Phobic Resistances from Freud to Blanchot seminar, November 23rd

Wednesday 23rd November, 5.00 – 7.00
Room 412, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1T

“‘Detestable residue’: phobic resistances from Freud to Blanchot”
Simon Morgan Wortham (Kingston University)

This talk traces Freud’s interest in yet apparent aversion to phobia, from his earliest writings on the topic in the 1890s through to his reinterpretation of the Little Hans case study, originally from 1909, in the mid-1920s. Here, it is possible to detect something like a phobic reaction to phobia itself. In the subsequent writings on the case of Little Hans, including those by Deleuze and Guattari, traces of this phobic reaction can be found contaminating sometimes sharply critical readings just as surely as they do Freud’s own text. Such ‘phobia’ operates precisely through a certain resistance to itself, a doubleness that renders Freud’s phobophobia not just a psychological curiosity but perhaps a feature of the very structure of phobia from the outset.  The talk will contrast psychoanalytic approaches to phobia with other possible ways to think about the questions it invites. Since Freud’s most famous early text on phobia takes the example of Pascal’s fear of abysses, the talk will turn to Blanchot’s short essay, ‘Pascal’s Hand’. For Blanchot what is abyssal in Pascal’s text amounts to a ‘detestable residue’ that might prove just too much for psycho-phobic reading.

Simon Morgan Wortham is Professor in Humanities and Co-Director of the London Graduate School at Kingston University. His many publications include Modern Thought in Pain: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis (2014), The Poetics of Sleep: From Aristotle to Nancy (2013), Derrida: Writing Events (2008), and Counter-Institutions: Jacques Derrida and the Question of the University (2006).

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