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1 . The Sonic quality of the Voice in Psychoanalysis. “ Speak, in order that I may see you”. Socrates ‘‘ Were you there with Socrates yourself Phaedo , when he was executed, or did you hear about it from someone else?” ‘‘ No, I was there myself.”

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1 the sonic quality of the voice in psychoanalysis
1. The Sonic quality of the Voice in Psychoanalysis

“Speak, in order that I may see you”. Socrates

‘‘Were you there with Socrates yourself Phaedo, when he was executed,

or did you hear about it from someone else?”

‘‘No, I was there myself.”

‘‘Then, what did the master say before he died and how did he meet his end?

I should very much like to know.”

Much written about language, speaking and listening, but little on the sonic sphere of psychoanalysis.

▪ Sonic sphere of the Voice ▪ Linguistic dimension of Meaning.

Sigmund Freud, papers relevant to treatment of Speech Disorders and the development of Language:

(1891)On Aphasia (1895)Studies on Hysteria (1900)The Interpretation of Dreams (1923)The Ego and the Id.

Jacques Lacan (1953) The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis.

(1968) Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis.

Contemporary Psychoanalytic Scholars/Analysts of the Voice:

MikkelBorch-Jacobsen, MladenDolar, Darian Leader, SlavojŽižek.

Ayla Michelle Demir

13th March 2013

Research Methods in Psychoanalysis

MA Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society

Department of Psychology, School of Social Science, Brunel University.

2 body language
2. Body Language

1) Freud’s 1900 discovery of the unconscious, his idea that ‘unconscious thinking’ (thing-presentations) are prior to language (word-presentations).

2) At the same time the spoken language acquired a privileged role whereby unconscious things (instinctual wishes) become conscious.

Freud 1923, the difference in the psyche is between the: > Preverbal Id and the > Verbal Ego

Primary Unconscious processes characterized by the Id pleasure principle, 1st is the THING

Secondary Conscious processes governed by Ego and external Reality. 2nd is the WORD

“The conscious presentation comprises the presentation of the thing plus the presentation of the word belonging to it; while the unconscious presentation is the presentation of the thing alone.” (Freud, 1915, p. 12)

The sound of the voice constitutes both instinctual processes of the id and secondary processes of the ego.

Sonic sphere of Sound Linguistic dimension of Meaning

Physical Vocalisations, Unconscious Instinct. Words, Concepts, Theory, Conscious Ego Rhythms, Tones, Staccatos, Melodies, Slow. Content, Symbol, Metaphor, Logic, Quick.

Internal world of the Individual Subject. External world of Culture and Society.

The Process of Transition – Bridge

Transition away from the narcissism of early stages of development.

Freud: The Oedipal stage is a transition from identification with parent of the same sex, to identification with parent of opposite sex. Development the superego, guilt to prevent continuation of incestuous relationships.

Lacan: Mirror Stage, Voice & Image as Bridging functions, attempting to fill the gap of the split subject and indicating adequate objects of desire.Transition from Imaginary to a Symbolic identification.

3 lacan s theory of the speech language

Lacan re-read Freud through a Structural Linguistic lens. He showed that a Symbol is not necessarily something that connects a Thing to a Word, but something that connects a Sound/Image to a Concept.

The Lacanian subject is split, unification between the Real self and the Symbolic subject is an illusion:

BAR of Repression

REAL (Nature, Body) Mother SYMBOLIC (Language, Culture) Father

Unconscious, Pre-Symbolic, Pre-Ideological. Conscious, Abstract, Ideology, Structure.

Subject of the Enunciation – The Medium Subject of the Enunciated – The Message, Call of Duty.

Performative, Aesthetic, Enjoyment. Content and Meaning of a communication

Sound of the Voice as a Signifier - Metonymy The Concept and Meaning of a Signified - Metaphor

“The symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing and this death constitutes in the subject

the eternalization of his/her desire.” (Lacan, 1977, p.104)


In psychosexual and language development, the subject can only enter Language by negating the Real,

that is by repressing and substituting the reality of the self, for the concept of the subject.

The Voice and the Drive

The antinomy between the sound of the voice and the meaning of words, between signifier and signified,

is the classical psychoanalytic divide between drive and desire.

