Monthly Archives: October 2012
A hypothetical conversation with Freud
by Shannon Hart Hudnell
Sigmund Freud’s dictation of symbols became apparent in literature, poetry, music, and art in the early twentieth century. His psychoanalytic theories on dreams helped abandon the conventional ways of the arts. Bohemian author Franz Kafka’s use of symbolism in Metamorphosis, e.e. Cummings’ transformation of poetry into analytic pieces, and musician/composer Richard Strauss’s symbolic representations in his dramatic works are all examples of Freud’s influence. World War I also influenced visual artists at this time, inspiring the Dada movement in protest of the war, while surrealists Joan Miro, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dali were creating new symbolic works that reflected Freud’s theories.
Setting: Freud is surrounded by neatly organized bookshelves against three walls. He sits in a tall, brown leather cushioned chair to the side of his desk closest to the interviewer. In the center of the large den is an oversized mahogany desk. The interviewer is perched on a small orange love seat across from the psychoanalyst.
Interviewer: I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity, Mr. Freud. I am quite interested in your theories on dreams and their associations. Tell me, what exactly is it that you believe about dreams?
Freud: I see dreams as the “royal road to the unconscious” (Thomson 28). I believe that dream images are linked with subconscious ideas, similar to the idea of free association.
Interviewer: Do you mean dreams are repressed ideas?
Freud: Precisely. Dreams are a way of “secondary thinking” about something that has “societal unacceptability” (Thomson 24). In effect, the “mind is deceiving itself” (24). Not only ideas, but especially desires that are repressed. The desire is the id, and the ego prevents the desire from happening. For example, a woman artist may have repressed ideas about sex. She may desire sex, but because it may be unacceptable to society for a woman to desire sex, her mind substitutes other things in her work that represent her suppressed desire instead.
Interviewer: Interesting! How do you feel about changing the world of the arts?
Freud: Influencing, maybe, but not changing. It was the artists themselves that are responsible for the work. Are you referring to anyone in particular?
Interviewer: The musician and composer Richard Strauss used “abnormal sexuality and corruption… female obsessions,” (Grove) and violent deaths in his operas Salome and Elektra. Both were written just after you published your Interpretation of Dreams in 1900.
Freud: Both Strauss and myself received negative criticism for these works. Strauss used symbolism in many of his works, and he liked to use females in these violent roles. Die Frau ohne Schatten is one of his most highly regarded symbolic pieces. I am unsure of his relationship with his mother, but I gather that he had some repressed anger issues with her.
Interviewer: Do you think Kafka’s literary works deal with repressed issues?
Freud: Most definitely, but with Kafka I believe he had issues with his father. In his most recognized work, The Metamorphosis, the son literally metamorphosized into an insect. The bug is symbolic of Kafka’s feeling of worthlessness to his father (Nabokov 53). Kafka seemed to have odd sexual beliefs. He thought that intercourse was “punishment for being together” (Nabokov 55). His “sex in writings is frequently connected with dirt or guilt and treated as an attractive abomination” (Nabokov 55).
Interviewer: What are your thoughts about e.e. Cummings’ use of symbolism in poetry?
Freud: Cummings played with words and grammar. At times he used individual words in his poetry, a hint of being alone, perhaps. His lack of capitalization could indicate that he felt small. I feel that his grammatical mutations were symbolic in themselves.
Interviewer: What about the visual artists? For example, Dali painted dream images that clearly reflect your theories.
Freud: Indeed, they do. In 1936, Dali painted The Anthromorphic Cabinet. In it, a human figure lies twisted with drawers opening from its torso. Dali related the drawers to my theory as “a kind of allegory destined to illustrate a certain forebearance, to scent out the countless narcissistic smalls that waft out of all our drawers” (Neret 44). To sum it up, he meant that “the human body… is today full of secret drawers which only psychoanalysis is capable of opening” (44).
