The Poetry Project

Reading Group

Sirens and the Skin — 5-Session Reading Group with Jackie Ess

What holds us together? Better to ask another question: why doesn't whatever holds us together make everything stick together? We want to engage a sticky subject here, the topic of "adhesive identification," the "autistic-contiguous position," the "autistic rim," psychoanalytic concepts which comes to us from the work of Bick, Tustin, Meltzer, are significantly developed and challenged by Ogden, and are subject to dramatic revision in the work of Brenner and Kenny.

But is this a theory of autism at all? It seems that many ideas in psychoanalysis begin their life as narrowly committed and perhaps dubious interventions only to find themselves parts of a very different story. Does that reflect dilution? Or have we perhaps charged off at our own reflection? Or that we're losing our grip? Yesterday's "psychotic mechanism" seems always to be tomorrow's basic conceptual vocabulary. The adhesive has not entirely undergone this process, it is still at the stage of a niche concept addressing severe and severely particular phenomena. We are going to visit one possible future and look back on some adhesive anxieties in literature, which will turn out always to have been there, for example in Borges, in sirenic literatures, in tales of addiction, transition, conversion, and submission. At this time I have not worked out the details.

As far as the nuts and bolts of it, we'll meet five times for two hours on Saturday afternoons EST, over zoom. We'll read mostly psychoanalysis, down the line I indicated, but we may stop to pick odd-petaled flowers along the way. We'll have a narrow and a wide scope, picture a fried egg. We'll touch on the white, but focus on the yolk.