Demeter-Persephone Complex, Entangled Aerials of the Psyche, and Sylvia Plath Bracha L. Ettinger European Graduate School

When Orpheus said the name of love, Persephone, the queen of the dead, bowed her young head, and bearded Hades, the king, bowed his head also. Persephone remembered how Demeter, her mother, had sought her all through the world, and she remembered the touch of her mother’s tears upon her face. And Hades remembered how his love for Persephone had led him to carry her away from the valley where she had been gathering flowers. Then Hades and Persephone stood aside, and Orpheus went through the gate and came amongst the dead.

Myths of the World Padraic Colum


ethinking the feminine in terms of the Demeter-Persephone com- rplex and bringing the shocks of maternality and the Eros of borderlinking into account is part of my project to rethink the human subject as infused by the transubjective dimension. Entangled psychic aerials of the psyche, transconnected kernels, inform the individual subject throughout life, starting with the most archaic phase in a psychic dimension shared with a female body and maternal figure.

ESC 40.1 (March 2014): 123–154 Women suffered and still suffer from interpretations concerning penis lack and and the foreclosure of the maternal (archaic mother- hood) in the process of subjectivization in our culture. Axes offered for Bracha L. Ettinger meaning by the as myth, as well as the Anti-Oedipus fragmen- is a major contemporary tation, are insufficient for giving meaning to the woman-to-woman (and, visual artist, philosopher, more generally, same sex) difference and for the difference (of males and and psychoanalyst. females) from the mother. We have to ask what kind of human subject and Ettinger’s next solo society was shaped in view of man’s lack of womb not as organ but in terms exhibitions are: 14th of lack of a whole symbolic universe of meaning and value stemming from Istanbul Biennial, the matrixial sphere where the containing of and the proximating to the Museo Leopoldo Flores, Other occur on a subsubjective and pre-subjective level, and the passage Toluca, and Polivalente, from non-life to life and sometimes from non-life to death, as well as birth Guanajuato, Mexico and birthing, enter the unconscious in the feminine. (2015). Her recent solo The expanse of the psychic foreclosure of the mother (discussed in terms exhibitions include of a Jocaste Complex, in Ettinger, “ with(out) Jocaste,” 217 ) and Historical Museum of the psychic matricide offered by the cultural symbolization in patriarchal St Petersburg, (2013); society for the subjectivization processes affect a matrixial Thanatos that Museum of Fine Arts, turns against the self (Ettinger, 216 onward). Possible fields and lanes in the Angers (2011); Tapies myth of Demeter and Persephone treasure potential trajectories through Foundation, Barcelona which to fish and draw out the seduction into life offered by the maternal- (2011), Freud Museum, matrixial Eros and make room for recognition of the desire of the mother London (2009). Group in the metramorphic quest and the cognition of its anamnesis. exhibitions: Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw I–1 (In the Heart of the Persephone the daughter disappeared. Demeter the mother turns heaven Country, 2013–­2014); and earth in her agony, trying to find her. She will be discovered in the Pompidou Centre, Paris Underworld, with Hades. (Elles@Centrepompidou, In one version of the Demeter-Persephone myth, Persephone enables 2010–2011). Ettinger is the meeting between two lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, in the Under- Chair and Professor of world, as she remembers the kind of love through which mother-Demeter Art and Psychoanalysis, was looking for her, lamenting her loss. Identification takes place here egs; author of Matrix with the primordial mother as Love, an Eros beyond sexuality. This Eros Halal(a)-Lapsus: Notes of borderlinking stretches along resonating strings or aerials of the psyche on Painting (moma from kernel to kernel (between different subjects), first in physical proxim- Oxford), and The ity and then even at great distance and even beyond loss. Matrixial Borderspace A third kind of love, neither narcissistic nor anaclitic (Freud, “On Nar- (University of Minnesota cissism” 90), is born in the archaic transconnectedness with the m/Other. Press). The infant’s primary compassion is infused with the maternal-matrixial Eros of borderlinking. When Freud remarks that “we also failed to discover why it [separation] should be such a painful thing” (Inhibitions, Symptoms,

124 | Ettinger and Anxiety, 131), he is surely aware of the profoundness of some lacuna in his theory. This lacuna is related to archaic maternality and to pre-birth (Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety 130); it is concerned with the riddle of love and the pain of its loss. “Why this compromise by which the command of reality is carried out piecemeal [detachment of the libido in mourning] should be so extraordinarily painful is not at all easy to explain in terms of economics. It is remarkable that this painful unpleasure is taken as a matter of course by us. [...] The object has not perhaps actually died, but has been lost as an object of love” (Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia” 245). Is not the problem already hidden in the conception of the mother (by the theory) as “object”? Without her subjective resonance via the aeri- als of the psyche, this transjective, quantic-entanglement-like resonance between the I and non-I as becoming-subjects, the comprehension of the links involved in originary love is impossible.


