Re: [-empyre-] Accidents & crypts - cryptonymy & The Thing

dear Yvonne and list,

> Could you please enlarge on this?
>   yvonne 

In all truth, I think I'm inclined to say YIKES, in delving deeply into
cryptomimesis and cryptology. It's intense. I think Noon's work is the best
example in some respects, and certainly more in tune with the 'art' to be
found here, which, given the context of this list (.. anyways you see my

Of note, there is also a great text that works with these ideas, that being
Jodey Castricano's _Cryptomimesis: Jacques Derrida and the American Gothic_.
In it, Castricano reads authors like Stephen King (including _Pet Cemetary_)
into Derrida-on-Abraham-&-Torok. It's a wonderful, funny, yet rigorous read.
It also goes a long way to providing a reading of Derrida's en/coded,
partially buried bit of insane writing known as _Glas_. _Glas_ is another
demonstration of these cryptic, textual effects, although I don't pretend to
offer an explorative understanding of what exactly is going on in that
particular text, although I feel I have a much better idea after reading
Castricano. And, it explains the technical basis of much of the recent work
on mourning, and what this means when one claims that the general schema of
production is mourning, the temporal claims being made, etc. Also of note,
this is all very 'French', and certainly there are other takes to be had
here beyond the poststructural pantheon.

Here's what I'll do -- here's an excerpt from a short piece I wrote trying
to explain the basis of Abraham & Torok for a lecture on cryptomimesis last
year. It might be helpful as it schematizes a number of difficult processes,
for ill or for good. I don't really want to look like I am sending academic
work here, as this could be construed as a little pretentious, but for those
interested, here's the information (fairly technical) and I offer it in the
spirit of sharing, and as a response, and to see what the crazed
code-artists do with this madness... (because psycho-analysis sure as hell
doesn't know: after Abraham's death, few have taken up this work, it seems).

I'll include the full text (not that long) as available for download from my
website, for those who would like to read through the more fully developed
reading, here:    

    -- < > --

For those interested in the language processes, scroll down a bit to where
it says [The Symbol]. Here's where a complication of any dualism or
representational schema arises. However, to really get *why* this might be
happening, and the actions of the processes, the rest is necessary. Also
interesting are the [Consequences] (last bit).

best, tV


Excerpt from "The Crypt."
tobias c. van Veen
Spring 2003.


[The Crypt]

The crypt is the live burial of the love object and its subsequent
desires?the desires that cannot be expressed as such?inside of ³me²
(Derrida, Fors xvi). In the intrapsychic topos of incorporation, a secret
³crypt² is erected to commemorate the refusal of not only the loss of the
object, but also the associated desires from the introjection process, while
simultaneously maintaining those desires through a spectral, performative
paradox that never achieves synthesis (xvii). This differs from introjection
as the object is not synthesized, but rather entombed whole inside of a dead
space within the Ego. Derrida says that the "dead object remains like a
living dead abscessed in a specific spot in the ego" (Ear 57). This live
burial splits both Ego and Id.
First, let us consider what happens to the Ego. The dead space of the Ego
that houses the crypt is not an empty, vacant space for the incorporated
object. It is not an absence. It is already Ego as the Ego cannot vacate its
territory. It is perhaps more accurate to say that the Ego splits itself,
but has no knowledge of this split. As the Ego is not conscious of the
actual process of incorporation, the crypt can be said to be unconscious.
But there is also a strange unconsciousness of the conscious Ego at this
point. The Ego has no knowledge of the crypt, and the fragmented ego of the
crypt has no knowledge of the Ego outside its walls. The crypt is conscious
of itself, but not of its surrounding Ego, and vice-versa. Two egos, unknown
to each other, are created through incorporation. Abraham and Torok explain

    The crypt works in the heart of the Ego as a special kind of
    Unconscious: Each fragment is conscious of itself and unconscious of the
    realm "outside the crypt." At once conscious and unconscious... (80)
The crypt is a special kind of unconscious in the Ego of which the Ego is
unconscious. This is only possible because of two conditions.
1. The crypt is already constructed. "The Ego cannot quit the place where it
had once been,² say Abraham and Torok, for it is the Ego that has already
erected the Crypt, and now, the Ego ³can only withdraw into seclusion and
construct a barrier separating it from the other half of the Ego² (81). The
Ego refuses to acknowledge the refusal of mourning, and so bars itself the
consciousness of the crypt it has erected to receive the dead object. This
means that
2. The Ego mimes proper introjection. Incorporation cannot be observed as a
failure to show outward signs of mourning or love, for this process is
mimed, performed. The Ego necessarily mimes proper mourning as part of the
unacknowledgement, or unconsciousness of the crypt.


