On the Analyst’s Identification with the Patient: The Case of J.-B. Pontalis and the novelist Georg Perec

November 3, 2015
Lecturer: Henry Schwartz MD
Discussant: Alfred Margulies, MD

The writer Georges Perec was in psychoanalysis with Jean-Bertrand Pontalis for four years in the early 1970s. In this talk Dr. Schwartz presents the exceptional interest this analyst took in his patient, and the ways in which that interest manifested itself in his work, psychoanalytic and otherwise. The many correspondences suggest that identificatory processes persisted beyond the treatment and were maintained into Pontalis’ later life. While primarily meant to provide evidence to support this view of a specific case, Dr. Schwartz closes with some thoughts on how this may be a more general phenomenon between analysts and their analysands and the reasons for it.

Georges Perec was a French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. A child of Polish-Jewish immigrants, his father was killed as a soldier in World War II, and his mother was killed in Auschwitz. Perec’s many experimental and semi-autobiographical writings take up themes of loss, absence and memory. His works include La Disparition (1969), W, or the Memory of Childood (1975) and Life, A User’s Manual (1978). Jean-Bertrand Pontalis is best known for his 1967 collaboration with Jean Laplanche, The Language of Psycho-Analysis. Starting in the 1980’s he began publishing memoirs and novels.

Henry P. Schwartz, M.D. practices in both adult, and child and adolescent psychiatry. After completing his adult training at Yale University, and child and adolescent training at New York Hospital’s Westchester Division, he went on to psychoanalytic training at the Columbia Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research where he continues to serve on the faculty. He is a past director of training for child and adolescent psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and past president of the APM. He has written on the topics of intersubjectivity, neutrality, Roland Barthes, and the work of Roy Schafer among others.

Alfred D. Margulies, M.D. is Associate Chair of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance and training and supervising analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. He is Distinguished Life Fellow at the American Psychiatric Association and has been awarded the Faculty Prize for Excellence in Teaching at Harvard Medical School. He has written about French psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, art, introspection and empathy. His book, The Empathic Imagination, was published by W. W. Norton & Co.