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Deferring the Self

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Szymon Wrobel

This book is a result of studies on psychoanalysis, politics, and art. The topics in this book range from populism, the limits of the political, identity, melancholy, the peculiarity of psychoanalytical interpretation to the connection of theatre and politics. Psychoanalysis is a form of practicing personal truth, which needs to be one’s own and which is not a result of anonymous discourse. Politics is the practice of being with others; it is the cultivation of antagonistic relations with others. Art is the practice aiming at giving one’s life the mark of something unique, it is the very practice of life.

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PART THREE: ART

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I. The Art of Living: Creation and Identity Poets as poets cannot accept substitutions, and fight to the end to have their initial chance alone. Both Nietzsche and Freud underestimated poets and poetry, yet each yielded more power to phantasmagoria than it truly possesses. They too, despite their moral realism, over-idealized the imagination. Nietzsche’s disciple, Yeats, and Freud’s disciple, Otto Rank, show a greater awareness of the artist’s fight against art, and of the relation of this struggle to the artist’s antithetical battle against nature. Harold Bloom1 Expressions like “creating” or “fashioning” a self sound paradoxical. How can one not already have, or be, a self if one is to engage in any activity whatever? How can one not already have, or be, a self if one is even to be conscious of the experiences and views one is supposed to integrate? That paradox may be mitigated if we distinguish this notion of the self from the strict philosophical idea presupposed by the very fact that I am and must be conscious of my experiences as mine. It is not what Kant called the “transcendental unity of apperception”, the “I think” that in principle accompanies all my experiences and is required for me to be an agent, a person, in the first place. It is a homelier notion. To create a self is to succeed in becoming someone, in becoming a character, that is, someone unusual and distinctive. It is to become an individual, but again not in the strict...

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