Interviewer: Joan Miro is an abstract surrealist. What do you see in his paintings?
Freud: Miro was quite different from Dali. His landscapes were unrealistic, but abstract. In Carnival of Harlequin, “much of Miro’s imagery suggests a cheerful sexuality, as though the whole space of the universe were occupied with lighthearted erotic play and reproduction” (Gilbert 468). The abstract forms – which have obvious faces – all appear to be moving, working, playing. They all have a personality. There are musical notes in the painting, which indicates joy. Miro’s use of lively primary colors give the work a feeling of play. A closer look at the images will reveal phallic shapes and suggested reproduction.
Interviewer: What do you think Frida Kahlo’s images represent?
Freud: I’m sure you agree she’s an intensely emotional artist. Most of her paintings reveal some kind of pain, although she paints her self-portaits without emotion on her face – never smiling or hinting at any expression. Kahlo is telling everyone that she is in pain inside and out. She’d had an accident that left her injured, then later contracted polio that affected her legs, which she indicates in several of her paintings (Frida). I am sure her husband’s infidelity contributed to her many emotional issues as well.
Interviewer: How do you feel about the Dada movement?
Freud: The Dadaists were very symbolic, as well. The Dada movement was a reaction to World War I as an attempt to protest all brutality, including conventional art (Gilbert 467). Duchamp drew a moustache on a Mona Lisa and wrote a French word that translated to “nymphomania” at the bottom of the portrait (467). It outraged people, but he was trying to make a point.
Interviewer: I’d say that was a pretty powerful way to protest. In a nutshell, what is your view of artistic creation?
Freud: I believe that “unconscious impulses resulting from unresolved childhood experiences can trigger the artist” (Addiss and Erickson 65)
Interviewer: Thank you again for your time, Mr. Freud.
Freud: You’re welcome. Sweet dreams!
Art History and Education by Stephen Addiss and Mary Erickson
Complete Poems 1904-1963 by e.e. Cummings
Living With Art by Rita Gilbert
Grove Concise Dictionary of Music
Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
Dali by Giles Neret
Cloud Nine by Sandra Thomson
The other night I was drinking a glass of wine and noticed a bug had flown in it. I held the glass up to the light and saw that it wasn’t just an ordinary flying bug – it was a baby dragonfly!
I love dragonflies, and I think they are amazing creatures. They’re a symbolism of strength, prosperity, and luck. They also symbolize looking towards the future, since their life on earth is very short lived. I think this was a sign from the Universe to assure me that I have nothing to worry about in the future.
I started meditation a few years ago, and it took me a while to figure out what I was doing. Eventually, I just let go and things came to me. There is one vision that comes to me every so often, but each time it changes as I grow spiritually.
The first time I had this visualization, I saw a beach and people standing across it in a line, facing the water, facing me. I knew that these are the people that I will help in some way. One was a tall, skinny man, another was an older woman in a wheelchair with a broken leg or foot, and some were children. Behind the people, but farther in the distance was a mountain. It seemed as if there was also a mountain of people, but that wasn’t clear. In front of the mountain was a shop, and I had to go through it in order to get to the mountain. The more I stared at the shop, I could see block letters, and I think it was a print shop.
Each time I had the mountain vision, something changed, something progressed. Eventually I made it to another mountain, and entered inside a room with beautiful lights. There was a window on one side overlooking a river. The room was long like a hallway, and at the end was a way to go left or right. I knew to go left first and entered another small dark room. I believe it had a large crystal in it, like an amethyst. I knew I wasn’t ready to head to the other room on the right, so during the next few visualizations, I enjoyed the pretty colors and window view in the long room.
Eventually, I made it into the room on the right. This was a room that allowed me to move on to the next mountain. I could fly above the land and be free. Whenever I need a sense of freedom, I try to go back to the room on the right and fly out above everything.
