NABOKV-L post 0017905, Thu, 12 Mar 2009 16:04:26 -0300

THOUGHTS: hypnosis, free-association in PF
C.Kunin In the context of Charcot and Bernheim, both of whom used hypnosis extensively in their work, I would like to remind the list of a few of the references to hypnosis in PF. In the archives I found this speculation of my own: [...] As has been noticed from the beginning, Kinbote's notes do not annotate the poem[...] If John Shade has gone mad and has been institutionalized, could the "commentary" not be a record of his therapy? [...]His therapist, in other words, uses snippits of the poem to induce Shade/Kinbote to free-associate, and the result is the "Commentary". There are several references to mesmerism/hypnosis in the novel, including a trilby worn by Gradus. Is Shade under hypnosis? [...]To this I would add that Kinbote's annotation to l. 949 is actually addressed to a doctor. Also note Nabokov's neologism "autoneurypnological" shows that he was aware of a very early work on hypnosis, Neurypnology or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep (London, 1843) by James Braid, who later coined the simpler word "hypnosis."

JM: The question [ "I read somewhere that VN was acquainted with Charcot's experiments with hysterics. He also seems to have made reference to the famous umbrella experiment by Bernheim, but I cannot remember where and in what context"] was posed by me, not SB. Here is one of the descriptions of hypnosis/umbrella that so fascinated Freud - inserted because one of VN's comments seemed to allude to this hypnotic experience. Unfortunately the two garbled references to umbrellas found in Pnin and in LATH are unrelated to the one I had in mind - and I'll keep looking for it.
S.Soloviev noted that "multiple personality theory has this weakness - you just don't see what pieces of true gold you throw away because you underestimate their meaning.Is it because you don't have this emigrant experience yourselves?". In one way or another there seems to be an implicit agreement that there is something farsical in the prevalence of a "multiple personality theory" reading of PF.

Joseph Wortis: Fragments of an analysis with Freud (January 25, 1935)
I had recently seen a demonstration of hypnosis, and Freud told me how hypnosis was the phenomenon which first convinced him of the existence of the unconscious and stimulated the first growth of psychoanalysis. He told me in vivid detail of the demonstration of Bernheim at Nancy, especially
of the phenomenon of post-hypnotic suggestion. Bernheim had told a man, for example, that he would open an umbrella and walk around the room with it on
wakening which the man did, and then attempted to explain rationally: he just wanted to see if the umbrella was intact. When Bernheim insisted however that that was not the real reason, the man slowly and with difficulty finally said he was doing it upon command; this proved to Freud that it was possible to elicit nconscious material by coaxing and encouraging a patient. "There has to this day", he said, "never been a better demonstration of the existence of the unconscious than the phenomenon of hypnosis. When philosophers talk about the impossibility of the unconscious, one can only advise them to witness an hypnosis; but people don't want to be shown that is the way human beings are".
- 352k -

LATH: (a) I recollect that I had an umbrella... the scene is not sufficiently abstract and schematic, so let me retake it. I...Vadim Vadimovich, lying in bed on my back in ideal darkness [...] imagine diurnal Vadim Vadimovich crossing a street[...] encased in my vertical self [...] I imagine myself walking the twenty paces needed to reach the opposite sidewalk, then stopping with an unprintable curse and deciding to go back for the umbrella I left in the shop;
(b) Louise [...]a silver-plated umbrella stand in the shape of a giant jackboot - there was "something about rain strangely attractive to her" as her "analyst" wrote me in one of the silliest letters that man ever wrote to man.

PNIN: Nothing of the slightest interest to therapists could Victor be made to discover in those beautiful, beautiful Rorschach ink blots, wherein children see, or should see, all kinds of things, seascapes, escapes, capes, the worms of imbecility, neurotic tree trunks, erotic galoshes, umbrellas, and dumb-bells...The Sterns reported that' unfortunately the psychic value of Victor's Mind Pictures and Word Associations is completely obscured by the boy's artistic inclinations.'

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