Erikson Scholar Annie Rogers, PhD, on Psychosis and Language
by Aaron Beatty
The current Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center, Annie Rogers, PhD, is many things. She is a professor of psychoanalysis and clinical psychology at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Ireland, a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University and a Whiting Fellowship at Hampshire College. She is the author of A Shining Affliction (1995) and The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma (2006), as well as academic articles, memoir, short fiction and poetry. She is a scholar, a teacher, an artist.
Dr. Rogers has known about Riggs for a long time. In the 1990s, she worked at the Erikson Center in Cambridge, where she had the opportunity, both formally and informally, to meet with Joan and Erik Erkison, both of whom often spoke about Riggs. More recently, the introduction of Hampshire College’s new concentration in psychoanalytic studies proved serendipitous, when a colleague of Dr. Rogers’, Lourdes Mattei, PhD, recruited Riggs Staff Psychologist Marilyn Charles, PhD, to speak at an event celebrating the new concentration earlier this year. Simultaneously, Dr. Rogers, exploring writing fellowship opportunities, came across the Erikson Scholar Program and recognized it as a “really good fit.” Dr. Rogers commented on being drawn to Riggs because of its psychoanalytic work in a residential setting where patients are treated respectfully and there is a separate art-making space for patients.
During her time as an Erikson Scholar, Dr. Rogers has been working on a manuscript with a working title of Incandescent Alphabet: Psychosis and the Enigma of Language, in which she contends language in psychosis is its own form of language born from the experience of auditory hallucinations. One of the ways in which she explores this language is by studying psychotic artists and how they represent the human body in their work; their perception and experience of their own body is altered by their psychosis and reflected in their artwork.
Elaborating, Dr. Rogers commented that while the “medical world” is interested in eliminating psychotic symptoms and many people are “scared of the strangeness” of psychosis, she believes it is crucial to figure out a way to listen to psychotic speech as important to the person experiencing psychosis, to accompany them and to make a space for art and writing in psychosis so that those afflicted can make a bridge to others.
As for how being at Riggs has informed her work, Dr. Rogers was effusive with her gratefulness to a wide variety of Riggs staff members across disciplines for their warmth and support and for the opportunity to teach evening seminars to the Fellows. As a Lacanian psychoanalyst, Dr. Rogers remarked that it is “good to be in a place with people who don’t think like me…it shakes up my ideas.”
Dr. Rogers will be presenting Hallucinated Bodies: Art and its Alphabets in Psychosis as part of the Friday Night Guest Lecture series at the Austen Riggs Center on Friday, December 5 at 8:00 pm. For more information, visit: http://www.austenriggs.org/event/hallucinated-bodies-art-and-its-alphabe....