Laura Gonzalez


22 Nov 2007

Writing a case history of oneself

The analytic vignettes I listened to at the APCS conference were eye openers in relation to a problem I have encountering with my PhD. My sessions are going somewhere (where, I don’t know yet) and my clinical diary. for as long as I kept it, was a useful tool in relation to establishing parallels between artistic and analytic practices.

The trouble began when it was time to think about this endeavour as a public one and I had to conceive of what had gone on as a piece of writing. I did not know where to start. How could I write a PhD involving my own desire without doing written self analysis? How could I avoid replicating what had gone on in the sessions verbatim? How could I be fair to the process without including insights gained post facto? How could I avoid being too personal? How could I avoid being too irrelevant? How could I gain some distance without being objective? How could I keep subjectivity relevant? These and many, many more question I asked while my fingers froze on the keyboard; this has gone on weekly since September and what you are reading are the first words that are typed about it.

The plenary panel ‘Psychoanalysis Under Fire: Kleinian, Winnicottian, Lacanian and Relational Theory and Practice, Part II’ at the last APCS conference, chaired by Esther Rashkin (University of Utah) and comprised by Kate Briggs (University of West Georgia), Marilyn Charles (Austen Riggs Center), Karl Figlio (University of Essex), and Lynne Layton (Editor, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society) was very useful in relation to my blockage. All presenters spoke, during two 5 minutes interventions with question intervals, about a clinical encounter.

In the best Freudian fashion, I felt the genre of case history was alive, ever compelling and relevant. There were insights and thinking (despite Figlio’s concerns with thinking) but also theories, sources, process, engagement, and, often, change. This is not new, though. When Freud wrote Dora, or Ratman these different types of content were intermingled, and he would even tell you were and how. But I must be too used to reading Freud, or must think of Freud as not alive, as cristallised, in terms of writing.

The case histories at APCS made me realise what the structure for the case history is, and what I had been doing wrong when conceiving the writing of my own: all of those encounters, and all of Freud’s histories were the result of transference and counter-transference. That is, they were relational: analyst-analysand-[supervisor].

I realised that, although Dr Sh— met with me weekly in the analytic room, I left him there when writing the PhD thesis, and so I wrote him off the case history. But, if with my photographs I aim to provoke a particular encounter between viewer and artwork, the parallel was not to work in the thesis if I shunted what stands in in the place of the artwork. My analytic process had not been a self analysis and trying to write it as one just wouldn’t work. Perhaps I had been wishing for emotional, artistic and academic independence (we are, after all considering the end of analysis). Still, if I am to write a clinical vignette in the spirit of Dora and with the energy of what I heard at the APCS, the analyst and the artwork must be acknowledged and given voice within the writing.

Posted in Blog, Methodology, Psychoanalysis, Writing

5 Responses to “Writing a case history of oneself”

  1. LInda Herbertson said:

    Very interesting Laura.
    Too busy now to look for it now, have to run and lie down on a couch, but there is a passage about diary writing in Tod Mcgowan’s piece on The Prestige that could apply to blogs…
    And the question of voice is fascinating…

  2. Laura Gonzalez said:

    Very interesting, Linda. Thank you! I found the piece here:

    With regards to the issue of diary writing, I really like his brief analysis on Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer! One of the most fascinating diaries I have read…

  3. LInda Herbertson said:

    I’ll put it my list…

    I’m no where near the end of analysis – I feel stuck in the middle at the moment, actually, though something is definitely changing – and I would like to write about it, but I suppose I’ll find (decide on) an angle some day.
    I felt a bit overwhelmed by the Lying Diary idea – “The actual audience for the diary is the ego ideal that the diarist imagines looking on and measuring the words” – whatever I write will be deception of some kind.
    Maybe I could do it in an anonymous blog. That would at least let me formulate some things for myself, even if it was of no use to anybody else!

  4. LInda Herbertson said:

    Laura, long time no post – where arrreee yooouuuu ????

  5. Laura Gonzalez said:

    Scott MacLeod makes an interesting point:

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.