Bwogger Eliza Shapiro may be a full year away from the CC dose of Freud, but that didn’t stop her from getting up for this semester’s CC Coursewide Lecture.
Groggy CC sophomores and their balding elbow-patched professors filed into Miller Theater Friday morning for a coursewide lecture given by Jonathan Lear, a professor at our long lost cousin college, University of Chicago. Lear was introduced by Michael Stanislawski, Nathan J. Miller Professor of History and Chair of CC, who, after surveying the room, which was relatively crowded but certainly did not contain the 1,000+ sophomores that technically should have been there, remarked: “I’m glad to see that our policy of mandatory attendance has been realized.”
Lear, who is also trained as a psychoanalyst, has written a number of books that might make for some pleasant summer reading, among them “Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation”, “Happiness, Death and the Remainder of Life”, and simply, “Freud.” Lear began his talk a brief praise of the Core and assured us that he is “very committed to teaching within our Core at Chicago”. Before launching into the meat of his talk, he suggested that those especially interested in Freud consult his clinical material in addition to his theoretical works, which often are “very, very hard to connect with.” At this point, ambient jazz music began to float in from nearby rooms, startling some sleepy ’11-ers.
He went on to discuss the parallels between Freud’s work and the first book his audience skimmed this year: Plato’s Republic. He related the fundamental intention of both Plato and Freud as dealing with the “trajectory of concern with the human condition,” and pointed out an element of particular fascination for both men: “we are the only creatures we know of who care about finding out who we are, yet we also want to avoid finding the answer.” Lear spoke about Plato’s preoccupation with the well-ordered nature of the universe and his idea that humans are the exception to this order, related to the Greek notion of justice.
Lear began to wrap up with a focus on psychoanalysis in general and shared an anecdote from his own practice: a compelling story of a woman with a long history of alcoholism in her family who serially dated alcoholics. Lear mentioned the popular idea of the “third-time loser” in relation with this story, as his patient was having particular trouble with the third alcoholic she was dating. Lear used this story as a moment to start discussing the stigma of sex within psychoanalysis, leading him to a discussion of the opposing emotional and rational human psyches. He got his one true belly laugh of the morning when he imagined what emotional, visceral side would say: “let’s just really…have some sex.”
Lear’s final argument related to the title of his lecture, “On Getting Stuck and Not Fitting In”, and was that psychoanalysis differs from other kids of “talking cures” in that it encourages patients to become “more comfortable and creative with the fact that they don’t fit in as much as they’d like to.” He shared a quote from Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain to conclude: “I’m getting used to not getting used to it.” (photo by the University of Chicago)