Fort / Da

In this episode, Kim talks with Saronik about the game “Fort / Da” — a game played by Sigmund Freud’s grandson in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, (which you can borrow from the amazing Internet Archive).

Our cover image comes from another text on Internet Archive, in the Medical Heritage Library’s collection: Die Suggestion und ihre Heilwirkung, written by Hippolyte Bernheim and Sigmund Freud in 1888. The image appears on page 330.

TRANSCRIPT

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

freud, baby, object, mother, economic, game, play, repetitive, relationship, recognize, episode, melanie klein, capitalism, routines, fridays, question, podcast, talk, recreate, long

Kim

In this episode I, Kim, talk with Saronik about Fort/Da. Okay, so what the heck is Fort/Da?

Saronik 

It’s a concept that Freud developed in his book Beyond the Pleasure Principle which comes out in 1922. And it’s after World War One, there’s an economic depression, not unlike presently, and Freud is, I don’t know if he’s unemployed or something, but apparently he has a lot of free time on his hands.

Kim

Freud always has a lot of free time on his hands…

Saronik 

I mean, otherwise, yes, you’re right who even comes up with all of these wild things if one is always employed. So Fort/Da is a game that Freud’s grandson is playing. So here’s the scene: Freud is watching his grandson play in some wood paneled room with a warm afternoon light. And Freud is played by Ben Kingsley and his grandson is played by, like, a picturesque baby. And I quote, “This good little boy, however, had an occasional disturbing habit of taking any small objects he would get hold of and throwing them away from him into a corner under the bed and so on so that hunting for his toys and picking them up was often quite a business. And he did this as he did this, as he gave vent to a loud long drawn out ‘ooooh’ accompanied by an expression of interest and satisfaction.” Like this is so Freud because he says, so this is his grandson and he says, he’s a good little boy, however, with an occasional disturbing habit, which is, like, basically how he sees the world. The child, he says, “ooooh” and then Freud says, “Well, this is this ‘ooooh’ is not actually ‘ooooh,’ but actually the German word for it, which means gone.”

Kim

Yeah, there must be something lost in the translation there because “oooh” sounds nothing like Fort/Da to me.

Saronik  

But I think this is like in the long tradition of parents and grandparents thinking that babies are really intelligent.

Kim

Yes.

Saronik 

So I completely forgive Freud for this even though I don’t have kids. And then, so basically, the baby will throw the object out of sight and then, like, yank it back into presence by pulling on the string attached to it. And then Freud says, you know, alternatively, he could have, like, dragged the object behind pretending it’s a car or something. And in that case, like the object would have been in constant presence. But he doesn’t do that because he’s not exactly interested in the object per se. He’s interested in the game of disappearance and return.

Kim

So hold on. So Fort/Da is just peekaboo played by a little boy.

Saronik  

Yeah, but like, I think the baby has control here. Like it’s not like your parent has a spoonful of carrots and going peekaboo right because they want you to eat that spoonful of carrots. And it’s, like, the baby has control. Right. Okay. So that is quite a ramble about what Fort/Da is.

Kim

That’s excellent. So the next question I have for you is how do I use Fort/Da, how do I play this game in my life?

Saronik  

I don’t analyze myself or my friends if I can help it, but I think I have used the general idea pretty often, like the dawning realization that I’m not interested in the object but the game. I think it has helped me get out of a pretty terrible relationship at one point.

Kim

Fair enough… I think that’s what psychoanalysis is supposed to do, right?

Saronik  

it simplified. So I think Melanie Klein has an interesting interpretation of this episode. Melanie Klein is, you know, famous, Austrian psychoanalyst and a pioneer of child psychoanalysis. And she said, like, through the repetitive act, the baby tries to repair its originary relationship with the mother. So the baby acknowledges her own part in the destruction of that relationship and this is sort of like an act to restore the first symbolic order in, you know, the order of her first relationship with the mother and she’s trying to recreate it like she’s, she’s trying to recreate it through the symbolic economy of the game.

Kim

Okay. Yeah, I think I see it, but what Freud says is, the baby tries, the baby does this to compensate for the absence of the mother.

Saronik 

Yes. But like, it does, and then like, I think he… in Beyond the Pleasure Principle he does have a larger, like, when he’s talking about the mind, he also talks about it in economic terms in many ways. I mean, by economic I mean, like, the economy of signs as it were, and yeah.

Kim

He uses that word, though, doesn’t he? Economic? 

Saronik  

I think that’s actually a great segue to what I think your next question is…

Kim

I still don’t know how I use the Fort/Da game, but I think that’s just because I’m not a baby. Okay. Returning to this question of economics, and the economy of the psyche, how is the Fort/Da game going to save the world?

Saronik  

I don’t know. But this is a useful grammar and this is a useful analog to have because, you know, especially like where we are right now, I think I’m much more present in social media than you are, but you must remember that when the pandemic began, social media was sort of cluttered with advice about how we should keep up, how we should keep maintaining our routines, you know, we should retain whatever semblance we can of the repetitive acts of our everyday life in unusual times. And we, given what routines and we like the comfort of the reputation as we try to put back together, you know, the symbolic order of the world. That was, except it’s fake. So what I mean is like, capitalism is like a cruel mother. 

Kim

Who’s left.

Saronik

Who we must rid ourselves of.

Kim

No, that’s great. So capitalism is the mother who’s gone away.

Saronik  

Capitalism is the mother who says–Okay, let me rephrase what I mean is, like, in this case, a relationship with the mother is like, not a useful one. And repetitive acts which try to recreate our lives of the world that was, it’s a game that we use to comfort ourselves and make ourselves feel that even if everything is not as it was, but everything could be as it was–I can totally hear Freud turning in his grave and…

Kim

No, I totally think that’s an excellent interpretation.

Saronik 

I think like for now, I think we can recognize the game for what it is, like we can look beyond the immediacy of the object and then recognize the repetitive acts that we are doing that we do.

Kim

But so my question for you is, can we still play the game? Or like, should we not?

Saronik  

I think we are playing the game. I think at this moment, like…

Kim

Or maybe we can’t not play the game.

Saronik  

Yeah, at this moment we can’t not play the game. But I think a good first step is recognizing that we are playing the game, yeah. Like, a good first step is to look beyond the object and to grow up because as babies being coddled by capitalism, we do not recognize the game for what it is and as grown-ups we should. That’s pretty wild…

Kim

It’s pretty great though!

Tagged : / / / / / / /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

css.php