpretation of the archive and it's contents. Derrida and Ricoeur have both independently pointed out the embodied archaeology within psychoanalysis. Ricoeur has said in the Conflict of Interpretations that "the second phase of the philosophical interpretation I propose is characterized by the dialectic between archaeology and teleology. This advance in reflection indeed represents something new, a polarity between the reflective Arche and Telos. I reach this stage by a reappropriation of the temporal aspects of Freudianism..."
Perhaps only quantum mechanics can compare as the one true science of physical nature alongside the one known as psychoanalysis, the science of mental nature, in that very few professionals can claim to understand either method esp. in the programs offered by the Anglo-American university. As any good analyst today knows: psychoanalysis does not pretend to be psychology nor attempts to be understood as such and Freud himself is not any other psychologist but the father of modern psychology. Aside from perhaps Lacan, Ricoeur, and Derrida popular interpretations of Freud cannot be situated within the tradition and lineage that began between Freud's students and his predecessors within the Vienna Circle. Before he came into discovering psychoanalysis Freud was a student of the Austrian psychologist Franz Brentano whom Freud admired and having attended many of his lecture courses became an initiate in what was all the vogue at the time: the new psychology. Brentano is credited for having lifted Medieval 18th century psychological practice from arcane materialism and speculative medicine onto the level of Kantian metaphysics (rational psychology.) Brentano's metaphysics of the psyche i.e., metapsychology or rational-empirical psychology provided the metaphysical foundations for Freud's psycho-organic interpretation of the mind. In Freud's formative years Brentano was lecturing on the new psychology that Meinong and himself had worked out through an idealist model of Aristotelian metaphysics. Once Brentano had gained immense support for his theoretical investigations empirical psychology would become metapsychology as represented by his student Sigmund Freud. Traditional metapsychology does not build itself up from Platonic or Hegelian idealism but takes directly from Kant's rationalism as governing the logic of Aristotle's soul/mind/matter/spirit principles. In an 1889 letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Freud writes (with regards to his Brentano courses) "I am continually occupied by psychology - it is really metapsychology".
Following the first section on the meaning of the archive, Derrida continues to excoriate the archive from within deconstruction as it is the reservoir or storage (the unconscious.) With the Freud archive/museum as his place of inquiry (Freud's residence as the topos of this deposited content) Derrida allows us to discover that the true meaning of psychoanalysis is echoed in the impression it gives off, the phantasm, the dream image i.e., a symbolization of what is re-pressed and then revealed in it's impression. Quintessential Derrida poetizes the art of deconstructing the impressions left in us by massive print culture when he is reconstituting the economic aesthetic or the portfolio of individual works of history that are meant to give the gift of 'impress'; to present what could not otherwise be presented without giving away it's secret and destroying the truth of it's historical development.
The psyche, according to 19th century philosophy of mind, is generated by this individualizing process of the developmental ego at the moment reason (another mode of impression) is able to make sense of the world. Freud's apparent distant relationship with his father makes room for hidden emotions as the young genius growing up in a moderately conservative Jewish household has found a perfect residence for his inquisitive mind in the secret language of mythology and dreams. Derrida speaks of the illusion of distant emotion that is given symbolic depth in the form of the gift; the gift of love that Derrida captures in his biographical telling of the gift presented to Sigmund by his father on the occasion his 35th birthday (a newly re-bound copy of Freud's childhood Bible.)
What Derrida has attempted to do in this very 'impressive' expose is to prove that psychoanalysis is "a Jewish science", and perhaps if we had access to the complete lecture series we would know exactly why psychoanalysis is given this designation. As a boy young Sigmund was preoccupied with a personal study of myths and not limited to the myths within the Old Testament that he would later write about in his memoires. It was not merely his Tauric-sensualistic foci on the sexual that lead Freud to such discontent with society over the rise of psychic epidemics at the turn of the century. There were much deeper religious and political problems for the socially oppressed Austrian Jews at that time as the Habsburg Empire was climaxing towards it's immediate decline and it's Jewish population was yearning for a return to the true Austrian cultural "homeland" they had helped build before the Habsburg's had absorbed their culture during the late Victorian era.
Why has Derrida become convinced that psychoanalysis is a Jewish science and how does he interpret psychoanalysis as Jewish? In the context of modernity after Freud we would say that Judaism is the source, the fountainhead of the religion of reason. The Jews created the religion of reason. The other religions that dominate the Occident are either altogether inadequate, or they are derivative of Judaism. It is true that Judaism was not always in every respect the religion of reason. It needed the aid of Kantian philosophy to free itself completely from it's mythical and logico-mythical irrelevancies i.e., from ancient to modern Jewish thought. But this aid merely enabled Judaism to actualize fully what it meant to be from the beginning and what it fundamentally was at all times. Why psychoanalysis is a Jewish science and why the gentile psyche has difficulty gaining access to it, and this is the key to why resistance to self-analysis and the resistance to analyst-patient engagement in psychology has always been prevalent. Modern gentility represents something different from it's ancient and Medieval definition after Freud, it represents the pre-rational or preanalytical psyche that struggles with itself to grasp absolute reason following the Greco-Roman mythos of the Christian era. (From the complexity of myth and the logic that is derived from myth.) Myth, in its primitive form, is the sediment of primal logic. Freud was the first speculative anthropologist who looked at the relationship of the human psyche to primitive symbolism and their association to drives and representational emotions expressed symbolically to protect the id and superego. Derrida argues that to truly practice analysis, analysis itself must pass through the dialectical analysis that is at once a generative hermeneutic analysis of Freud's own development and the development of psychoanalysis. To understand Freud's place in modern science one should be required to study European intellectual history as a totality and not as separate historical events of progress. Analyst's who wish to gain a deeper understanding of their practice should start with Derrida, deconstruct method and work their way back from our postmodern condition/problem, as exemplified by Derrida, to sufficiently access the instance and place of modernity that was the psychoanalytic revolution of Sigmund Freud.
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