The Freud Museum

Events Archive

11 November 2017

Mourning and Melancholia

Life in the Face of Loss

A conference to celebrate the centenary of Freud’s groundbreaking work ‘Mourning and Melancholia’

'Mourning and Melancholia' introduced new ways of thinking about the structure of the mind, our relationships to others and how we process the experience of loss. For many people this is the book that inaugurated 'modern' psychoanalysis.

This conference brings together psychoanalysts, academics, writers and performers to consider how we keep going in the face of grief, and why we sometimes fail.



Ken Robinson (psychoanalyst) (biog)
‘Who is it that can tell me who I am?': King Lear and The Last Laugh (abstract)

Jonathan Sklar (psychoanalyst) (biog)
Thinking on the Border - Memory and the Trauma in Society (abstract)

Deborah Levy (writer) (biog)
in conversation with Katie Lewis (psychotherapist) (biog) (abstract)

Alison Lee (psychoanalytic psychotherapist) (biog)
The Unlived Life (abstract)

Ruth McCall (psychoanalyst) (biog)
The Joy of Melancholia (abstract)

Caroline Bainbridge (author and lecturer) (biog)
On the Experience of a Melancholic Gaze (abstract)

Jessa Fairbrother, Olivia Humphreys, Marika Mckennell: Poets, artists and theatre makers will participate with short pieces dealing with loss, grief and mourning.



Ken Robinson
is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Newcastle upon Tyne, a Member and former Honorary Archivist of the British Psychoanalytical Society and Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis at Northumbria University. He is a training analyst for child and adolescent and adult psychotherapy in the North of England and lectures, teaches and supervises in the UK and Europe. Before training as a psychoanalyst he taught English Literature and the History of Ideas in University and maintains an interest in the overlap between psychoanalysis, the arts and humanities. He is especially interested in the nature of therapeutic action, trauma, and creativity. Recent publications include "Empathy, tact and the freedom to be natural" American Journal of Psychoanalysis (2014), "On not being able to symbolise" British Journal of Psychotherapy (2014), and "The ins and outs of listening as a psychoanalyst" Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication (2015). He has contributed the introduction to the first volume of the Collected Works of Winnicott, edited by Lesley Caldwell and Helen Taylor Robinson (2017) and has a forthcoming essay on "Creativity in everyday life" in Donald W. Winnicott and the History of the Present ed. Angela Joyce (Karnac).

Jonathan Sklar is an Independent Training Analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Association and a current member of the IPA board. He is a Past Vice-President of the European Psychoanalytical Federation (EPF) and teaches three times a year in Chicago and regularly in East Europe and South Africa. Publications include Landscapes of the Dark – History, trauma, psychoanalysis (2011) and Balint Matters - Psychosomatics and the Art of Assessment (2017) both published by Karnac Books

Deborah Levy is a playwright, novelist, and poet. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and she is the author of novels including Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography, Billy and Girl, and the Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home. Her latest novel is Hot Milk, about the fraught relationship between a young woman and her dying mother. Her dramatisations of Freud's case histories of Dora and the Wolfman were broadcast on Radio 4 in 2012.

Katie Lewis is a child and adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapist, a member of the ACP, and works in private practice in Newcastle upon Tyne. She was formerly a Consultant and Lead Clinician for a large NHS Trust in the North of England and led the M.A. in Psychoanalytic Observational Studies at Northumbria University. Currently she supervises infant observation in Poland, she helps to facilitate and supervise for a doctoral programme in psychoanalytically oriented clinical research at Northumbria University and she is writing about her research into the development of aggression. She initially read English Literature and maintains a strong interest in the Arts in relation to psychoanalysis.

Alison Lee trained and worked as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in Scotland where she worked in private practice and taught on the Scottish Training in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. She now lives in Oxfordshire and is currently a member of Severnside, where she is also a Training Therapist and Supervisor, and also with the West Midlands Institute of Psychotherapy where she is Curriculum Co ordinator for the Training in Contemporary Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Her paper on “Female Friendship and Feminine Identity in the Novels of Elena Ferrante” was published in BJP last year.

Ruth McCall is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Following a career in television and film, during which the company she founded won the Queen’s Award for Industry, she is now a full time psychoanalyst in private practice in London and a Trustee of the Winnicott Trust. She is co-president for the Association of Independent Psychoanalysts. Ruth lectures extensively for academic and clinical trainings, speaks widely, and was a keynote speaker for last year’s Freud Memorial Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Caroline Bainbridge is Professor of Culture and Psychoanalysis at the University of Roehampton. She is author of The Cinema of Lars von Trier (2007) and A Feminine Cinematics (2008), and co-editor of several volumes on psychoanalysis and culture, including Television and Psychoanalysis (2013) and Media and the Inner World (2014), and special editions of journals including Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, and Free Associations. The latter collections arise from the AHRC-funded Media and the Inner World research network, which Caroline co-directs. She is Film Editor of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and series co-editor of the ‘Psychoanalysis and Popular Culture’ list for Karnac Books. She writes enthusiastically on matters of gender, psychoanalysis, and feminism, and is an advocate of a return to psychoanalytic ideas in her home discipline of Media and Cultural Studies.