I have always believed in reincarnation, even before I knew what it was. Reading “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss helped me to understand why experiencing past lives during a regression could be helpful for solving problems today. Although we can’t prove that these lives actually existed, just the mere fact that these insights can help us is enough for me.
I had a group past life meditation with a few people and my daughter. Before we told our stories, we wrote down what we saw. Oddly enough, my daughter and I both experienced a similar Native American past life. This was nothing either of us had discussed until that moment. We were both quite surprised at our descriptions.
A few years ago I had done some past life meditations. In one, I was a fit 25-year-old male Roman in 673 A.D. There were mountains and a desert, and it seemed that I was in some type of training camp for soldiers. With me was an older, scruffy male that was my mentor; he was killed by an arrow. I recognized this person as a friend from this lifetime. The lesson for that lifetime was learning to trust.
In another lifetime, I was a 17-year-old male in either London or France. I believe it was sometime in the 1700s. I saw myself on the cobblestone road, released from a place that I believe was an orphanage. It was raining and cold, I had no shoes, and my clothing was ragged. There was a row of tall buildings, and I think I was at the end of this row. A man on a horse and buggy appeared. He seemed to be wealthy, and I knew he was there to help me and for me to work for him. I believe he was my grandfather in this lifetime. With him was another male “helper” of some sort who gave me the evil eye and made it obvious he didn’t like me. He seemed jealous. I believe that this man was my stepfather in this lifetime. My lesson for that lifetime was penance, as I believe I had probably been a food thief.
The same week I did another past life meditation. I was a male shepherd with a long robe, sandals, clean feet, and had a family with me in the year 1627 B.C. I believe I may have been in Switzerland, but the word/city that came to me was Brouguilles, which I cannot find any history of. I My family then are people within my family today, including my husband. My life lesson was to nurture and be a family leader.
I am convinced that in this lifetime I am reliving a similar situation that happened in another life. I believe that I was wrongly accused of something in an act of retaliation and accused of being a witch, which resulted in my death. I truly believe that the people behind the accusation are the same people that I have had some unfortunate dealings with in this lifetime. At least in this lifetime, I can be a witch and not be put to death for it.
I’m considerably picky about incense. First off, I am extremely sensitive to things that are too “perfumey”. Some of the junk out there literally makes me vomit, because it’s so strong. I found these great little mini sticks (also sold in larger sticks) called Padmini Dhoop Sticks. They have no wooden stick attached, so there is no burning wood scent. And although they’re perfumed, they aren’t disgusting. Their scent is quite pleasant, and a little goes a long way. The greatest part about this brand is that it comes with a little metal hole stud to place the incense for burning. I paid $1 for a box of mini sticks and $1.50 for the larger ones.
Chinese Woodblock began in China over a thousand years ago. This method of printing was used by artists and recorded much of China’s history.
“A Revolution in Art”. (Video) Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEcR7B7gy_s&NR=1
Ancient Buddhism scripture was handwritten and found 600 years after paper was invented. Later, engraving became the foundation of printing technique. Engravings were made on stone seals, then ink was “tapped” on paper to transfer the image. Clay movable type was later used; it involved a process in which characters were carved into clay, and the clay was then heated/burned to harden. This method was used for making large amounts of prints.
“Inventions from Ancient China – Printing Technique”. (Video). Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw3Dn3eaSOI
About 5000 years ago in China, “ink was a mixture of soot from pine smoke and lamp oil, thickened with gelatin from animal skins and musk. It was first used for blacking the raised surfaces of pictures or letters carved into stone…. Other cultures developed inks from berries, plants, and minerals available in their areas. These inks were different colors, which could indicate different meanings. In ancient Egypt, red ink was used for people’s titles and to write the names of the gods…. About 1,600 years ago, a popular ink recipe was created. The recipe was used for centuries. Iron “salts,” such as ferrous sulfate (made by treating iron with sulfuric acid), was mixed with tannin from gallnuts (they grow on trees) and a thickener. When first put to paper, this ink is bluish-black. Over time it fades to a dull brown.”
