Conversion Disorder: 9

If there is a potential couple within the Cogito, there is a potential Cogito that can spring up between a couple.  In a passion stratified by subjectification, DG see the “doubling of a single virtual subject.”  The afflicted Le Roy girls as interpellated components of an extended (postsignifying) mind?

Conversion disorder is a machining of doubles.  A subject is always the double of another subject.  Moreover, empirical subjects that double for one another together double for one and the same transcendental subject, which is necessarily placed under erasure. The transcendental subject is perhaps the doubling machine itself.

Thera Sanchez and Katie Krautwurst mirror one another in their symptoms.  But their reciprocal mirroring is imprecise.  Each interprets in her own way the single virtual subject that interpellates them as doubles of itself.  Each betrays the contingency of the other’s interpretation with the contingency of her own.  The expression of conversion disorder in one girl may therefore stand as a kind of critique of its expression in her double.  “The subject you produced is not similar enough to the transcendental subject whose doubles we are.  Look, I am more similar.”

The machining of doubles works by mimesis.  Elsewhere in A Thousand Plateaus, DG cite Gabriel Tarde’s assertion that imitation is the propagation of a flow of belief or desire.  As “propagations,” beliefs and desires cannot be attributable to individuals.  Individuals contract or prehend beliefs and desires (Tarde’s “social quantities”) and in so doing they “become similar.” This is quite similar to Girard’s idea of mimetic desire as well.

Psychoanalysis intrudes with its temptations.  The man behind the couch declares that the transcendental object of mimetic desire is mommy-daddy.  Indeed it is rather disturbing to see how similar daughters and mothers appear (especially the Krautwursts!):

But the buck cannot be stopped arbitrarily at mommy-daddy.  They too have surrendered to the powerful compulsion to “become similar.”  They are not the authors of the desires and beliefs propagated to their prehending daughters. In any case, perhaps the outbreak can be considered weirdly anti-oedipal: a kind of unconscious alliance of the girls against their lines of descent?  And yet this seems problematic, especially considering the consequences of the outbreak: Thera Sanchez was taken out of school and is now being tutored at home.  (Not to mention the fact she’s been making the talkshow rounds with her mother.)  An intensification of oedipal relations, then.  A failed revolution and perverse reterritorialization…

This Week in PHL: Endless Summer

This week in Pig Heart Lover it’s “Endless Summer.”  Last night a friend dropped in and picked up the spare bass and joined in the fun, but we realized too late that we couldn’t plug the bass directly into Protools.  Thus he is barely if at all audible in last night’s mixdowns. (Next time there won’t be that problem.)  Anyway, click on the link in the title for a listen.

Endless Summer

Floating slowly to the west
A lonely cloud passes overhead
Shadow trailing on the grass
Like the ruffle of a beautiful dress

Following after
An incomparable sun
And endless summer…

The foothills swell and roll away
The evening comes to relieve the day
Lonesome for it knows not what
The little car speeds on into the dark

Following after
An incomparable sun
And endless summer…

Far off in the swaying golden fields
The mysteries of love at last revealed

Floating slowly to the west
A lonely cloud passes overhead
Shadow trailing on the grass
Like the ruffle of a beautiful dress

Following after
An incomparable sun
And endless summer…

This is one of those rare songs I write that isn’t keyed to D minor. The idea is simple. The eternal is more like the ruffle on a dress than an idea. To live in its sunrise therefore necessitates the kissing of joys as they fly, the affirming of haecceities as they unpredictably assemble into a midsummer’s winding drive up the old Banff Coach Road to the Rockies or a delirious Fish Creek afternoon in a field of tall grasses…

Conversion Disorder: 8

Conversion disorder can quite readily be framed in terms of “betrayal.”  Most immediately, there is the sense of the betrayal of one’s own body.  Have you ever had one of those annoying eyelash twitching episodes that continue for days on end?  When I try to imagine the frustration of Ms. Sanchez, I recall  such episodes (and then multiply the frustration a thousandfold).  When my eyelash starts twitching, it’s hard for me not to be a Cartesian, a substance dualist.  “My twitching eyelash is bugging the shit out of me. I wish it would stop already!”

