Beyond Discontent: 'Sublimation' from Goethe to Lacan (New Directions in German Studies)
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According to Freud's later works, we do not really feel well or free within civilization. Our discontent never disappears, and we shall never become completely reliable members of society. Alcohol already suffices, Freud tells us, to ruin the fragile architecture of sublimations. Since ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle,' sublimation seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for suppressing the drives. We sublimate because we did not get or were not allowed to have what we ‘actually' wanted. Is sublimation a mere surrogate or perhaps even the name psychoanalysis found for ‘theoria' in the twentieth century? With Freud as its pivot, Goebel provides an intellectual history of sublimation, which also serves as an introduction to other key ideas associated with the authors discussed, such as Schopenhauer's philosophy of music, the will to power in Nietzsche, the structure of Freudian psychoanalysis, Adorno's concept of modern art, or Lacanian ethics. In examining both its prehistory and reception, Goebel argues that sublimation can be reconsidered as the road toward an individual and social life beyond discontent.
against the question of the potential referentiality of musical language and, in the second step, been confronted with the musical, expressive character of human speech. Schopenhauer remains at the threshold of reflection in his keen recognition of phenomena such as repression, rationalization, etc. Yet ultimately he cannot reconcile these insights with the demands of his system. Freud’s fragmentary theory of sublimation—and here, too, Nietzsche laid the groundwork for him with his genealogical
one and the same object in the place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego.”64 In contrast to this primary group formation, Freud conceives of a culture’s great old institutions as the result not of a narcissism that has been acted out through identification and idealization, but of sublimations. This becomes particularly clear when, in the postscript to his treatise on group psychology, he distinguishes between traditional and modern forms
instinct does not originally serve the purposes of reproduction at all, but has as its aim the gaining of particular kinds of pleasure. […] During this development a part of the sexual excitation which is provided by the subject’s own body is inhibited as being unserviceable for the reproductive function and in favourable cases is brought to sublimation. The forces that can be employed for cultural activities are thus to a great extent obtained through the suppression of what are known as the
follow the lines of that body, which he saw as godlike, and bear its beauty to the realm of the intellect, as the eagle had once borne the Trojan shepherd to the ether. Never had he experienced the pleasure of the word to be sweeter, never had he known with such certitude that Eros is in the word than during those dangerously delightful hours when […] he formulated that little essay—a page and half of sublime prose […]. It is surely as well that the world knows only Walking the Dog 159 a
him, sex is of the Devil, a diabolic distraction from pure contemplation; knowledge is that denial of sex which says: ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.’ ”20 Gottfried Benn at the Academy On 29 January 1932—exactly one year before the Nazis seized power, the literature department at the Prussian Academy of Arts appointed six new members, among them the poet Gottfried Benn. The new members of the academy were assigned the task of giving a short presentation describing the character of