Jul 2007

Er… Nietzsche?

Crappity crap crap fuckity fuck!

Well, I’m back from my interview at Trinity. Many thanks for the good luck wishes (in the comments to the last post) Zoe and Lucas… plus the others who emailed or texted. In the end, however, I fear I may have squandered all those positive vibes. Of course, it’s very easy to exaggerate one’s screw-ups in retrospect. And just because things didn’t go 100% perfectly doesn’t mean they were a disaster. All the same…

Q. So which philosophers are you currently interested in?
A. Er… [jim draws a complete blank… can’t even think of a single philosopher’s name, let alone one he’s currently interested in]… er… [the seconds tick by. For feck’s sake, there’s a copy of Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method in my bag not three feet from where I’m sitting! Yet can I think of a single name? No, I can’t.]… er… Nietzsche?

Or how about…
Q. So describe the basics of Freud’s theory of dreams…
A. Wellll… [once again jim draws a total blank. The words “symbolism” and “displacement” refuse to come to mind, as does the phrase “wish-fulfillment”. So instead there’s two minutes of incoherent nonsense as I try to describe Freud’s theories without recourse to those three terms].

Of course, the moment I stepped out of the interview, my brain kicked in… and as I walked down the flights of stairs and out of the building, I was muttering… Freud saw dreams as being of central importance to psychoanalysis. Initially he viewed dreams as a process of wish-fulfillment undertaken by the unconscious mind. However, because dreams often don’t appear that way, he hypothesized that dreams had both a manifest and a latent content. The manifest content — how the dream is recalled by the dreamer — is often a heavily-disguised or censored version of what the dream is really about. And what the dream is really about is the fulfillment of unsatisfied childhood desires. These desires — often shocking to the conscious mind — are rendered safe by two separate but connected processes; displacement (the association of disturbing emotions with apparently innocuous images) and symbolisation (almost always sexual in nature). Later in his life, however, after working with World War One veterans who had suffered from shellshock (what we’d now term Post-Traumatic Stress), Freud was forced to modify his theory of dreams. His ideas that dreams — almost invariably — referred back to childhood was incompatible with the clinical data he was gathering from the war veterans (whose recurrent nightmares of the trenches were clearly neither wish-fulfillment nor related to childhood events). This eventually led Freud to hypothesize the existence of ‘The Death Instinct’ or Thanatos.

Now, why the hell couldn’t I have said that in the interview? Why did I end up muttering it to startled passers-by instead? Goddamn it!

And what makes it all worse is the fact that the interview wasn’t exactly intimidating in any sense. The professor (Dr. RS) is very amiable, easy company. Formality was kept to a minimum and the whole experience was more like a chat than a classic interview. Albeit, a chat where one of the participants has inexplicably forgotten half his vocabularly and about 90% of what he’s read in the past 6 months.

Still, all I can do now is wait and hope that I’m recalling things as worse than they were. I’ll find out “within a month”. Fingers crossed and all.

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