[The Thing]


In order to understand what occurs in the Unconscious, we must turn to the
linguistic basis of this analysis. The general theory of psycho-analysis
states that every symbol in the Ego has its co-symbol in the Unconscious. In
the analysis of dreams, for example, Freud takes the symbol of the snake as
symbolizing its cosymbol, the phallus, which is a repressed sexual object
that references the penis. With the operation of incorporation, the symbol
itself is fragmented. When we say that the symbol is fragmented, we are
simply saying what we have already noticed in the building of the crypt. The
Ego is fractured because of a trauma that upsets the digestion and
assimilation, what is essentially the synthesis of an object as
introjection, and in the resulting incorporation, the object is fragmented
across the Ego in a process that fragments the Ego itself. The symbol is
fractured across the ego; likewise, its cosymbol is fractured across the
Unconscious, and in the process, the Unconscious is likewise fractured. To
keep the object from returning as it normally would as a repressed object,
such as usually happens in dreams, and which amounts to maintaining the
walls of the crypt and the lines of fracture, Abraham and Torok claim that
    the line of fracture fragmenting the symbol must extend beyond the
    symbol to its corresponding and unconscious cosymbol. This complementary
    formation within the Unconscious we call the Thing. (81)
Let me stress two points before we explain the operations of the Thing.
1. The fragmented dead object cannot return, as it normally does, as a
symbol in a dream or through another manifestation. If it returned as
itself, this would imply a conscious recognition of a symbol of the
fractured elements, i.e., this would imply that the Ego recognises the
crypt. Moreover, this implies that the symbol is whole or capable of
producing a unifying symbol that can re-synthesize its fractured elements.
This does not mean, however, that the effects of the crypt and the Thing are
purely absent; they just operate differently than what is usually determined
as a symbolic relationship that corresponds to the logic of the sign.
2. The type of symbol created by incorporation is radically different from
the binary symbol-cosymbol proposed by synthetic introjection. The symbol
undergoes a fracturing or splitting through incorporation at the level of
the Ego and at the level of the Unconscious. We shall examine the exact ways
this occurs in a moment. In fact, the Unconscious and the Ego themselves are
simultaneously split, and in the case of the Ego, the Ego itself now
contains a special Unconscious. The psychic topology of Freud has been
fragmented. As well shall see, this has consequences for a theory of the
subject. However, the symbol / cosymbol pair is disrupted. The Ego is
divided in two, creating a special unconscious within the Ego called the
crypt. And within the crypt,
    ?each fragment is conscious of itself and unconscious of the realm
    ³outside the crypt.² At once conscious and unconscious: This provides
    the explanation for the peculiarity of the intrasymbolic and not
    cosymbolic relationships of the word. (Abraham and Torok 80)


[The Symbol]


The nature of the symbol is no longer dualistic. Its relations are no longer
of a binary, complementary sort, but rather operate through an
intra-relationship. The symbol then no longer operates as such, but rather
as what Abraham and Torok call a word. A word operates intrasymbolically,
along its fracture lines, and through cryptic processes that transform the
fragments of the symbol as they cross various boundaries in the Ego and the
Unconscious. The word operates as both alloseme and synonym, the way words
relate to each other in the dictionary.

The crypt knows the repressed pleasure-words, which are the taboo fragments
of the dead-object. There may be any number of "taboo-words" (Abraham and
Torok 19).  In the crypt lie the broken symbols of these words. Their
wholeness has been fractured across the Ego. The pleasure-word is that
which, under any circumstances, cannot be said. To say it would be to
acknowledge the crypt. However, that the taboo-word must express itself is
necessary, for the crypt desires its expression, its pleasure. When we say
this, we keep in mind that the crypt is a special Unconscious in the Ego,
yet a conscious Unconscious, and therefore invested not only with libido but
with a conflicting relation to its desires. It cannot be said, this word; it
is unspeakable, unsayable, it is taboo.


The pleasure-word does not simply exist only in the Ego as if the duality of
the Ego/Id topography had simply been displaced onto a more generalised
Ego-terrain. Its lines of fracture extend also into the Unconscious. The
pleasure-words undergo a more severe and genuine repression through the
crypt. These pleasure-words are entombed within the cryptic Unconscious,
which is known as the Thing. The Ego's crypt knows the pleasure-word, but
the pleasure-word itself remains in the Unconscious crypt as the Thing. It
has been genuinely repressed through the crypt. The word is fractured into a
quadrant: that of the split Ego, which consists of the Ego and the crypt,
where the symbol is fractured, and that of the split Unconscious, which
consists of the Unconcious and the Thing, where the cosymbol is fractured.
This means that not only is the signifer fractured, but so is the signified.
In the Unconscious, the Thing regains its "active vital and dynamic
function" (Abraham and Torok 81). Invested with libido, it attempts
expression. The pleasure-word, say Abraham and Torok