Ken Robinson
‘Who is it that can tell me who I am?': King Lear and The Last Laugh 

This paper considers the failure to mourn the loss of role and identity in retirement and redundancy, using the examples of King Lear and W. F. Murnau’s silent film The Last Laugh (1924).

Jonathan Sklar
Thinking on the Border - Memory and the Trauma in Society

How does an individual human being return from the far reaches of certain terrible experiences?

From the trenches of the Somme. From the sewers of the Warsaw Ghetto. From cities bombed to oblivion such as Dresden, Coventry or the Atomic destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. To the random bombings around the World today and attacks on the meaning of life, or mass movements of people risking death to escape violence and death. And these continuing tragedies contributing to the severe rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and prejudice.

Walter Benjamin developed a view that prior to the First World War, experience was passed down through the generations in the form of folklore and fairy tales. “With the war came the severing of the red thread of experience” which had connected previous generations. (XI The Storyteller). “The fragile human body that emerged from the trenches was mute, unable to narrate the ‘force field’ of destructive torrents and explosions” that had engulfed it. It was as if the good enriching soil of the fable had become the sticky mud of the trenches, which would bear no fruit but only moulder as a graveyard. “Where do you hear words from the dying that last and that pass from one generation to the next like a precious ring?” Benjamin asks in Experience and Poverty.

In this psychosomatic paper I will give an intellectual and emotional account of being in such experiences.

Deborah Levy
In conversation
In this session Deborah Levy will read from and talk about her work and discuss its relation to the themes of mourning and melancholia.

Alison Lee
The Unlived Life

This is a clinical paper outlining the struggles of an adult patient who has hidden from social interaction for most of his life after an abusive childhood. “The Unlived Life” is the patient’s own name for his state, affirmed for him by a TV drama of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between. Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia offers a link between the patient’s struggles with identity and his unacknowledged and unresolved issues around his father’s death, and each of these are further complicated by the inheritance of trauma. The consequences of losing a hated rather than loved significant person are considered, and the particular difficulty that mourning brings in this context.

Ruth McCall (psychoanalyst)
The Joy of Melancholia

Caroline Bainbridge (author and lecturer)
On the Experience of a Melancholic Gaze

This talk focuses on Lars von Trier’s 2011 film, Melancholia, decribed as ‘a beautiful film about the end of the world’ and interlocking personal and global tragedy. Drawing directly on my personal emotional response to the film, and referring to a profound incapacity to talk about it for many years after my initial encounter with it, I will turn to object relations psychoanalysis to think about what such experience has to say about our lived emotional relationship to cinema and its role in shaping and articulating psychological states. The talk touches on debates about the cinematic gaze and the role of film as a psychological argument and considers whether film might be seen as offering a form of therapeutic encounter for viewers.


Jessa Fairbrother
Conversations with my mother

Conversations with my mother is my work on maternal loss, made during the period in which I lost my remaining parent to cancer while simultaneously experiencing miscarriage and failed fertility treatments. I will perform the text piece to this work, accompanying projected images of original hand-made photographs which are burned, stitched and hand-marked.

Jessa Fairbrother is an artist who explores the familiar and the personal, where yearning, performance and a needle meet each other in photography. After obtaining a BA in English from Durham University, studying at drama school and working in regional journalism, she later lectured in photography before completing an MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster in 2010. She is the recipient of bursaries and honourable mentions in the UK, Europe and Canada and had a solo show in 2017 at the Vittoria Street Gallery in Birmingham City University. In 2016 she produced Conversations with my mother as a limited edition Artist Book which is held in the international collections of Yale Center for British Art (US) as well as libraries at the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (US).

Olivia Humphreys
Oneironauts - the Dream Travellers

In the ten years since she died, my mother has made regular appearances in my dreams. 'Oneironauts - the Dream Travellers' considers how these 'meetings' between us have changed over time.

Olivia Humphreys is a radio producer and documentary filmmaker living in London.
Her radio work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, WNYC and ABC Radio National, and her films have been screened in over fifty festivals worldwide.

Marika Mckennell
Two Poems: 'Brexit' and 'Grenfell'

The Brexit vote and the Grenfell tragedy produced a profound sense of shock, disappointment and loss. These two poems were written in response to those different events.

Marika Mckennell is a London based actor, poet and playwright who graduated from Cambridge University in 2014. She co-runs Crass Menagerie company and has created shows for The Hackney Showroom, Russet Theatre London, Clare Cellars Cambridge, Bestival and Nozstock festivals, Edinburgh Fringe, Etcetera Theatre Camden, and Camden People's Theatre. Marika has written poetry for the NYT Gala at Shaftesbury Theatre and The Royal Court's Open Court Festival and was a member of the Royal Court Playwriting Group. She is a resident artist at the Roundhouse London and works in a pupil referral unit in Hackney.

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