Thursday, 24 July 2014

These Writing Nights


 On Reversing One’s Hours 

The only, minor, disturbance I have so far encountered with writing all night and sleeping in the day, is missing a relaxing evening drink. One does not feel like a glass of wine on awakening at 7 or 8 in the evening and the thought is equally unpalatable at 10 o clock the next morning. So instead I am drinking a lot of coffee, and water. But soon my first novel, Australian Fugue: The Antipode Room will be published and up on the fabled platforms of Amazon, Kobo and so on, a transformation into virtual reality which seems at the moment somewhat akin to its ascending to the mythical Olympus. I look forward to inhabiting daylight hours again and celebrating in the ‘real’ evening with a glass or two of nectar from the local vineyards of the Hunter Valley. Until then, the mind is clear and this night is full of gods and constellations.

Ruth Skilbeck

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

In Praise of Reversing One's Hours


'Early to rise’ and ‘up with the lark’, which may once have seemed impossible indicators of moral virtue, is so easy to achieve when one simply does not sleep at night and chooses instead to slumber in daylight hours and write through the night. At around 6.30 a.m. one greets the dawn like an old familiar friend, not an overwhelming foe, as if one is in control of one’s destiny, instead of always scrambling behind, late and only half awake, like the woman applying her make-up on the train, or the man I once saw walking across the main road at Spit Junction in Mosman, at 8.30 a.m. shaving with a pocket shaver. The best thing about it though is that not many people do it, so it retains that exclusive secret edge of slightly illicit and novel things, the hidden beach, the secluded garden, a surprise, separate to the rest of the world. So that when I go to bed at 10 a.m. or 12 a.m., I fall asleep secure in the knowledge that the world will go on without me very well, and when I awake at 7 p.m. or so, I have the whole night ahead of me to write and I will not get tired or need to sleep.


Ruth Skilbeck 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Forgetting and Remembering: a History of Western/European Psychiatry in the Context of Empire

By Ruth Skilbeck

It's historically interesting that all of the revered early, or late 19th century, 'fugue' pedagogues were male (many of their patients were female, though some were male, notably the first "fugueur" Albert Dadas). Learning to forget or remembering as catharsis- the "Western/European" history of memory and forgetting is long and dual, and unresolved, how does this play out in Australia and other former colonies, of empire, where we live with forgetting and struggle with remembering the past. When Pierre Janet was writing colonialism and modernity were at their height in Europe and the UK, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century:
“According to Janet, the physician’s task was a paradoxical one in that the patient had to be coaxed into a curative relationship of depend-ence—even of “somnambulistic passion” —with the therapist, while at the same time being led toward emancipation from that dependence. Later, while emphasizing the social aspect of the therapeutic relationship, Janet (1919) wrote that an “adoptive” attitude of the patient toward the therapist was a desirable goal.
Janet was an eclectic therapist who borrowed from the old “magnetic” techniques and continued, if needed, to use hypnotic suggestion long after it had lost the respect of many of his colleagues; he had no fear of playing the pedagogue, the spiritual guide, or even the exorcist. Indeed he adopted practices associated with Catholicism, as for instance in the case of Achille (1898b), a patient who presented all the classical features of demonic possession. After failing to hypnotize Achille, Janet reports, he had the idea of acting like a “modern exorcist” and addressing himself to the Devil. He discovered by this means that Achille had had an extramarital affair, and, suffering the effects of remorse, had been harboring a “dream,” which was subconscious, in which he felt he was damned and possessed by the Devil. Janet conducted the treatment in such a way that Achille forgot both his transgression and his remorse. In this case history, Janet noted, “Knowing how to forget is sometimes as much a quality as knowing how to learn, because forgetting is prerequisite to moving forward, to progress, to life itself.… One of the most valuable contributions that pathological psychology could make would be to discover a reliable way to precipitate the forgetting of specific psychological phenomena” (Janet, 1898b, p. 404). Janet’s chief therapeutic concern here was apparently not a cathartic retrieval of memories, as promoted at the same period by Freud and Breuer, but rather a process of learning how to forget.” (from Encyclopedia.comhttp://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Pierre_Janet.aspx)

Such thinking has crucially informed culture and counter-cultural responses or working through these inherited traumas in the “west” since then, for example in:
The Doors: Soul Kitchen- ‘Learn to Forget”, an early example of forgetting through escapism, and expressionism, which is not so much a forgetting as a remembering in disguise:
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/doors/soulkitchen.html
In literature, as an example in a different way, Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.
Should we forget or remember, or both, do we need to remember to be able to forget past trauma, or should we forget, to remember how to live.