“Scribes in medieval Europe (about AD 800 to 1500) wrote on sheepskin parchment. One 12th-century ink recipe called for hawthorn branches to be cut in the spring and left to dry. Then the bark was pounded from the branches and soaked in water for eight days. The water was boiled until it thickened and turned black. Wine was added during boiling. The ink was poured into special bags and hung in the sun. Once dried, the mixture was mixed with wine and iron salt over a fire to make the final ink.”
Huntington, Sharon J. (2004, September 21). “Think Ink!”. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from:
1. Rag dolls made of rough cloth and calico clothing were found in hideouts on the Underground Railroad during the late 1800s.
Woodruff, V. (1996). Childhood companions. Country Living, 19(8), 42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
2. The name Raggedy Ann, probably the most recognized rag doll, comes from a combination of two poems, “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley. The doll was named by a cartoonist named Johnny Gruelle, who entertained his dying daughter with stories, using a handmade doll found in the attic around 1915.
RAGGEDY ANN. (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century, 390. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
3. During the 1930s, several high-priced wooden factory dolls were being produced by men, so women bonded together to make their own affordable rag dolls.
New England Cloth Doll Co. gives rag doll its comeback. (1995). New Hampshire Business Review, 17(12), 6. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
4. The “Popsi doll” was created in 1994 by a California woman named Geraldine McCains. Popsi is made from recycled materials, including soda bottles, and other environmentally friendly goods. The doll’s packaging? A recycled two-liter bottle.
Block, D. (1997). Doll spreads recycling message. In Business, 19(6), 25. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
5. In 1997, the White Plains Public Library in New York held an exhibition of 17 rag dolls made by homeless men and women.
LYNNE, A. (1997, June 22). Dolls Made by Homeless on Display. New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..
6. Miss Columbia, a 19-inch rag doll, has been traveling all over the U.S. and around the world since 1902. The doll carries a journal for guests to sign, and she helps raise money for children’s charities.
A Doll’s Big Adventure. (1999). Time for Kids, 5(11), 7. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
7. Cloth dolls may have painted or sewn faces, wool or human hair, and may consist of a variety of found materials, such as wood, fur, leather, beeswax, and soap.
Canadian Museum of Civilization. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/dolls/doinu01e.shtml
8. Ancient dolls made of wool have been found dating as far back as 3000 BC, some found in children’s graves.
doll. (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168246/doll
9. For some doll makers, felt is the preferred material for rag dolls, due to its ability to stiffen and press over a mold if needed.
The V&A Childhood Museum. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/dolls/ragdolls/deans_rag_book_doll/index.html
10. A poppet is another type of doll – “small human figure used in witchcraft and sorcery,” c.1300, early form of puppet (q.v.). Meaning “small or dainty person” is recorded from late 14c.; later a term of endearment.
poppet. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/poppet
Logline: Travis Bickle, a lonely Vietnam vet, is a mentally unstable taxi driver wanting to clean up the streets of New York.
Taxi Driver reeks of loneliness. When the protagonist, Travis Bickell, is being interviewed for the cab driver job, the personnel officer immediately points out that “we don’t need any misfits around here, son,” so right off, we know that Travis is probably a misfit. Another indication that he lacks communication skills is the fact that he doesn’t have a phone. The inciting incident happens when Travis goes to the porn theater and starts talking to the girl at the counter like he wants to date her. This is where it is confirmed for the first time that Travis is a serious loner, a reject with little social skills. The amount of time he spends at the porn theater could be used reading self help books.
The antagonist is Travis’s own self worth. Travis wants to be a person, but a few times he said that he wasn’t even a person. He is a pitiful character that makes the reader feel sorry for him. He stands in his own way of getting what he wants, because he thinks that being a person requires being accepted by society. Travis also wants a woman, particularly Betsy, but his social skills are horrible. What Travis needs is to learn acceptable social skills and acceptance by society.