When the entangled aerials of the psyche that infuse the entangled kernels of partial-subjects in borderlinking are taken into account as weaving a sphere of encounter-eventing that informs each individual subject, com- passion and respect to the subject’s maternal “object” will accompany an empathy toward the maternal subject. The (m)Other is a subject. The ker- nel-to-kernel out-in-trans-psychic resonance in shared strings should there- fore be cared for by the analyst. When empathy toward the subject-I will include compassion to its others as well—her non-I(s)— when listening in reverie to the patient will include what I have named reverance to “objects” as subjects, the suffering of “hysteria” will be reduced. Whenever the ana- lyst offers a ready-made figure of the mother-monster as “object-cause” that “explains” each and every psychic pain of the daughter, the analyst contributes to her hystericization-psychoticization, denying Persephone (daughter, patient) virtual scenario as a possible future grieving Demeter (mother, adult, aging woman), contributing thus to deferred pain and to moments of sheer psychoticization (increasing paranoia while crystalliz- ing imaginary splits between the “good” and the “bad” internal objects).


Bringing maternal-matrixial subjectivity into account in comprehending the structure of the subject (whether male or female) means thinking of differenc/tiation by way of a non-split. Daughter-Persephone is becoming

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 125 a woman when she recognizes her own mother’s pain and joy and respects the web they will always be, somehow, unconsciously sharing. This respect is a subjectivizing liberating force, bordering on a love to the Other of a primary kind (Balint): neither reactive nor reparatory, a love connected to the maternal-matrixial Eros of borderlinking.

I–4 The will be informed and relativized by the Demeter- Persephone complex infused by fleeting feelings of compassion. When the analyst uses the subject’s (patient’s) mother as a ready-made mother- monster “object,” as automatic “cause” or “explanation” for suffering, a “toxic substance” thus bestowing toxic nourishment as some analysts have it, analysis contributes to a loss of primary trust, wonder, and compassion which are creative. The anger (toward the mother) that results during the session or after is, then, not ancient; it is caused in the now of the session. Dora’s (Freud’s patient) moment of acute “hysterical” suffering erupted when a figure of authority that she had respected (Mr K.) abased a maternal figure she had admired (Mrs K.). (Freud, Fragments. I have analyzed this case in Fascinance.) The debasement of the mother (the patient’s own mother) is offered by Freud right from the beginning. He inherits the debasement of Dora’s mother directly from Dora’s father, and he adopts this viewpoint and develops it further. Adult women, in Freud’s thriller, are serially undesirable. Adult men, father-figures like himself, on the other hand, are serially desired. What is then the future that Dora can imagine for herself as a would-be adult woman? Upon Freud’s incapacity to grasp her subjectivizing desire (as a daughter-Persephone) to admire another female subject, an adult woman into whom she can project her imaginary futures (in my language, a Demeter), Dora leaves the analysis. I would go as far as to say that Dora succeeded in resisting the psychoti- cization of her “hysteria.” Freud’s interpretations, anticipating the zone of a particular sexual Eros and in fact imposing sexual desire from his own perspective, miss the sphere in which the daughter-mother differenc/tia- tion takes place beyond Oedipus.

I–5 Winnicott’s saying that he “really hates” the mother of his patient Mar- garet Little (Psychotic Anxieties and Containment 47), in some emphatic over-identification with the infant in the adult patient, relieves the patient momentarily and is felt supportive and soothing to her. However, it is a move of demonization and de-humanization that hystericizes-psychoti-

126 | Ettinger cizes her as it hurts her matrixial web at its core. “This made him [Win- nicott] very angry: “ ‘I really hate your mother,’ he said. He was ‘shocked’ when I told him how till the age of 10 and over I had to ‘rest’ every after- noon in a darkened room with no toy or book” (47). ml’s anger at her mother needed her psychoanalyst’s recognition indeed, but it didn’t need his active support, like another parent during a divorce. Such empathy, by which the analyst rejects the maternal (or paternal) figure and psycho- logically replaces it, which I call empty empathy (empathy to the patient without compassion to the patient’s intimate others treated as non-human “objects”) reinforces a splitting hate and fossilizes the mother-monster as a ready-made object of rejection. Winnicott’s saying is not interpretation; it is a patronizing suggestion that a daughter eager to reject her mother (the woman-daughter in us) easily takes as “explanation” and “justifica- tion” for suffering, leading to reinforce the split inside the self (good/bad) when in the same move the analyst takes the place of the good mother and leaves the real mother in the mother-object-monster position; a split is reinforced, which while relieving her momentarily hurts her on the more hidden level, in her/their transubjective matrixial web. A dramatic collapse, dramatic acting out, and psychotic episodes followed this inter- vention (see chapter 5). A subject (daughter-patient) is angry with her mother: does it mean that she expects her therapist (the father-mother adult figure in the trans- ference) to hate her mother? When Winnicott insists that Sarah’s mother during her pregnancy (when she was one and three-quarters old) was not “good” enough to her, Sarah reacts with immediate paranoia (Playing and Reality 168). The sexual content of Sarah’s actual accounts, related to the enigma of her own passage into womanhood and the desire to share the secrets of a sexual desire manifested by some older woman figure (a teacher) are ignored; the meaning for her (as daughter) of maternal preg- nancy is reduced simply to stubbornly signifying maternal abandonment.

