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A publication of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

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Cezanne Repeats…and Repeats

Shelley Rockwell, PhD
Member, Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis
September 2021 | Volume 8 | Issue 2

Cezanne asserted, “There is no line…a bloodless contour should not be trusted.”

All of us, we love to tell, to repeat our stories, our memories … does it do us good?

At the current Cezanne exhibit at MOMA in New York, a small placard next to the drawing “At the Edge of the Pond” reads,

This drawing of a bather reveals Cezanne’s own approach: a line that multiplies, repeats, twists, trembles and searches, Cezanne’s line creates multiple possibilities for the figure…

The American composer Nico Muhly wrote: “Philip’s (Glass) music uses repetition, but there’s a lot of drama to be found in the deviation…It’s that weird thing of a slight ecstatic disruption.”

Federico Garcia Lorca wrote “at five in the afternoon”; 28 of 52 lines contain this phrase in his poem of anguish and grief written in response to the exact moment of loss for his intimate friend, a bullfighter, “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.” Is this repetition or rather an incantation?

Psychoanalytic psychotherapists listen again and again and find life and resonance in sameness. Freud wrote about a WWI soldier and his need to repeat his war trauma in dreaming—this story is only one paragraph removed from the story of Freud’s grandson’s repetition in the playing of “da-fort” *— horrible blinding trauma and violence only inches away (in the printed word) from a child’s need to contend with the “trauma” of a mother’s temporary absence.

The potential found in repetition is under-estimated and under-valued—too easily gathered inside the umbrella called “repetition compulsion,” conceived as pathological. Perhaps in all repetition there lies a kernel of “trauma” bending toward relief, resolution or at least the opening of an impasse.

*da/fort: This 18-month-old boy threw a wooden reel over the edge of his cot, pulling it back by the attached string repeating da (gone) and fort (there/back again). In this playful, creative manner a child is able to “master” or at least cope with his mother’s coming and going, over which he has no control.

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Horizons

A favorite amusement during my elementary-school years was a puzzle-map of the United States. The puzzle pieces comprised all the states. The top of the puzzle went beyond the USA halfway up Canada, and the bottom ended halfway through Mexico.

Mad or Sad?

Here I am, taking comfort in the sunroom and emailing off another cartoon to my sister. I have two sisters and have always been especially close to sister number two, Patti. It could be said that we are close because we are nearer in age, but really, we are close because we are pretty much on the same wavelength. We enjoy a lot of the same things including guffawing over clever memes. We like to laugh.

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