    can cross the partition created within the Unconscious only if it
    appears on the other side of the fracture as the Thing of the cryptic
    Unconscious, and only if it has already been turned into its variant
    meanings (allosemes) on the side of consciousness. For it is only the
    alloseme that can cross the partition located with the Unconscious and
    be turned into a visual image on the other side of the gratified Ego.
An alloseme means allo: other, different, indicating difference or
variation, and seme, to sow or scatter. An allosemic term is one that is
found through a parallel relation between words that is constituted at the
level of grammatical association, of roots and graphic association, such as
the plural meanings of a word in the dictionary. For a word-thing to be
expressed in image-consciousness, for example, as in dreams and the
imaginary, it needs to be translated into an alloseme, and then transformed
into an image. We then interpret this image in what is a synomic relation to
the alloseme. Abraham and Torok say that the taboo-word "operates only from
the Unconscious, that is, as a word-thing. In conscious life it can be
recouped only as a visual image in a dream once it has been transformed into
a synonym of a variant meaning (alloseme)" (46).
A word-thing can also be expressed without going through the Unconscious,
such as in the example of speech.
    When conscious, the word can break through th symbol's line of fracture,
    without passing through the Unconscious, provided it is disguised in the
    synonym of an alloseme, that is, as a cryptonym.
It is, in fact, through the analysis of the speech of the Wolf-Man that
Abraham and Torok are able to notice specific absences of certain words, the
pleasure-words. These absent words are expressed through their cryptonyms
and dream images that correspond to similar allosemes.

    It was, we thought, because a given word was unutterable that the
    obligation arose to introduce synonyms even for its lateral meanings
    [allosemes], and that the synonyms acquired the status of substitutes.
    Thus they became cryptonyms, apparently not having any phonetic or
    semantic relationship to the prohibited word.
Obviously, one pleasure-word can have many potential disseminations. The
taboo-word is polysemic, "expressing multiple meanings through a single
phonetic structure" (18). The structure of the pleasure-word operates not as
representation or as symbol-cosymbol, but "arises from the lexical
contiguity of the various meanings of the same words, that is, from the
allosemes, as they are catalogued in a dictionary" (19). What is at stake is
not a "metonymy of things but a metonymy of words."

[The Consequences of the Crypt]

For Abraham and Torok, the crypt is a pathology that inhibits mourning
(Castricano 58) and needs to be cured through a radical analysis ³without
expecting any form of transference² (Abraham and Torok 76). Introjection is
to be returned to its proper place as the status quo of subjectivity.
However, as Jacques Derrida performs in his introduction to Abraham and
Torok's The Wolf Man's Magic Word, the subject is destabilized through the
crypt. It is the limit of this destabilization that has interest for
Derrida, for its consequences are not only that of upsetting the assumed
topology and very subjectivity of the psycho-analytic Self, but of the
unified subject of Western metaphysics and its necessary distinctions
between fantasy and reality, miming and truth. One the one hand, it is the
always-already structuration of the crypt in the Ego, according to Abraham
and Torok, that opens the door for Derrida to play with the possibility of
the preconditions of the crypt as a "no-place" within place, as that which
"should not haven take place, or should have not taken place" (Fors xxi). It
is this indeterminacy of the crypt and its always-already possibility that
of non-place within place that disrupts the topoi. On the other hand, this
always-already crypt marks the interminable aspect of incorporation, which
raises the possibility that, as Castricano makes clear, ³the fantasy of
incorporation is understood by Derrida as an inhibition necessary for the
very possibility of the ³subject²² (my italics, 58).


[Works Cited]

Abraham, Nicolas and Maria Torok. The Wolf Man¹s Magic Word: A Cryptonymy.
1976. Trans. Nicholas Rand. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986.
Castricano, Jodey. Cryptomimesis: Jacques Derrida and the American Gothic.
Montreal: McGill-Queen¹s UP, 2001
Derrida, Jacques. The Ear of the Other. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. Ed. Christie
MacDonald. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1985.
--. ³Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok.² The Wolf
Man¹s Magic Word: A Cryptonymy. By Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok.1976.
Trans. Nicholas Rand. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986.
Freud, Sigmund. An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works. In The Standard
Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII
(1917-1919). Trans. James Strachey. London: Vintage P, 2001.
Heidegger, Martin. Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister". Trans. William McNeill and
Julia Davis. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996.


tobias c. van Veen -----------
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