Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Childhood Memories and Scream Memories

Actually, that's all I wanted to say. But a little context. In class, students were presenting to one another two-page segments of Freud's essay of a similar name--asking questions and writing the categories that emerged up on the board.

In a section on the forgetting of proper names, the person writing on the board distinguished between "Screem Memories" and "Forgetting Names." Having written "Screem" first, he hesitated over and revised himself several times on the question of whether "forgetting" had one 't' or two: rubbing out two chalked 't's with his finger, he replaced them with two new ones, tidier than the first two and not intertwined. A clearly defined 't' and 't' alongside one another inside "Forgetting." No one said anything about "Screem," though I myself noticed and saw others noticing it as well. There was a curious pleasure to it, and I hesitated to interrupt what I told myself was the flow of the presentation: the pleasure of the "Screem."

Realizing in a later moment of discussion his error, this same student rushed to amend the original--to the amusement of all but the student at that moment speaking, who did not himself notice what had occurred. He appeared perplexed, this latter person, when the class burst into hilarity at the first person's manner of correcting the mistake: "Scream." This, at last, had satisfied the promise of the initial error; yes, they were "scream memories," these screen memories, and we all knew it. All but the student still earnestly pursuing his line of thought, who seemed relieved when I returned us to his statements, to a distinction of Freud's that he was clarifying: between the (I knew it!) forget-remember of paramnesia and the (Surprise!) remember-forget of the screen memory.

As I write now, however, something has felt unallowable--impermissible--about the 't's themselves, scattered about here without accompaniment. They repulse me; I feel physically disgusted by them. They may have only a troubled place inside of "forgetting," but alone they are intolerable.

Where was the transference?


Monica said...

Oh, I just found your blog--keep posting! I love that you are disguste by the 't's. It's so fascinating to think that as your student was writing the word "forgetting," the 't's themselves were begging to be forgotten. But, what, exactly, is it that disgusts you about the idea of them scattered about? I think I know, but I am curious as to what you will say.

Ira said...

Thank you, Monica! I've been struggling to answer your question, coming up each time against the terror of answering incorrectly :-).

They're phallic, of course, and my first instinct is to suggest that as a possibility that's not on point--but, recollecting Freud's injunction to trust the reading that the analysand proffers only in order to negate, I trust that these 't's were for me a series of hypothetical penises distressingly disconnected. That this is connected with my father seems too obvious to bear mention, but it perhaps is worth noting a connection between this event and my thoughts surrounding that moment, which were concerned largely with persuading myself and the rest of the class to a performance of psychoanalytic-autobiographically *inflected* critical performance.

It seems significant that I was not asking them to turn in 'personal writing,' but rather to do that writing and then to speak in their rhetorical criticism from a different story of self. In my desire to avoid disciplining directly their senses of self, I was also enacting a role of castrating father--telling them (as I of course learned as a child) that their stories are places to speak *from*, rather than of. Saying, in effect, your 't's must remain inside 'forgetting' at all times. Hence my repulsion at their looseness on my own page. (Mind, please: I'm not happy with 'castration' as a metaphor for regulation of the symbolic, here or elsewhere--but it's a shorthand that seemed to fit unnicely my own particularly gendered experience, first as child and then as teacher.)

Ira said...

In fact, though it now seems I've performed the analysis above in order to ward off others (and I must have!), I'd really like to hear yours--if you're still willing to share it, of course.

Monica said...


What you say reminds me of a discussion that took place just yesterday in the faculty Torah study I attend at UCLA. We're at the beginning of Genesis--where we could arguably remain for the rest of the academic year--and yesterday we examined the portion of the text where the serpent comes to Eve and either tempts or deceives her, depending on one's interpretation. Anyway, one of the rabbis who always attends explained this moment in the text--where the serpent implies that God won't allow them to do anything fun or enjoyable--as something similar to what you describe as "psychoanalytic-autobiographically *inflected* critical performance." The serpent's place in the text is really just a manifestation of our own desire to lash out against the seeming constraints placed on us by a "father." Anyway, in our reading of this text--and, I would say most biblical texts--it is more a matter of, as you say, reading "a story that speaks from rather than of." It's not exactly the same thing you're talking about...but your comments made me think of this.