IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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charged external fields of reference back into the internal world, the fold between inside and outside continues (Deleuze, 1986/1988).

III. Fec. Nachträglichkeit and art The bi-directional circular process of Nachträglichkeit has been found to be operative in artists’ work in a condensed form (Marion, 2011) or over a period of time (Wilson, 2003). Paola Marion (2011) writes about a condensed dream scene of a “Sacred Allegory” painting by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1514) as portraying and representing “the multidimensionality of time, and in particular a special form of temporality that we psychoanalysts call Nachträglichkeit” (p.24). In her interpretation, Bellini’s painting gives “shape and visibility to the contemporary presence, in one single space, of the multiple temporal lines that pass through space itself” (p.24). Laurie Wilson’s (2003) studied reconstruction of a transformative après-coup moment in Alberto Giacometti’s life and work. After a prolonged work-inhibition and compulsive miniaturization of his sculpted figurines many of which he destroyed, the celebrated Swiss born artist, Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) was “suddenly” free in l946 to make normal size figures and thus launch his new ‘filiform’ post-war style of standing women and walking men. As a young boy, Giacometti had watched his ambivalently loved mother emerge from months of a comatose state after having almost died from typhoid fever. She was skeletally thin and grey haired. The unassimilated traumatic experience from the artist’s childhood was reactivated in l946 when he returned to Paris and saw concentration camp survivors in his neighborhood. The artist was able to experience the new trauma of seeing people nearly dead from typhoid fever, and be liberated from the obsessional defenses against his own aggression, which had paralyzed him since before the war. Giacometti could see the difference between the actual sadism of the Nazis and his own hostile wishes and fantasies. The comparison of his remembered frightening images of his nearly dead mother thirty-six years ago, to the actual view of nearly dead people in post-War Paris assisted with the assimilation of these earlier traumatic memories. The retroactive revision of the hostile wishes toward family members of his childhood could now be transformed into sculpted icons of survival.


Freud’s early observation that certain memories had greater traumatic power upon recollection than they had when they were originally registered, led to his formulation of one of his most complex and non-linear conceptualizations of Nachträglichkeit. The points of view gathered in this entry illustrate the evolution of the conception of trauma, from a disorganizing


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