Dr Jelena Martinovic (Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL)
‘Visual Illusions, Mescaline and Psychopharmacology: Heinrich Klüver’s Form Constants’
Mescaline, the chemical compound of peyote, attracted the interest of Western scientists since the late 19th century, among them Heinrich Klu?ver (1897–1967). A German emigre?, Klu?ver introduced gestalt psychology and the pharmacological tradition of experimenting with psychoactive drugs to the United States in the 1920s. Klu?ver became interested in mescaline for its effects on visual perception and claimed that the substance helps to articulate mechanisms of hallucination. In my talk, I will take up Klu?ver’s brain scientific quest to catalogue visual illusions to question the extent to which his work can elucidate the interrelations of psychopharmacology and the human sciences in the first half of the 20th century. More generally, I will explore how the exemplary focus on visuality, which characterises mescaline research in its constituting years, offers a framework to understand the dissemination of expressive forms in fields such as art therapy, psychopathology and creativity research.
Dee McQuillan (UCL), “Excavating an English Psycho-Analyst: James Strachey’s Papers and Work 1909-1945”
To what extent can studying a psychologist’s private life and personality contribute to the understanding of their work? In sharp contrast to his contemporaries, such as Edward Glover, John Rickman or Joan Riviere, James Strachey left an enormous quantity of manuscripts, mostly in the form of personal letters. While Strachey was not an avid writer in his own right — Ernest Jones complained about his lack of productivity — excavating the wealth of personal paperwork that he left presents an ideal opportunity to explore this question.
Monday 5th June
Dr Ernst Falzeder (UCL) ‘How Jung Became the First President of the International Psychoanalytical Association’
It shocked Freud’s closest followers at the time that he wanted, in 1910, a Swiss gentile to become lifetime president of a new international organization of psychoanalysts. This talk sketches the background and repercussions of this “coup.”
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
Monday 8th May
Professor Greg Eghighian (Penn State University) – NASA/American Historical Association Fellow in Aerospace History
‘From Crackpots to Survivors: How Contact With Aliens Was Pathologised‘
While the first reports of flying saucer sightings appeared in 1947, it was not until the 1950s that witnesses began claiming to have encountered extraterrestrial visitors. Throughout the fifties and sixties, the reports of “contactees” tended to emphasize the shyness and benign nature of extraterrestrials. Over the course of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, however, the stories increasingly revolved around terrifying encounters with coercive aliens engaged in performing human experiments. And as the tales became more gruesome, psychiatrists and psychotherapists began playing a growing role in analyzing and counseling self-professed “abductees.” In this talk, I will discuss how and why this happened and some of the consequences it has had for contactees, clinicians, and critics.
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
‘Disciplining Bergson: Cinematographs as Epistemic Devices, 1896-1922’
Henri Bergson’s use of the cinematograph as a metaphor for scientific epistemology had a major impact on twentieth-century conceptions of science: even today, many philosophers of science regard the relation between recording mechanisms and embodied observers as critical to our understanding of objective knowledge. Yet little is known about the extent to which Bergson’s characterization of cinematographs as epitomizing a pervasive ‘fragmentation’ of nature into lifeless ‘snapshots’ reflected actual scientific practice during the early twentieth century. This talk will address cinematographic experimentation by such contemporaries of Bergson as Charles Scott Sherrington, Hugo Münsterberg, and Max Wertheimer. In doing so, it will suggest that as well as expressing a broader trend towards the mechanical analysis of nature, cinematograph-centred experimentation contributed to a disciplinary divergence between psychological and physiological science during the first decades of the twentieth century. It will further highlight how this changing disciplinary structure came to haunt Bergson’s philosophy during the 1920s. Ironically, the prominence that Bergson gave to his to cinematographic metaphor prevented him from adapting his philosophy to a mode of scientific organization that grew up around the devices themselves.
‘C.G. Jung’s Interpretation of Girolamo Cardano’s Dreams’
Between 1936 and 1941, Carl Gustav Jung presented a seminar on children’s dreams and the historical literature on dream interpretation in Zurich. As part of the seminar Jung analysed twelve dreams of Girolamo Cardano. These sessions do not only give a peek into Jungian dream interpretation in practice, but also demonstrate how Jung used Cardano’s dream reports to corroborate his ideas about archetypes, the collective unconscious, synchronicity and the harmonization of opposites. In his book on dreams, titled Synesiorum somniorum omnis generis insomnia explicantes, libri IV (1562), Cardano defends the merits of dream interpretation and offers a philosophical explanation for his views. Central to his dream theory is the idea that the cosmos is a unified, harmonic and animated entity. The universal harmonic interrelations between all cosmic phenomena provide the basis for Cardano’s theory of dream interpretation. In this paper I will investigate how and why Jung used Cardano’s dream reports to revive the Renaissance notion of a unitary harmonic world as the eternal ground of all empirical being. Moreover, I will analyse why Jung was prepared to make a ‘salto mortale’ to appropriate Cardano’s dreams, while at the same time he considered him as ‘a free thinker who was more superstitious than primitives.’