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THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to
leadingarticle@theviennapsychoanalyst.at


(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)

Satire on the Couch

Author: Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)

(03/01/2017)
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Dear Readers!

THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST is pleased to present today the first article written by our editor Sabrina Zehetner.

Enjoy reading!


In an age of political conflicts and intense, public scrutiny on the internet, satire as Enfant Terrible has become ubiquitous. Looking back on a long history of ridicule and political dissent, satire - like psychoanalysis - discusses social taboos and human agency – satire on the couch.


Satire 2.0

The John Oliver Show, SNL, The Stephen Colbert Report, The Onion und Kate Beaton’s cartoons, the New Yorker and Charlie Hebdo – the list of modern satire is inexhaustible and multifaceted while the satirists’ motives are as diverse as their targets. It is not surprising that satire as a genre – as is the case with the majority of European cultural history – happens to be another child of ancient Greek poetry.  At the English court, it was aristocrats such as the notorious John Wilmot (The 2nd Earl of Rochester) who could afford making fun of English royalty and its lifestyle. In its obscenity, however, these satirical works were in no way inferior to their modern successors. In France, the birthplace of the caricature, satirists the likes of Charles Philipon faced imprisonment for expressing dissent and criticizing royal agency. Later, during the French revolution, the genre played a significant role in empowering citizens through political engagement. As the court ceased to be the cultural center and the readership became increasingly heterogeneous, satire evolved into an independent art form. Finally part of the mainstream media, satire enjoyed great popularity and regular publication. The golden age of grand-scale satire written by the likes of Swift, Pope or Molière belongs to the past and gave way to Memes and Late-night-TV. In the digital age, where politicians find themselves under public scrutiny 24/7, leaders present the perfect target for satirists – paradoxically, the virtual reality both demands and persecutes authenticity. Good satire combines humor with informed critique. An audience only derives pleasure from satire when the irony is understood as such – if not due to opposing political views or misleading social critique, the genre ceases to be effective and even runs the risk of representing the very thing it set out to criticize. Why do we derive pleasure from an art form known for its obscenity and hostility? A number of modern critics refer to Freud, according to whom, the sadistic pleasure is gained through rhetoric violence while others link the release of aggression to the source of pleasure. Surprisingly, psychoanalysis has never properly addressed satire despite its topicality.


The characteristic of satire

The main goal of satire is to challenge boundaries – Freud believed this type of “tendentious humor” to be an expression of repressed aggression. In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious the word satire is only mentioned once as Freud placed special focus on the joke, which is inherently different from satire. Satire is often hostile yet always consciously aware of its effect. It actively lures the unconscious and repressed out of its hiding place – a sentiment that satire and psychoanalysis have in common. Compared to Horatian satire which often serves as commentary on social behavior disguised as self-satire and has no intention to repel the audience, Juvenalian satire tends to be harsher, critical, acidic and doesn’t shy away from confrontation. Erroneously, satire is often equated with satyr event though they’re neither etymologically nor culturally synonymous, yet harsher forms of satire frequently make use of satyr as a subversive figure and personification of unbridled lust to ridicule the church’s relationship with sexuality and virtue. Good satire combines humor with informed critique. An audience only derives pleasure from satire when the irony is understood as such – if not due to opposing political views or misleading social critique, the genre ceases to be effective and even runs the risk of representing the very thing it set out to criticize. Why do we derive pleasure from an art form known for its obscenity and hostility? A number of modern critics refer to Freud, according to whom, the sadistic pleasure is gained through rhetoric violence while others link the release of aggression to the source of pleasure. Surprisingly, psychoanalysis has never properly addressed satire despite its topicality.


‘I started a joke which started the whole world crying’

In Greek mythology, Momus embodied mockery and censorship and was eventually expelled from Olympus by Zeus for his overall bad behavior and criticism. When the French kings banned the buffons, French society was quick to replace them with independent artisanship. Through the centuries, satirists became resourceful to avoid royal and governmental censorship and often took advantage of the art of Masquerade – Jean de la Fontaine made use of animals to depicted the French society in Fables. Even today, satirists are subjected to censorship and death threats across the globe since its very nature requires satire to question the authority and narcissism of leaders, religions and political groups and movements. This narcissistic wound and subjectively perceived humiliation frequently breeds violence – in the case of Charlie Hebdo it led to the tragic murder of twelve employees – among them the Lacanian psychoanalyst and “Charlie Divan” columnist Elisa Cayat. The Enfant Terrible, the unruly child needs boundaries and social taboos to challenge and subvert– that is the eternal irony of the genre. At best, it encourages and demands self-reflection while satire at its worst becomes a mere farce that targets any expression of authenticity as an agent of narcissism. Psychoanalysis has the expertise and foresight to shed a new light on the genre and its protagonists – perhaps it is even one step ahead of satire.


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