Objet petit a

Voice is an object of the drive, Lacan's claim that the voice is one of the embodiments of the psychoanalytic objet petit a, i.e. that the voice is a cause of desire.

3. Lacan’s Theory of the Speech & Language

4 the sound of the voice
4. The Sound of the Voice

Corporeal biological realm, as the voice is the sound of the body.

The body’s sound, its tone, timber and resonance, comes before language.

The voice ties language to the body, but the tie is paradoxical as the voice does

not belong entirely to either the body or to language. It is a part of the body (real),

but it is also a part of the linguistic symbolic order .

The sound of the voice detaches itself from the body and floats off, as desire is always deferred from one object to the next, yet it remains corporeal. It is much more immediate than the signified, but only becomes metaphor if it crosses the bar of repression.

The use of the voice is a sophisticated exchange of harmonic, rhythmic, intervallic (the space between objects), and scalar (quantitative measures of libido/emotion) relationships. Qualities of the voice:

Speech analysis means focusing on the movement and modulation of the voice that suggests emotions.

  • Resonance with a person’s physicality.

  • Resonance with organised/unorganised states of mind.

  • Tension between the Id and the Ego, the Imaginary and the Symbolic.

  • Recognition of desire through its agreement with Speechand Language, agreement instead of rivalry.

    Tonal qualities and speech patterns may trigger experiences a person had in childhood.

    Musical Concepts:

    order, arrange, rearrange, repeat, secondary revision, reproduce, compose imaginary identifications.

5 differential diagnosis via speech
5. Differential Diagnosis via Speech

It is common knowledge that neurotic and psychotic disorders ‘affect’ speech.

Differential Diagnosis of psychical structure through speech, in light of the patient’s psychic economy.

Freudian Nosology: Neurosis or Psychosis. Lacanian Nosology: Neurosis, Psychosis, Perversion.

Neurotic Speech: word presentations are not cut off from thing presentations, but the word presentation has been repressed, driven out of consciousness. The word/meaning exercises its influence without the person’s awareness as a symptom or unconscious representation.

Psychotic Speech: prevalence of word over thing presentations and the connection between the body and mind, thing and word, is severed, cut, resulting in a closed circuit of word presentations. No interest in actual objects/things, just words and no repression, as the psychotic has nothing to hide.

Attachment Issues:

Speech disorders a result of some problem with the transition through the Oedipal / Mirror stage.

Sounds we are accustomed or unaccustomed to hearing and adsorbing.

Recognition: 1. recognise the sound of the voice, who’s voice is it? 2. recognise meaning and message.

Transferring Affections, Transference and Counter-Transference:

1. The Voice as a vehicle of Meaning – The Call of Duty, Work.

2. Positive Voice as an Aesthetic object of Pleasure – Enjoyment, Play.

3. Negative Voice as a blind spot in the call and a disturbance of aesthetic pleasure – Psychoanalysis.

The sound of the voice can be experienced as either right or wrong, that is as either a positive or negative object/transference. If the voice is experienced as wrong, the fit is bad and a negative transference ensues.

6 references
6. References

Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. (1991) ‘How can we speak the Truth’ chapter 4 and ‘How to do Nothing with Words’ chapter 5 in, Lacanthe Absolute Master. Translated by Douglas Brick. Stanford University Press, California.

Dolar, Mladen. (1996) ‘The Object Voice’ in Gaze and Voice as Love Objects. Duke University Press.

( 2006) A Voice and Nothing More. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Freud, Sigmund. (1891) On Aphasia: A Critical Study. International University Press, New York.

(1913) On Beginning the Treatment, Vol. 12, S.E.

(1923) The Ego and the Id. Vol. 19, S.E.

Lacan, Jacques. (1977[1953]) ‘The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis’ ,

in Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. Tavistock Publications, London.

(1968) Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis. Trans. Anthony Wilden. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press.

Leader, Darian. (2003) Psychoanalysis and the Voice. Centre for Freudian Analysis & Research Journal.

(2004) The Voice as a Psychoanalytic Object. Analysis, Issue 12, pp.70-82.

Nobus, Dany. (2000) ‘Diagnosis via Speech and Transference’, Chapter 1 in Jacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of Psychoanalysis. Routledge, London.