I–6 Christopher Bollas insists that Jonathan’s mother had been “traumatizing” (Shadow of the Object 188) during babyhood while he himself enters an analyst-analysand “hallucination-à-deux” (Shadow of the Object 181)—a countertransference psychosis to which his own interpretations might have contributed (184). The patient insists on the human being as aes- thetic and views his intimate and anonymous others as transformational aesthetic things; his beloved mother as aesthetic being is “associated [by him] with warmth, smell, soft clothing and tranquility” (40). But this

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 127 mother, according to Bollas, was the “traumatizing primary object” (188) that manifested “devastating absences” (188). Her crime was to be “an ambitious mother who refused to give up her active social life [her stud- With Demeter ies and work in fact]. [...] She hired a nanny, and the infant was passed from one figure to another, from mother to nanny, from nanny to mother” so abased, her (40). If this mother’s aesthetic modalities and transformational psychic touch came to symbolize madness for the analyst and were condemned, scars bleeding what about the patient’s aesthetic modalities which were, of necessity, deeply attuned to his mother’s in the early period as is intended? Her in the sky and disrespectful rejection (by the analyst) means the rejection of the strings within the basic aesthetic and transformational core the patient himself on earth, does articulated and suggested to the analyst and, with this, the rejection of the silver string of Life, since the desire related to the aesthetic core flourishes not Persephone, in and with the maternal-feminine Eros. No matter what characterizes the early aesthetic modality, it is forever interwoven within the primal too, secretly capacity to trust and wonder and must not be defined as madness ( as Bollas puts it), as poisonous, or as toxic (Eigen’s expression). Projecting bleed from her the analyst’s “ready-made-monsters” onto the patient’s mother—now an objectified and secretly humiliated woman-mother-object, shamed and wounds? disrespected—psychoticizes the hystericizes modalities of the patient who is now either split from his non-I(s) or repressing or hiding or even hating his connectivity to them. Repeated momentary hate flashes risk fixation upon the real mother figure through a symbolic articulation of her being a toxic “cause,” which in turn might “attack” her offspring’s own self from the inside, immediately or in the future, whether or not the subject becomes a parent and enters the symbolic category under attack (“adult,” “mother”). Interestingly, Bollas declares the illness of his young patient as “madness” (Shadow of the Object 188). When the analyst Michael Eigen metaphorizes maternal attachments in terms of toxic nourishment (an idea now so prevalent), the hero-figure of the analyst becomes the saviour from the mother-monster-object. Such psychoanalysis keeps contributing to the crisis in-for-of the feminine in females and in males and to pathologizing “hysteria.” The semiotics of the analytical scene combined with a lack of compassion and respect for the significant others of that scene as subjects can easily activate psychotic mechanisms and hurt and disturb the matrixial net. With Demeter so abased, her scars bleeding in the sky and on earth, does not Persephone, too, secretly bleed from her wounds?

128 | Ettinger I–7

Thestructures and diagrammatic vectors of Demeter-Persephone complex- ities enable a working through of inter-generational exchanges, shedding light on transgenerational imprints in the individual psyche. To bring the Demeter-Persephone myth to the level of unconscious complexities in psy- choanalysis—the Demeter-Persephone Complex—means to understand poles in the structure and to recognize a primordial kind of love whose value is outside the love/hate contradiction and a primordial sharing with the maternal-matrixial Eros of borderlinking for which “resonance” and “inspiration” rather then “identification” would be a better word, and giv- ing this sharing some symbolic relief. For such love to be recognized as affect in psychoanalysis I have differentiated between the affect of primary anxiety and the affect of compassion, which is not less primary, and have given it its proper place in the field of the “uncanny.” The oppression of figures of “woman” in some psychoanalytical para- digms is structural; it leans on taboo and on the censorship (sometimes also the self-censorship) to deal with the pregnant-maternal corporeal- ity and the linkage of maternality to the prenatal. A phallic control over the female body is achieved via such taboo and such censorship. It leans also on the simple desire to create a distance from the mother. When the analyst offers the daughter (and the son) the figure of the “ready-made mother-monster” as the reason for feeling “mad,” this interpretation might first be perceived as a relief but it functions as a time-bomb that turns against the self. The Demeter and Persphone myth offers ways to subjectivize oneself as mother, “monster” or not, and woman, crazy or not … (*), free oneself by opening a space for creativity, subversion, resistance, and sublima- tion in a beyond-the-phallus imaginary and symbolic realm. The myth as a complex gives means and meaning for resisting the objectification of mother and daughter, for liberating “hysteria” from the grips of the circle of destruction, and for turning hurting links creative.

