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Emma: The Inner Child of an Adult

Author: Julie Reshe

(05/11/2016)
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Developing his theory of sexuality, Freud made a profound contribution to the reconceptualisation of the process of maturation, as well as of the boundaries that separate the sphere of childhood from the sphere of adulthood. Deriving from the Freudian account of maturation and combining Freud’s models with his own postmodernist philosophy of language, Lyotard further develops a new perspective to deal with those phenomena.

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In his essay “Emma: between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis,” [In “Emma: between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis” Lyotard deals with Freud’s case of “Emma”. She traces her fear of shops to an incident at age of twelve when she entered a shop, saw two shop assistants laughing, and ran out of the shop in a panic attack. Freud traces this scene to an earlier traumatic event which was repressed by Emma – when Emma was eight years old; a shopkeeper had fondled her genitals through her clothes]. Lyotard makes a distinction between the childhood phrase-affect and the articulated phrases of adulthood. In his own words, the phrase-affect, which is a “pure” affectivity ‘anthropologically speaking, […] is bound up with childhood’ [Ibid., 44].
The childhood phrase-affect not just lacks the instance of “I”, it also lacks the instance of addressee. Thus, the phrase-affect is a “presence” which is addressed to no one, neither as a question, nor as a reply.
Therefore, the phrase-affect lacks the instances needed for the participation in circulation of common sense, which embodies in the adults the capacity to articulate. This capacity is required to link phrases with each other.

The phrase-affect is non-significant, neither destined, nor referenced. Besides the “pure” childhood phrase-affect does not involve a demand, because a demand is an expectation of linking. But, in spite of the fact that it is deprived of all fundamental characteristics of phrase, Lyotard insists that it is sufficient to call this “presence” a phrase, hence to claim that it is a constitutive part of speech....



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