In such moments, the distinction between “the subject of enunciation” and “the subject of the statement” becomes fairly clear.  The subject of enunciation is the res cogitans and the subject of the statement res extensa.  This is not quite the distinction between my mind and my body.  As DG put it, the subject of enunciation is the Cogito and the subject of the statement “the union of the soul and the body, or feeling, guaranteed in a complex way by the cogito.”  Considering Cartesianism as a postsignifying phenomenon, DG conceive the necessary “double betrayal” as taking place between the Cogito and a possibly deceitful God or evil genius.  The “absolute deterritorialization” of the Cogito is thus fueled by its “methodical doubt” in the reality of the outside world.

Insofar as “the union of soul and body” is distinct from the “I think,” it too belongs to the doubtable external world.  The “I think” can never be sure it’s not just a brain in a vat or thing plugged into the Matrix.  In conversion disorder, the primary betrayal must be assigned to the body-soul.  But it’s not only a betrayal, it’s a usurpation!  As Althusser pointed out in his ISA essay (which DG refer to in their treatment of subjectification), the term “subject” has always had two senses: the sense of sovereignity and the sense of servitude.  We could also put this in terms of action and passion.  A subject in the first sense is that which acts autonomously and a subject in the second sense is that which is helplessly acted upon.  In normal circumstances, the Cogito considers itself sovereign over its body-soul; it considers the latter to be its subject.  “Here, do this.  Now, go over there.  Embarrass yourself in the following manner…”  But in eye-twitching and conversion disorder, the Cogito finds itself subjected to its subject.  It finds itself betrayed and rendered utterly passive.  And how easily the betrayal takes place!  And how helpless the Cogito is to do anything about it!  All it can do is wait until the body-soul grows weary of its autonomy and resumes its previous quietude.

Consciousness, stratified by subjectification at least, is already a couple.  And as a couple, it takes for granted Masoch’s law that one of its components must serve as anvil to the other’s hammer.

Scanning several of the interviews Ms. Sanchez gave, I noted the following.  When the interview took place at her home, she always led the interviewer over to a wall that displayed some paintings that I can only assume are her own.  (“I was in art class.  I was in two art classes!”)  One can quickly grasp the significance of this repeated gesture.  Look, that was me then, and this is me now.  On the surface, the temporal division between a past plenitude and a present deprivation is clear-cut.  But when she looks at those paintings, does she see in them signs of the later betrayal?

At least in the interviews, she refuses the diagnosis of conversion disorder.  She did not betray herself.  Something else did: some as yet unidentified pathogen, some biological or environmental agent.  And insofar as the neurologists treating her insist otherwise, they are betraying her too.  She has become absolutely deterritorialized.  But the line remains a negative one.  How to tilt it toward the BwO is the therapeutic question the schizoanalyst must ask.

RIP Erland Josephson

Acting giant Erland Josephson died Saturday at the age of 88.  His range was incredible.  Here are some stills from one of his lesser known turns, as an earthy Nietzsche in Liliana Cavani’s Al di là del bene e del male.

Taming the black dog
Posing with Lou and Paul
The Musical Socrates
The deeper joy

Conversion Disorder: 7

Last entry I suggested that from a schizoanalytic perspective “conversion disorder” would refer to the conversion of a body into a particular organism or a concrete individual into a particular subject.  In this sense, conversion means “stratification,” or the process by which unformed matter is captured and “condensed” into formed substances.  There is another sense a schizoanalyst could lend to “conversion disorder”: that is, the conversion of an ideational delusion into an active delusion, the conversion of signifiance into subjectification.  Here “conversion” means “translation,” and refers to the capacity of one semiotic to overcode or exapt the expressions of another.