II The three non-pathological zones for shocks of maternality—with their joy, trauma, phantasy, and corresponding anxieties and arousals—which are to be handled during therapy with care, compassion, and reverence which amounts to respect for the (m)Other as subject, are: A. Pre-maternity and * Here, I would like to refer the readers to my long series of drawings and paintings Crazy Woman, Mother Monster, and Medusa.

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 129 Pregnancy (miscarriages, abortions, processes of adoption, barrenness, and variations of pregnancy). B. Birthing. C. Traumatic and phantasmatic losses and separations during motherhood from birthing to old age. In this third zone, as in certain areas of desire belonging to the first zone, “mother” is not necessarily the same female figure who is going through pregnancy and birthing. The shocks of maternality deserve respectful caring in the analytical transference since they belong to the same originary encounter- eventing that nourishes love and supports the passage from non-life to life. The zones of potentiality for shock and the processes involved in them are structural, even if the actual shock is existential and contingent.


Traces of love are hidden within the archaic aesthetic sphere; they are to be embraced and recognized even (and especially) when they are hid- den behind the Mother-phantasies of devouring, abandonment, and not- enoughness, which are primary, necessary, and must appear whether or not a real trauma has occurred. The free circulation of these ideas as phantasies is necessary in order to avoid an analytical psychotic coun- tertransference and the production of a “folie-à-deux” of the kind that Bollas reports (184–85), which traumatically marks the life of the patient and of his family. The shocks of maternality are primal even though they appear for the first time in adulthood, not infancy: they ignite new psychic traumatic starting points, new anxieties, and new responsibilities. Society and the law cannot regulate and control the female body; society must respect shocks of maternality in all their forms. Through shocks of maternality in the first and second zone, imprints enter the Unconsciousin the feminine through the female corpo-reality in its primordial openness to the Other. These imprints include traces of non-life-coming-into-life, traces com- ing from the non-I(s) of the maternal I, imprints (in the I) of the non-I’s death or risk of dying (such losses, even when they are desired, are painful and require grieving), as well as imprints of the process of life-giving and finally of birthing. With a language to talk about these zones of shock we can struggle against laws that appropriate the female body and lean on censure, taboo, shaming, guilt, and the silencing of women. To offer symbolic relief to different aspects of femaleness including pregnancy is to resist imposed laws that limit our rights over our bodies, laws made possible through generations of the silencing of the maternal

130 | Ettinger and of imposing taboos upon thinking the female body in all its possible modes.

II–2 In her poetry, Sylvia Plath elaborates the mother-monster kernel; in real life though a subjectivizing process of this kernel apparently fails: the mother-monster is objectified and rejected outside and inside the self. On shocks of maternality from the first and third zone: Sylvia Plath, from “Tulips”: The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe Lightly through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby. Their redness talks to my wound [...] A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck. [...] And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself. The vivid tulips eat my oxygen. Before they came the air was calm enough, Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss. Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise. [...] They concentrate my attention, that was happy Playing and resting without committing itself. [...] The tulips should be behind bars [...] And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me. Sylvia Plath aches in her trans(sub)jective core—in her abjected I and non-I at the level of object-cause. I is a red rose (daughter-mother) and tulip (daughter/infant) at the same instant or in different time-spaces; she is a red scar and dark ashes in the same instant or in different time- spaces. I and non-I change positions in between different crystalizations of unborn-yet/new-born/girl/adult/(m)Other clusters.

II–3 The elaboration of one’s potential future I(s) becomes possible through empathy of the analyst (to the I) within compassion (to the non-I no less than to the I). A subject can feel hurt in her forgotten and her poten-

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 131 tial subjectivity-as-encounter. Compassionate attention to the shocks of maternality (of the patient’s mother) communicares for the archaic net that nourishes the present transference. There is no Antigone without a Jocaste (Ettinger, “Antigone with(out) Jocaste”), there is no Persephone without a Demeter. Only Athena, born from no mother’s womb, does not need to bother herself with such an enigma. In the trial of Orestes (Aeschylus’ Eumenides), Athena’s vote decided for matricide: No mother gave me birth—that’s why in everything but marriage I support the man with all my heart, a true child of my father Zeus. Thus, that woman’s death I won’t consider more significant (verse 940)

An Athena born from no-mother is a phallic phantasy; matricide is a phal- lic solution to symbiosis. From the matrixial angle, matricidal phantasy is akin to suicidal phantasy. However, in the matrixial sphere, from the start the metramorphic links are not symbiotic fusion.

