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Signs of Flesh: Institution and Body in Accounts of Paranoia (Notes on Schreber and Fabian)

Liljefors, Max LU (2010) Bodily Phenomenology
Abstract
Signs of Flesh: Institution and Body in Accounts of Paranoia (Notes on Schreber and Fabian)

As the call for paper to this conference aptly states, phenomenology holds that "[c]onsciousness [is] dependent on a body and a world, which bestow it with existence and meaning."

My take on this phenomenologist axiom would be to suggest a complementary thesis, something like: "The world (understood as the historico-societal situation into we are born/thrown) may bestow upon the self a demand or desire for meaning that is not fulfilled, and the resulting failure to signify may be experienced physically, i.e. embodied".

I will try to illustrate this provisional thesis with two examples, or rather case studies of paranoid... (More)
Signs of Flesh: Institution and Body in Accounts of Paranoia (Notes on Schreber and Fabian)

As the call for paper to this conference aptly states, phenomenology holds that "[c]onsciousness [is] dependent on a body and a world, which bestow it with existence and meaning."

My take on this phenomenologist axiom would be to suggest a complementary thesis, something like: "The world (understood as the historico-societal situation into we are born/thrown) may bestow upon the self a demand or desire for meaning that is not fulfilled, and the resulting failure to signify may be experienced physically, i.e. embodied".

I will try to illustrate this provisional thesis with two examples, or rather case studies of paranoid psychosis, both of which provide us with detailed accounts of corporeal experiences from within the psychotic universe. The first case is the German judge Daniel Paul Schreber, who succumbed to mental illness in 1894, shortly after having been appointed presiding judge of the Saxon Supreme Court. Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, written during his years in asylum, belongs to the most famous texts in the history of psychiatry and has been extensively commented upon by Freud and others. In my paper I will focus on Schreber's own writings, and its recent interpretation by the American scholar Eric L. Santner.

My second case is less well-known: the American psychiatrist Alice E. Fabian (dead 1992), whose private diaries and voice recordings reveal that she suffered from psychotic delusions for many years, while she held a position in New York's Social Security Office and was responsible for monitoring her fellow phychiatrists' medical reports. Fabian's diaries, much like Schreber's memoirs, constitute a thorough mapping of her own body as a site of disruption of the relation between self and society - or more precisely, between self and the institutional mandate with which it had been invested. The Swedish artist Ann-Sofi Sidén has subsequently used Fabian's posthumous notes in a number of artworks that thematize psychic disorders, society, and corporeality.

Juxtaposing Schreber's and Fabian's writings, I will discuss how a breakdown of the integration between self and society may be experienced, in psychotic delusion, as bodily decay or mutation, to the point where it may seem as if corporeality itself is the "thing" that blocks the circuits of collective meaning production. Furthermore, drawing on Santner's and Sidén's elaborations, I will discuss how those subjective physiological experiences may be theorized as embodiments of states of psychic - but also institutional - crisis. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
keywords
art, Schreber, Searle, social ontology, body, psychosis
pages
6 pages
conference name
Bodily Phenomenology
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
29853df9-a099-4add-ad6c-024358fea1bf (old id 1611544)
date added to LUP
2010-06-02 15:07:16
date last changed
2016-04-16 11:02:08
@misc{29853df9-a099-4add-ad6c-024358fea1bf,
  abstract     = {Signs of Flesh: Institution and Body in Accounts of Paranoia (Notes on Schreber and Fabian)<br/><br>
As the call for paper to this conference aptly states, phenomenology holds that "[c]onsciousness [is] dependent on a body and a world, which bestow it with existence and meaning." <br/><br>
My take on this phenomenologist axiom would be to suggest a complementary thesis, something like: "The world (understood as the historico-societal situation into we are born/thrown) may bestow upon the self a demand or desire for meaning that is not fulfilled, and the resulting failure to signify may be experienced physically, i.e. embodied".<br/><br>
I will try to illustrate this provisional thesis with two examples, or rather case studies of paranoid psychosis, both of which provide us with detailed accounts of corporeal experiences from within the psychotic universe. The first case is the German judge Daniel Paul Schreber, who succumbed to mental illness in 1894, shortly after having been appointed presiding judge of the Saxon Supreme Court. Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, written during his years in asylum, belongs to the most famous texts in the history of psychiatry and has been extensively commented upon by Freud and others. In my paper I will focus on Schreber's own writings, and its recent interpretation by the American scholar Eric L. Santner. <br/><br>
My second case is less well-known: the American psychiatrist Alice E. Fabian (dead 1992), whose private diaries and voice recordings reveal that she suffered from psychotic delusions for many years, while she held a position in New York's Social Security Office and was responsible for monitoring her fellow phychiatrists' medical reports. Fabian's diaries, much like Schreber's memoirs, constitute a thorough mapping of her own body as a site of disruption of the relation between self and society - or more precisely, between self and the institutional mandate with which it had been invested. The Swedish artist Ann-Sofi Sidén has subsequently used Fabian's posthumous notes in a number of artworks that thematize psychic disorders, society, and corporeality.<br/><br>
Juxtaposing Schreber's and Fabian's writings, I will discuss how a breakdown of the integration between self and society may be experienced, in psychotic delusion, as bodily decay or mutation, to the point where it may seem as if corporeality itself is the "thing" that blocks the circuits of collective meaning production. Furthermore, drawing on Santner's and Sidén's elaborations, I will discuss how those subjective physiological experiences may be theorized as embodiments of states of psychic - but also institutional - crisis.},
  author       = {Liljefors, Max},
  keyword      = {art,Schreber,Searle,social ontology,body,psychosis},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {6},
  title        = {Signs of Flesh: Institution and Body in Accounts of Paranoia (Notes on Schreber and Fabian)},
  year         = {2010},
}