Jeanine M. Vivona is Professor of Psychology at The College of New Jersey, where she introduces undergraduates to psychoanalytic ideas, and adjunct clinical faculty at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. She maintains a private practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and supervision near Philadelphia. She is a member of the Editorial Boards of Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA) and Psychoanalytic Inquiry. Two of her papers have been awarded The JAPA Prize, her 2006 article, “From Developmental Metaphor to Developmental Model: The Shrinking Role of Language in the Talking Cure” and her 2012 article, “Is There a Nonverbal Period of Development?” She is currently working on a book, which examines psychoanalytic conceptions of verbal and nonverbal strains of experience and modes of being. The book will be published by Routledge as part of the Psychoanalysis in a New Key series, edited by Donnel Stern. Her Friday Night Lecture is part of that work.
In this lecture, Dr. Vivona considers the poetry in language and the language of poetry as a basis for contemplating the ways in which the words of a psychoanalytic interpretation are akin to those in poetry. In both poetry and interpretation, language breathes life into experiences, allowing those experiences to be felt and known in new ways. We begin by reading a poem and reflecting on the experiences it evokes as a foundation for thinking together about the experiential potentials of words. With this foundation in mind, Dr. Vivona argues for the inherently evocative and creative potentials of the word as used in psychoanalysis and especially in interpretation. She critiques the view, increasingly voiced in our field, that language limits the fullness of experience and that creativity more often arises from the ineffable than from the verbal. Inspired by Loewald’s underappreciated theory of language, she explores ways in which psychoanalytic speaking creates transformative experiences in therapy by bringing together past and present, thought and feeling, self and other. She presents clinical examples to suggest that the words of the therapeutic conversation are akin to a poem that analyst and patient make together and that evokes a confluence of inseparable experiences and insights. This is possible because the lived feeling that language can create is not only distinct from language, but also inherent to it. Dr. Vivona concludes with the assertion that as psychoanalysis expands its ways of knowing into nonverbal realms, we must not forget the experiential power of language.
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