III The Demeter-Persephone complex will be at the service of the “hysterical” subject in search of a symbolic knowledge that might approximate the truth of her corpo-Real indications. It opens up variations for articulat- ing mother-daughter (same-sex) relations and differences, resemblances, and connections but also for dealing with certain aspects of father-son relations and differences and for rethinking difference and transmission between the generations. It deconstructs the pathologization of “hyste- ria” and opens trajectories for rethinking female desires and multiplying gender possibilities. A matrixial collaboration between the generations and a caring attention to the borderlinking aerials to the (m)Other are particularly important in a context of a failure of the paternal figure (for which mothers, in our society and culture, are often blamed too.) Demeter-Persephone variations (complexities) bring into awareness the woman-mother desirability as subject, the infant’s non-narcissistic fascinance by the m/Other (Ettinger, “Fascinance”), the investments of primary love, symbolic recognition of the womb time-space, recognition of the (m)Other not as a mirror image of the self (recognizing and loving the Other as other, not self), loss of desirability, the becoming a crone, youth and old age, trans-generational transmission, and aspects of inspiration and initiation in/by the feminine. Difficulties in differentiation-in-jointness

132 | Ettinger (symbiosis-proximity-separateness) and in differenciation-in-jointness (fusional identity-sameness-otherness) from the Other, to begin with a female-m/Other, bring into consideration the engima of compassion, of transjectivity (subject-object resonance), and of transubjectivity (subject- Shocks of subject resonance). The subject recognizes its difference as it recognizes its borderlinkages. maternality III–1 during With the myth of Demeter-Persephone as a complex we can elaborate a different (non-split) unconscious daughter-mother process of separation motherhood are and, more generally, clarify the woman-to-woman non-sexual Eros, a love that enters heterosexuality and homosexuality equally. Also, with to be recognized Demeter-Persephone as a complex, the infant-mother differenc/tiation in space and over time is informed by the mother as subject and not only in their as object whose destiny according to Winnicott and following Freud was mainly to be destroyed and to survive destruction and, not less signifi- primordiality. cantly, to keep silent and be a perfect mirror as Winnicott expects.


Shocks of maternality during motherhood are to be recognized in their primordiality, not as results of “faults” in an endless loop of mother-causes- objects. Analyzing the Daughter-Mother/Non-mother-Crone continuity unveils continuity between the I and “my” future-I(s), between I and “my” archaic maternal non-I(s). The analyst will care for the possible futuralities of the I, for its possible trajectories and their influences on the present. The analyst may examine his own possible envious-identification with the real mother, his desire to destroy her, to take her place. The analyst shall examine her own possible over-identification with the infant in the Other (patient). When the analyst is devaluating/humiliating the patient’s real mother (like Freud in the case of Dora and Winnicot in the case of Margaret Little), psychotic-hystericization might occur and take the place of a possible creative rebellion that is not in contradiction to tenderness. The primary compassion and self-fragilization of the “hysteric,” when non- psychoticized, is a source of aesthetical and ethical openings where the fragility of the self meets the vulnerability of the Other. When the analyst attacks the mother, he risks psychoticizing “hysteria” by invoking rage and blocking creativity and rebellion. The resonance of matrixial eros then shrinks and cannot support the daughter from with- in-side. Rather then psychoticizing hysteria we can create, via different

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 133 possibilities of the Demeter-Persephone myth becoming a complex, a space inside which different kinds of links between elements can find meaning for the experiencing of a womb-like space and circulate freely both in rebellion and in creativity. In the Demeter-Persephone complex “hysteria” will receive a relief for meanings of femininities beyond gender. In the Demeter-Persephone configuration, “hysteria” will acquire fruitful new paths to understanding the female-to-female issues of femininity alongside and beyond (the Kleinian) issues of animosity, envy, and jealousy. Instead of looking for a relief in either an Oedipal configuration that tames the daughter or anti-Oedipal configuration that fragments her, the subject can realize that the oppression of her maternal figure is a potential oppres- sion of her own self inside the process of a social taming by psychoanalysis under its mother-destruction paradigm. When compassionate attention is paid to the particular shocks of each maternality in each specific Demeter-Persephone net of strings, new sig- nificance opens. Shocks of maternality may be envisioned from the per- spective of a matrixial bordertime, where Persephone is always-already a virtual facet of a Demeter, where the now-daughter needs to create a respectful space-time for her futuralities, her own old-age, her own potential transformation into a crone.


When a daughter desires motherhood, she becomes aware that the mother is a sexual subject. She then realizes that passages into life (re-)occur in co- emergence with female-figuralities whose sexuality was hard to admit. The Demeter-Persephone complex shows this spiral curve. We can work up the in-between variations over time, along proximity-distance lines (united, different/separated, rejected other) and same-other lines (resemblance, difference, abjection of other). If the analyst over-identifies herself with the rage and disgust that a patient-daughter feels toward her (m/)Others, these feelings turn against the patient-subject’s own self in a deferred time. Such over-identification psychoticizes the creative and rebellious “hysteric,” as they block the matrixial horizon where Demeter and Persephone share a psychic unconscious web. This same archaic mother was the subject of glamour and an object of wondering and languishing, amazement and fascinance toward life, a transformational transject within the subject and only then also a transfor- mational object. If the analyst over-identifies with the daughter’s rage, her shame (in the mother) (that posits her as “totally” different), her blame (of

