Madness and Modernism: LANGUAGE OF INWARDNESS


Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought

Marian: I’m responsible for my own motives. I keep my mouth closed and my nose open.
Nurse: Can you say things a bit more clearly to let us know what’s going on?
Marian: Just ask my autograph book who was signing it all the time. It’s not my fault it’s ripped up.
Psychiatrist: Did you think we’d know what you meant when you said that?
Marian: I know you all know what I meant.
Psychiatrist: I didn’t.
Marian: It’s not your fault.
Nurse: I suspect no one else in this room know what you were talking about.
Marian: I said I could remember when my mother’s hair was down her back and she kept cutting it off.
Psychiatrist: I don’t know what that means.
Marian: That’s what I mean. There’s been a pass over me. I’ve been passed over.
Psychiatrist: I still don’t know.
Marian: Look at the dark shadows. What do you see? Same old monkeys.

Given the undecipherable range of schizophrenic uses of language, most language is described according to it’s absence of sense, instead of looks at the nature and sources that feed it. (176)

Schizophrenics differ from aphasic patients because the disorder doesn’t normally affect phonological rules, grammatical rules, semantic rules about individual sentences… (176)

16 percept of schizophrenics have aphasia-like symptoms. (176)

Desocialization (of language): failure to monitor one’s speech in accordance with social requirements of conversation: extreme terseness, cryptic words, use of sentences that seem endless. (177)

Speech may seem telegraphic: as if a great deal of meaning were being condensed into words and phrases that remain obscure because the speaker does not provide the background information and sense of context the listener needs to understand. (177)

use neologism: employing common words in personalized and idiosyncratic ways. (patient speaks of “insinuendos” or “elbow people” or “side voices” or being “botanized,” of superskeletonization” )

Deixis: is a technical term that derives from the Greek word “pointing” or “indicating” and it refers to aspects of speech that are relative to the practical and social context of the sentence or utterance—to its time or place and the identity of participants… “we are standing in the spiral under the hammer” (177)

Autonomization: ( tendencies for language to lose its transparent and subordinate status, to shed its function as a communicative tool and to emerge instead as an independent focus of attention or autonomous source of control over speech and understanding) (178)

Instead of grasping the overall meaning of something read or heard, schizophrenics will often attend to material qualities of the signifier, to the sounds of words or their graphic appearance on the page, or they will become aware of a large number of the potential, but normally irrelevant, meanings of words. (178)

Define contentment:
Contentment? Well, uh, contentment, well the word contentment, having a book perhaps, perhaps your having a subject, perhaps you have a chapter of reading, but when you come to the word “men” you wonder if you should be content with men in your life and when you get to the letter T and you wonder if you should be content having tea by yourself or be content with having it with a group and so forth. (178-179)

“I often repeat the same words but they do not mean the same thing…I understand absolutely nothing of what I say… When I stop it is because the sentence has finished…” (179)

Impoverishment: this refers to the amount of speech (sometimes very little) and the amount of meaning contained in the speech.

“the undersigned writer of these lines take the liberty of sending you this mail”

“we shall long have been guests of the crematorium” (181)

Theories of schizophrenic language:

Psychoanalytic theories: deal with primitive and regressive nature of language: sighting

  1. childlike egocentric consciousness that doesn’t allow the schizophrenic to account for the perspective of the listener
  2. the inherent nature of experiences or meanings that preoccupy such individuals, arguing that these are too primitive in nature—too imbued with a sense of primal fusion or with the Dionysian “alogic” of the instincts—to be captured in the conventional categories of adult language
  3. infantile, caught up in the thingness of language, so that the signifiers materiality and emotional resonance were not yet effaced in favor of pure meaning. (181)

Experimental psychology describes schizophrenics in a more mechanistic way:

  1. inability to integrate perceptual and cognitive processes
  2. disturbance of central feedback of information about willed intentions
  3. inability to construct the “second-order” representations necessary for inferring the consciousness of others
  4. disturbance in the unconscious planning mechanism for the production of discourse
  5. disruption in the ability to find conventional words appropriate to the meanings the patient wishes to convey. (182)

The “catatonic form of idiocy” that show “failure of linguistic expression” and “helpless banality” and “empty words” that show the failure to grasp abstract concepts… but also manifest a “architectonic cohesiveness” that is “complex and purposeful in design”(183)

Characteristics of schizophrenia and modernism:

  1. The first tendency is a new preoccupation with the uniqueness and particularity of un-verbalized experience, and with the sense of ineffability this invariably evokes. (184)
  2. Movement towards “inner speech” that is more authentic than conventional language. (184)
  3. recognition of the independent nature of language, a system imbued with its own inherent mysteries and forms of productiveness—the apotheosis of the word. (184)

Impoverishment and Ineffability

Language ceased to feel like a natural organ… it was a constraint (devitalizing and banalizing), loss of faith in words,
Wittgenstein’s famous meditation on the impossibility of what he called a “private language”… where language must be conceived in terms of public categories, shared, observable—language can’t refer tot heprivate or unique experiences of the individual. (186)

Sartre’s Nausea: Roquentin: all words—root, tree, leaf—seem to have “vanished and with them the significance of things, their methods of use, and the feeble points of reference which men have traced on their surface.” (186)

Artaud constantly complained that words don’t describe his inner states.
There is not much evidence of the animism, emotionality, focus on bodily needs, or relative lack of reflective self-awareness that are characteristic of a young child; not is there evidence of the prototypic organic patient’s incapacity for abstraction, symbolic thought or self-reflection. (188)

Some schizophrenics just go silent. (189)

Sartre: “but I didn’t feel that it existed or that the seagull was an existing seagull; usually existence hides itself.