An example.  In the “regime of signs” plateau, DG state that the ancient Israelites exemplify the workings of the postsignifying regime and the procedure of subjectification.  The point of subjectification is rather more complex than DG explicitly state, so let me try to lard their sketch.  First there is a “double betrayal” on the human scale: the Egyptians betray the Israelities (i.e. betray their original hospitality in the time of Joseph and his brothers) and then the Israelites betray the Egyptians back (insofar as a slave revolt can be considered a betrayal!). The exodus from Egypt amounts to an absolute deterritorialization.  DG portray this “double turning away” in terms of signifiance and subjectification: the “interpretational and paranoid delusion” of the Pharoah against the “most passional and least interpretive delusion” of Moses…

Please, do continue

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This Week in PHL: Killing Machine

This week in Pig Heart Lover, it’s “Killing Machine,” our musical reboot of the story of Samson and Delilah.  It’s clear that a fresh interpretation of everyone’s favorite judge has been long overdue, and we live to deliver.  In any case, our collision with Samson was overdetermined, if not actually preformed.  For which Biblical hero was more of a pig heart lover than our man of the sun?  So we join Severin von Kusiemski in singing his praises.  Click on the link in the song title for a listen.

Killing Machine

Once upon a very olden time
In a land ruled by philistines
A fearsome angel of the Lord
Appeared in an old man’s yard
To tell the man that he would bear
A son whose strength lay in his hair

“And Samson’s the name
He’ll be a killing machine
And he’ll put to shame
Those goddamn philistines
Those goddamn philistines
Those goddamn philistines”

So Samson grew into a man
Killing anything that came to hand
And then one morning he did see
A daughter of the enemy
And even if she’d have him dead
He’d still have her in his bed

“Oh Samson’s the name
I am a killing machine
And if you are game
You can take your shot at me
You can take your shot at me
You can take your shot at me”

Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah

She pressed him daily to impart
So he came to tell her all his heart
Then as he slept she shaved him clean
And delivered him to the philistines
Who forthwith plucked out both his eyes
And drowned his screams in joyful cries

“Oh Samson’s the name
He was a killing machine
But now he’s a shame
And the sport of the philistines
He’s the sport of the philistines
He’s the sport of the philistines”

Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah
Her name was Delilah

Conversion Disorder: 6

Conversion disorder is said to be a reaction to one or more stressful events.  One of the doctors said that in all of the Le Roy cases she has seen, there have been such occurrences.  All of the girls had something stressful (not necessarily the same in each case) that set them off.  Moreover, the doctor also relates that there is usually a “patient zero” or “index case” whose behavior comes to be “unconsciously mimicked.” (I had originally opined that there need not be.)

The hypothesis we’re working with here is that conversion disorder is a form of what a schizoanalyst would call “subjectification.”  The schizoanalyst has thus transformed the significance of the term “conversion disorder.”  By it, she no longer refers to the conversion of “psychological stress” into “physical symptoms.”  By it, she means the conversion of the body into a particular kind of organism, the conversion of the concrete individual into a particular form of concrete subject.

Subjectification is said to proceed in a linear, segmented fashion out of a “point.”  In the case of conversion disorder, there does indeed appear to be such a point of subjectification.  But it is twofold.  On one side there needs to be an event or constellation of events that have put extraordinary stress upon the affected individual(s).  On the other side there needs to be an index case that serves as the passionate double of the individual(s). The passionate double helps draw the subject out of the individual, the organism out of the body.

DG state that the point of subjectification involves a double betrayal, a double turning away.  The individual feels something turn away from her, and in turning away from it, she is introduced into the linear procedure of subjectification.  But if the point of subjectification in conversion disorder is itself twofold, then the double betrayal is itself doubled!  (God, I love complifications…)  That is, we need to consider two sets of betrayals.  One set includes the individual and the stressful event or events that has set her off.  The other set includes the individual and the index case. Perhaps I should say something perfunctory about each of these sets in turn…