134 | Ettinger the mother) (that posits her as “totally” separate), and finally the hidden guilt psychoticize her “hysterical” psychic moves while paving the road for a potential shock to her own future and even present motherhood. The desire to renegotiate the glamour of the Mother of childhood might be tragically directed—by techniques of symbolization that offer rejective separation and abjective splitting and by over-identification in empty-empathy (empathy-without-compassion) with disgust and rejec- tion (experienced by the daughter-subject and elaborated by the analyst)— toward entitlement, revenge, and suicidal wishes. “Hysteria” is one of the ways a subject unconsciously rebels against the phallic-Oedipal cultural foreclosure of the matrixial links to the (m)Other in the family, in the society, and in the transference; it is a mode of subversion and resistance. If during analysis the girl consciously participates in the Oedipal structure offered by the analyst and enjoys it at the price of submissive triumphal provocation, her unconscious fears of becoming in time a disgusted and abjected female-adult and older woman herself secretly grow in such a process. Emphatically mirroring daughterly disgust unaccompanied by simultaneous compassion to features of maternality that are part of her psyche is a socializing to patriarchy at a high psychic price. With each rejection-abjection the daughter finds less value in becoming a woman (crazy woman and Medusa), mother or non-mother (witch), and finally old female (crone). She is disgusted with her potential selves while she is afraid of resembling her mother—the fracture inside the archaic trans(sub)ject interferes with intergenerational female-female continuity-rebellion, fas- cinance-resistence, wondering creativity, and fragilization-transformation; this abundance within maternality is repeatedly foreclosed.

III–4 How can one separate herself totally from “mother” when one is “mother”? Deprived of the potency of her archaic-mother when this mother-monster is abjected as object, the daughter’s rebellion might be perceived by her- self as a death wish. A matrixial Thanatos is awakened, while in fact she is longing not to death but to get into that state of non-life out of which a new life will come, in need for a symbolization of the metramorphic strings and borderlinks, and for recognition of the crossed inscriptions of joy and of both trauma and joy.

Sylvia Plath, from “Ariel”: God’s lioness,

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 135 How one we grow, Pivot of heels and knees!­—The furrow

Splits and passes [...]

Black sweet blood mouthfuls, Shadows. Something else

Hauls me through air——— Thighs, hair;


And now I Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas. The child’s cry

Melts in the wall. And I Am an arrow, The dew that flies Suicidal

Sylvia Plath, from “Medusa”: You house your unnerving head—God-ball, Lens of mercies, [...]

Did I escape, I wonder? My mind winds to you Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable, Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous repair.

In any case, you are always there, Tremulous breath at the end of my line, [...] Touching and sucking.

I didn’t call you.

136 | Ettinger I didn’t call you at all. Nevertheless, nevertheless You steamed to me over the sea, Fat and red, a placenta Who is the [...] mother? Overexposed, like an X-ray. Who do you think you are? A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary? I shall take no bite of your body, Bottle in which I live,


Off, off, eely tentacle!

There is nothing between us. And what now, when she is her children’s Medusa, how does such a “noth- ing between us” function, does it bring any solace? Who is the infant then? Who is the mother? Spinning in a mother-abjection loop, the suffocated I tears holes in its I and non-I matrixial web and slides upon their edges, turning around the matrixial no-thing, its evading link a (Ettinger, “The Matrixial Gaze”).

III–5 When the hate toward Medusa awakens, a poetic female body (of her mother? of her self as mother?) is fragmented; part body objects like mouth and breasts evade a pregnant body-home transformed into female without embryo. The poem reclaims an I through repulsion-dissection-fragmenta- tion of a female body that bleeds in red flower-infants—one moment her infant, one moment her self-as-infant. Tulips push the mother-re-becom- ing-a-maiden to repulse them—and also her self, a now-mother daughter. The psychoanalytical idea that to complete individuation one must dis- sect each parent out (“castration”) fails not only at the level of trans(sub)- jectivity but also at that of subjectivity. Individuation does not require the negation of metramorphic transconnectedness! In “Medusa,” connected through an “Old barnacled umbilicus,” the poet-speaker rebirths herself by purging the connecting cable. Her tri- umph is: “There is nothing between us.” Soon enough, though, she suffers in the cable; in such a triumph, the I follows the rejected non-I into a void,

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 137 the matrixial web is torn. The cable’s tears burn like a pure red flame, a lioness flies bleeding. Aren’t the wonderful queen-bee and old queen-bee one-with-in-one multiplied in resonance over time? On shocks of maternality from the third zone, Sylvia Plath, from “Stings” (about the hive): Is there any queen at all in it?

If there is, she is old, Her wings torn shawls, [...]

Poor and bare and unqueeny and even shameful. I stand in a column

Of winged, unmiraculous women, Honey-drudgers. I am no drudge


They thought death was worth it, but I Have a self to recover, a queen. Is she dead, is she sleeping? Where has she been, With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?