The experiential transformations they experience often have an all-encompassing quality, affecting not just this or that object but the look and feel of the entire experiential world (190-191)

Blot: The two ends look like the tail and rear end of something dividing into something, diving into eternity, coming out of this world and going (191)

Artaud: “Like life, like nature, thought soes from the inside out before going from the outside in. I begin to think in the void and from the void I move toward the plenum; and when I have reached the plenum I can fall back into the void. I go from abstract to the concrete and not from the concrete toward the abstract. (191)

Schizophrenics caught up in a truth-taking stare can say only that everything seems different, somehow wrong, unreal, or more real. (191)

Heidegger uses phrases such as “the world worlds” and “the nothing itself nothings” attempting to express the ontological without resorting to what he saw as the distorting vocabulary appropriate for describing identifiable objects within the world. (192)

With the vanishing of familiar meanings and distinctions, one can easily become engrossed in the particularity of individual things or sensations; yet, precisely because of this vanishing, the sheer fact of the existence or the presence of these phenomena is what is likely to become most salient (all else being categorical in nature)—and this is the very quality they share with all objects. (192)

Inner Speech

Leo Vygotsy: calls inner speech the form of speech that derives from its function , its role as a medium of expression rather than communication, a way of symbolizing thoughts for oneself… in inner speech, language becomes abbreviated or telegraphic: syntax is simplified, explicit causal and logical connections are omitted, and there is an absence of framing devices such as those normally used to distinguish metaphorical from literal meanings of verbal images. (194)

“I thought New York too small to hold” “obscurity has come to be not just a by-product but a value in itself, almost a required mark of the seriousness and aesthetic worth of a poetic effort” (195)

Automatic writing or inner speech need not be a primitivist, exuberant, stream of consciousness… “any such lingering romantic belief in the necessary linkage between inwardness and the Dionysian is certainly refuted in the fiction of Beckett.” In Beckett, we find ourselves inside a head, listening to a kind of inner speech, but the thoughts we encounter could hardly be more repetitive or devitalized. (197)

Schizophrenics tend to intermingle associations into their speech without clearly indicating their relevance; their speech does not, however, show the prominence of sexual or aggressive themes, or the disordered logic, that psychoanalytic theory would lead one to expect. (197) We are not moving toward childhood or emotional states.

The Apotheosis of the Word

Barthes: in Writing Degree Zero, he talks about the notion that modern literature originates when the Word sheds its transparency and begins to shine forth as an independent object of attention and source of meaning. (198)

Mallarme: The work of art in its complete purity implies the disappearance of the poet’s oratorical presence. The poet leaves the initiative to the words, to the clash of their mobilized diversities. The words ignite through the mutual reflexes like a flash of fire over jewels. Such reflexes replace that respiration perceptible in the old lyrical aspiration or the enthusiastic personal direction of the sentence. (198)

This Mallarmean withdrawal: is the sensory presence of a signifying vehicle (phonological in speech, graphological in writing) and the elusive multi-valence of meaning. (199)

Derrida draws us toward the traces of language: the references half-awake in words, meanings that the signifier might have had in other contexts. (199)

Socrates describes writing with the Greek pharmakon, which means both remedy and poison, suggesting that writing is a gift to mankind that was intended to be a remedy—for failure of memory—but that turned out to have a certain contaminating and corrupting effect. (200)

Certain forces of association unite… the words ‘actually present’ in a discourse with all the other words in the lexical system, whether or not they appear as ‘words.’ … They communicate with the totality of the lexicon through their syntactic play and at least through the subunits that compose what we call a word.” (200)

Derrida describes speaking as an anguished yet exhilarating experience of losing control—the speaker passively watching as all possible meanings push each other within the necessarily restricted passageway of speech, thus preventing wach other’s emergence , yet all the while calling upon each other, provoking each other too unforeseeably and as if despite oneself, in a kind of autonomous overassemblage of meanings, power of pure equivocality that makes the creativity of the classical God appear all too poor. (200)

Derrida: On writing vs. speech: Writing persists, is transportable, less likely to be directed towards a single individual—written language makes us aware of both the materiality of the signifying medium and its potential for ambiguity, its nonidentity with an original intention-to-signify. These aspects of writing are essential features of all language (including speech) (202)

Derrida and Merleau-Ponty had opposite visions of writing: While derrida promoted the experience of being staggered, paralyzed, or thrilled by the materiality and infinite ambiguity of language, M-P said that the paper and the letters on it and the eyes and body are the minimum setting for some invisible operation of readings (of meaning). (202)

Derrida treats signifiers as alien or mysterious objects—depersonalized, divorced of shared social context, devoid of any sense at all. (203)
Instead of being regressive, Schizophrenic speech comes closer to Derrida’s version of arch-writing, an experimental attitude that would sever the word from any intention-to-signify. (203)

Ped Xing: Now we are entering a Chinese village. (204)

Citations: This emphasis on the possibility of citing a signifier, or perceiving it as already being a citation, goies beyond a simple disjoining from an original setting; it means putting the signifier in a particular type of alternative context, one in which language is mentioned rather than used, where it is seen as a signifying medium rather than being inhabited, or rendered transparent, in the act of attending to some extra-linguistic referent. (205)

Patients experience words as if they’re constantly surrounded by quotation marks. (205)

Intention and Meaning in Schizophrenic Speech

Schizophrenics refuse to share meaning. This could be seen as a deficit or cognitive dysfunction, but it’s so selective. Sometimes they make sense, other times not. (206) duh

Mysteriousness in schizophrenic language made be for it’s own sake (there is a certain glory in not being understood—Baudelaire) (207)

R.D. Laing suggested that a large portion of schizophrenic speech is “simply nonsense, red-herring speech, prolonged filibustering to throw dangerous people off the scent, to create boredom and futility in others” (207)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>