2015 Conference on Conflict: Keynote Speaker Announced

Spring 2015 Conference


10am to 5pm on Saturday 16 May 2015

Venue:  Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA

What does a contemporary psychoanalysis have to say about conflict? Is there anything new to add about that which is at the heart of all the stories psychoanalysis wants to tell?

The SITE 2015 Spring Conference takes conflict as a foundational concept in psychoanalysis, not merely because of a supposed conflict that is at the heart of every neurosis, but because it is always already established in the split between the conscious and the unconscious.


Josh Cohen is Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London and a psychoanalyst in private practice. He is the author of books and articles on modern literature, cultural theory and psychoanalysis, including How to Read Freud (Granta, 2005). His latest book is The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark (Granta, 2013).

Giving up without a fight:
The wish to sleep in psychoanalysis and culture

Prior to desire and the conflicts to which it gives rise, suggests the French psychoanalyst Piera Aulagnier, we find ‘the original presence of the rejection of living in favour of the search for a state of quiescence, of non-desire’. Non-desire, she posits, precedes the inexorable thrust of the organism towards dynamism, growth and conflict, and seeks to reverse it.

Freud had begun to hint at this primary state of non-desire in his meditations on the convergence of love and silence in ‘The Theme of the Three Caskets’ (1913), and on sleep in the ‘Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams’ (1917), before placing non-desire, or the drive to return to an undisturbed state, at the centre of psychic life in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). The wish to sleep, to extinguish psychic conflict, may be older and stronger than the wish to dream, or sustain psychic conflict.

Drawing on both clinical material and works of literature (as well as other arts), this lecture will explore the insistently recurring fascination in psychoanalysis for an original state of inertia, as well as its manifest expressions in lethargy, indifference and lassitude. Bringing Freud, Aulagnier, Winnicott and Green into conversation with Schopenhauer, Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’, Perec’s A Man Asleep and Ed Ruscha’s ‘Liquid Words’ paintings, I will explore what happens when we think of psychic conflict as conditioned by a more primary (and paradoxical) drive to a zero state. And what bearing might a consideration of this zero state have on the malaise of our ‘24/7’ culture of permanent busyness and distraction.


Site 2015 Conference

Full programme to be published soon…

Ticket prices*

£60.00 in advance (£70.00 for tickets bought on the door)

£50.00 for Site members

£45.00 for Site trainees

(*lunch not included)

To book a place at this event, please download and complete booking form, payment can be made by cheque or via bank transfer (all details on booking form).

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Site booking form conference May 2015