On their first date, Betsy tells Travis about a song by Kris Kristofferson that is about a walking contradiction. That’s exactly what Travis is. He views everything in the city as trash, yet his own apartment is littered with garbage, dirt, old furniture, and porn. Throughout the script, he talks about cleaning up the trash, the scum, the filth, yet he has created it in his own living space. Everything that he despises is exactly the way he lives.
On their second date, Travis takes Betsy to a movie – but it’s at the porn theater! This is the Plot Point 1, because then Betsy leaves and doesn’t want anything to do with Travis anymore. Boy loses girl, so this sets up everything for Act II.
One of the symbols I noted in the script was the Venus de Milo on the purple cloth at the counter of the porn theater. Venus de Milo is a representation of beauty and the color purple often represents royalty, which completely contradicts the way the women are treated in the movies shown at the theater. But the Venus de Milo is also armless, which could indicate that Travis does not getting any intimacy from women. He does, however, seem to view Betsy and Iris as goddesses (and Betsy as an angel), even though he exhibits stalkerish behavior. Before Betsy and Travis’s date, he has a couple of bottles of pills on the table. After the date, he has a “giant bottle of aspirin,” which indicates that not having a woman in his life is hurting him. In both scenes he has a bottle of apricot brandy. Apricots are often symbolic of women and beauty.
At the very beginning of the script, Travis is wearing an Army jacket with a patch that reads “King Kong Company”. That in itself hinted to me that Travis is still at war, at least within himself. Around page 50, Travis buys guns and then changes his apartment and puts up newspaper clippings about Palantine, who is running for President. Travis also begins working out and going to the shooting range. It is obvious he is planning something, but it seemed to me like he was preparing for war. There is even a hint of it when he drives around and sees a gang of punks throwing a wine bottle at him. And then he goes into a store, sees a guy robbing it, pulls out a gun and blows his face off. After that he goes to the porn theater like nothing ever happened. This is Plot Point 2, because now Travis has killed someone and there is no going back.
Travis kills his own television set when he rocks it and tips it over during a soap opera scene in which a female actress is rejecting a male. Now he is really beginning to lose it and feeling the loneliness. He shaves his head like he’s still in the army and shows up at a rally for Palantine. He appears to have a plan in mind, but never goes through with anything. But in the next scene when he’s back in his apartment, he says, “The time is coming,” referring to another rally. At times these rally scenes seemed to be like a time filler to complete the 90-pages of the script.
Travis briefly meets Iris, or at least her pimp, who hands the cabbie a $20 bill. Travis is ashamed to use the money, because he knows what the young girl does for it. He later pays to see Iris, but not to have sex. He wants to rescue her, but she doesn’t seem to want to be rescued. Like him, she lives in her own world. When he hands the same $20 bill back to the old man before he leaves, he makes a big deal out of it, and I think it’s because he probably thinks that the money belongs to Iris. He doesn’t view her as scum, because she’s a child, but he does about the pimp and the old guy.
At the end of the script, the voiceover of Travis is all about his loneliness, how he is “God’s lonely man.” He cleans up his apartment in much the same way he’s planning on cleaning up the street trash. He ends up back at a rally and gets chased away by the Secret Service, so he goes to see Iris again and shoots her pimp, the old guy that takes the money, and her customer. Travis also gets shot, but he lives and becomes a hero with his name in headlines for shooting a pimp, and Iris’s parents can’t thank him enough for having their daughter back. Had he shot the candidate, he’d have been labeled a psychotic killer. But since he shot a pimp, everyone viewed him as a hero.
The script’s weak ending is cliché, with Betsy in Travis’s cab saying maybe she’ll see him again, hinting that boy gets girl back. Perhaps the ending meant that Travis is a real person now that he’s a hero and that he’s no longer “God’s lonely man.”