Psychoanalysis Unit


Interpretation Today


Psychoanalysis depends upon repeatedly moving from the psychoanalyst's receptive stance to the analysand's thought, feeling and mode of relating - originally on dreams, parapraxes, symptoms, resistance and transference - to a more active one of 'interpretation', initially conceived in terms of other levels seen as disguised or unconscious. Famously, Paul Ricoeur applied the phrase, 'the hermeneutics of suspicion' to describe this aspect: like Sherlock Holmes, the psychoanalyst detected universal psychological crimes as well as the infantile levels of adult mental life in the forms that are individual for us.

There is much that is penetrating in this view, but it does not give an accurate impression of the psychoanalytic endeavour. Thus many other kinds of hermeneutics apply to it: for example, there is a hermeneutics of emotional responsiveness or of alimentary provision. Accordingly, a literary dream interpretation, such as Joseph's in Egypt might aim to offer a solution to the Pharaoh's anxious forebodings of famine. While psychoanalysis does have a hermeneutic aspect - arriving at meanings that may not always be obvious - most regard the psychoanalyst's mode of action as requiring more than hermeneutics and semiotics. Quite different kinds of statements or acts with different purposes are put under the heading of 'making an interpretation': to impart knowledge, to offer a response to assuage inner loneliness or strangeness. They often involve descriptions of object relations on the surface more than hidden motives.

Through its detailed main clinical papers and discussions, this year's UCL Psychoanalysis Conference will examine the multiple functions of interpretation in our contemporary clinical technique. Other papers in the programme will look at interpretation in work with children. Others will address what is involved in applying psychoanalytic modes of interpretation to historical, social and political matters. The closing plenary panel and discussion will consider the role of interpretation in generating new psychoanalytic knowledge as well as the Conference findings as a whole.

Speakers and titles

  • Donald Campbell "Interpretation and the Development of the Patient's Self-Analysis"
  • Claire Cripwell "Seeing is Believing: Construction and Interpretation"

Chairs and plenary panel members

  • Ronald Britton
  • Mary Target
  • David Taylor
  • David Tuckett

Friday clinical seminar leaders will include

Robin Anderson, David Bell, Irma Brenman Pick, Donald Campbell, Chris Mawson, Edna O'Shaughnessy, David Taylor, Mary Target, and David Tuckett

Parallel Papers

On Saturday 5 December parallel papers will be held over two sessions. Please see the below links for full details of the parallel paper abstracts.

Parallel paper abstracts, session 1

Parallel paper abstracts, session 2

* Please note that once registered to attend, delegates will receive an email inviting them to sign up to one parallel paper per session