Now she is flying More terrible than she ever was, red Scar in the sky, red comet Over the engine that killed her——— On shocks of maternality from the first zone, Sylvia Plath, from “The Munich Mannequins”: Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children. Cold as snow breath, it tamps the womb

Where the yew trees blow like hydras, The tree of life and the tree of life

Unloosing their moons, month after month, to no purpose. The blood flood is the flood of love,

138 | Ettinger The absolute sacrifice. On shocks of maternality from the third zone, Sylvia Plath, from “Edge”: The woman is perfected. Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment, [...]

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent, One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty. She has folded

Them back into her body as petals Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens its odours bleed From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

On shocks of maternality from the second zone, Sylvia Plath, from “Poppies in October”: A gift, a love gift Utterly unasked for By a sky


O my God, what am I That these late mouths should cry open In a forest of frost

A poem expresses a delirium-like desire of a mother to return her children to pre-life and non-life in her womb, the same womb whose infertility and menstruation were not so long ago deeply lamented. Death wishes appear as a desire to dismother and a desire to disbirth, to de-mother and unmother Mother. The subject does not ask why she should go on living. She asks Why have I been born? This is a trace of the cry of the enigma of the , the quest concerning not only what was the sexual desire between the parental figures but also what is love. When Sylvia Plath

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 139 becomes a mother she hurts as now the figure of the potential becoming- crone (for her daughter) once detested by the self (as daughter): if a mother is absolutely not sexually desired and not loved, and is abjected as object, Her desirability what about one’s own mother-selfness? Demeter-Persephone Complex will assist the analyst in finding ways to and her formulate the idea that both mother-other and mother-me remain possibly lovable and sexual subjects when maternality emerges. The desirability of openness to the the archaic (m)Other as subject is a subjectivizing agency; her communi- caring and love and her glamour in the eyes of her daughter once upon a world is not in time balance abjection and persecutory fears. contrast to her IV The face of the (m)Other is not only a mirror to the infant. The face of the maternality. mother adds psychic eyes turned to the outside and the Cosmos as well. The infant does not only desire to see its own reflection in a (m)Other- mirror’s face as Winnicot wrongly claims (Playing and Reality chapter 9 and 149–59); the baby does not need to see there only “himself” (151). Some kind of recognition of the Other as such is primary and channeled through compassion and awe. The baby glimpses at the (m)Other as desiring life and the outside, in fascinance which evades the “mirror” function and resides alongside it. This aesthetical possibility is proto-ethical: the move of searching for the (m)Other is subjectivizing before the mirror stage and before the split between subject and object; the mother is transconnected to the I in a kernel-to-kernel transjective entanglement. The infant desires to see the face of the (m)Other in its openness to the outside-of-itself and the cosmos too. Her desirability and her openness to the world is not in contrast to her maternality and to the return of her look and her attentiv- ity toward the I.

IV–1 Glimpses of otherness are accessed by primary compassion and awe, won- der and fascinance that precede the Lacanian mirror stage and circumvent the narcissistic structure to continue beyond it, beside it. Wondering awe and compassion arise as early as, and in parallel to, “schizoid-paranoid” sensibilities, and they balance them. Primary awe balances fear; primary compassion balances shame. Primary compassion and awe combined with wondering and fascinance are early human aesthetic capacities that furnish proto-ethical potentialities—the other is communicared, and this is an archaic sense, a meaning-before-meaning. Primary trust embed-

140 | Ettinger ded in wondering and fascinance is a creative force; its grains of autistic withdrawal are fruitful and maybe more resistant than any revolt of the reactive kind. Primary compassion of the (infant) I senses the non-I’s shocks of maternality. The infant who is sensitive to this is not “prematurely adult” in his archaic caring: this sensitivity is primary, and this caring works for Life. The I cannot not wit(h)ness its others from with-in and with-out. The fragile I senses the vulnerability in the Other in resonance, consonance, and dissonance before and beyond thinking. We can sustain both the level of individual subject and the level of transubjectivity and different/ciate self and others within a psychic web even during its weaving, in each current- continual encounter-event.

IV–2 For Sylvia Plath, like for Marina Tzvetaeva before her, like for Paul Celan, poetry is blood, one’s own and an other’s. Red flowers stand for bleeding (mother, maternal and prematernal) wounds. Blood, dust, ashes, red, tulip, rose, and sometimes, suddenly, violet-blue lilac, then ashes. Ashen trace of fire is a “red scar in the sky,” writes Sylvia Plath. But whose fire is it? Think of the biblical Hannah, think of the biblical Rachel, think of Lot’s wife. Think of Hagar in the desert. Hagar turns her eyes from seeing what her soul stares at. Lot’s wife’s lesson was supposed to be to never look back but she does turn to look. The poet Anna Akhmatova loves Lot’s wife as transfixed she turns to a pillar of “translucent salt.” Anna Akhmatova, from “Lot’s Wife”: disquiet speaks uneasily to the just man’s wife: “No, now is not too late to look again [...] the blank openings in the empty windows of the tall house where you bore your children for your husband.” Look—a gaze—constrained by dying pain her eyes enlarge but do not see a grave, her body fused into translucent salt, her quick feet rooted to the earth. And who will mourn this woman or her trivial loss, this woman never absent from my heart—the crushed life in a single glance? When ashes are mirrors to a non-I, the subject aches in her trans(sub)- jective core, in her lost non-I. I is a red rose (daughter-mother) and tulip

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 141 (daughter-infant) at the same instant or in different time-spaces, she is a red scar and dark ashes in the same instant or in different time-spaces; I and non-I change places in between different crystallizations of unborn- yet/new-born/girl/adult/mother clusters. The enigma of my birth is related to particular maternal pains.


The poetic persona of Sylvia Plath as child-girl detests the mother-moon- Medusa. As daughter-woman, Sylvia Plath of the Letters Home expresses mainly love and respect to a loving-mother and also her needs from her. Sylvia Plath of the Journals during the period of her therapy mainly expresses different forms of rejection of a non-loving mother. The per- sona of the therapist, according to her report, does not reflect to her any love between her mother and herself and it is she who comes to occupy the bleeding location of the now lacking figure of a loving mother. When Sylvia Plath enters the location of “mother” herself she then embodies and inhabits the symbolic space of rejected Medusa and crone, and she is suffocating. But before this period, in her Journals, she expresses her ardent wishes to become pregnant and to know and share the secrets and meaning of womanhood and motherhood. Symbolic womanhood-motherhood is reflected in the poetic female persona by joys and sorrows of each passage to life, again and again. Embodied fidelity to the child-girl figure, persona, location, and posi- tions within a cultural atmosphere that forecloses the matrixial Eros of the (m)Other are reflected in my view in the desire to die young. Growing into adulthood in actual motherhood as well as in non-moth- erhood demands the revitalization of the matrixial sphere by the Eros of borderlinking that is involved in the joy and trauma of birthing and the phantasms of rebirthing. Is not the task of the analyst-therapist to join the archaic (m)Other in these strings and to articulate the threads of feminine and maternal meanings as s/he benefits from the patient’s admiration and archaic trust rooted in the matrixial Eros of the patient’s mother? Death appeals when the languishing to know the other side becomes fatal and has no symbolic issue, and the matrixial Thanatos attacks the strings in the web in an attempt to isolate the unisolatable. A healing interpretation concerning the birthing-I-body as unique but still transconnected to a birthing-mother-body will care to hold the figures of the mother-birthing non-I when they appear in the discourse, by compassionate hospitality, even when disgust is expressed. One can always keep treasuring her virtue

142 | Ettinger for human life itself, her value as life-giving and enigmatic carrier. This value-virtue signals that the foreclosed and immemorial space of non-life- coming-into-life is different from the space of death. On shocks of maternality from the third zone), Sylvia Plath, from “Kindness”:

The blood jet is poetry, There is no stopping it. You hand me two children, two roses. The pains of dismothering echo the pains of orphaning her children; the mother-figure is a barren white moon. In a poem, the tomb she goes into is a womb into which she enfolds her phantasmatic children-roses to unbirth them in search of the non-life before birthing coming into life in-by carri- ance. So difficult, indeed, yet so necessary it is to articulate the difference between womb and tomb (Ettinger, “Antigone with(out) Jocaste”). On shocks of maternality from the first and second zones, Sylvia Plath, from “Nick and the Candlestick”: O love, how did you get here? O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,

Your crossed position. The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby. The pain You wake to is not yours.

Love, love, I have hung our cave with roses, With soft rugs ———


This paper is composed of revised different passages from the full “Prepara- tory notes for Demeter-Persephone Complex and Shocks of Maternality: A Reading of Alejandra Pizarnik and Sylvia Plath” prepared for several conferences and integrated in different papers during 2012 to 2013: 1. ifpp Clinical Conference with Bracha L. Ettinger, 23–24 March 2012. www.ifpp. org, with University College Dublin (ucd) Humanities Institute. 2. “Red

Demeter-Persephone Complex | 143 Scar in the Sky, Purple Scar in Our Selves: Resisting the Self, Resisting Endless Fragmentation.” Seminar lecturing-performance in solo instal- lation. Seminar/Room. Casco, Utrecht, 18 April 2012. 3. “Red Scar in the Sky—(No)Body’s Rose” and “Ashes of Tulip-I & Moon/Rose Non-I in the poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik and of Sylvia Plath” presented at a few conferences, performances, and visiting artist masterclasses in Helsinki, Warsaw, and Johannesburg during 2012. 4. “Transgenerational Trauma, Becoming-fragile, Compassion, and Resistance in/by/through Art.” Her- mitage Lecture at Hermitage Youth Centre, St Petersburg, 24 September 2013. 5. “Memory Post with Demeter, Persephone, and Medusa” Pro Art Institute Conference Memory Post, State Museum of the History of St Petersburg, 26 September 2013.

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Bracha L. Ettinger, Ein Raham – Eurydice II (screen- shot), animated film, 2010–2014

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