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Reinterpreting Melancholia:

From Depression to the Mature Self


Workshop Leader: Robinson Lilienthal, Ph.D.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
11AM – 2PM (Registration @10:30AM)
Melancholia, or depressive object loss, is universal and unavoidable, as everyone from the
prophets and the Buddha, to Freud and the existentialists would agree. Hence, the crucial
question facing all of us is how to deal with this wrenching reality of the human condition.

In order to answer this question, we will need to confront three major tasks, which we will explore in this workshop. Our first
task is to search through the chaotic and immense collective global wisdom of cultural artifacts and assemble them into a
coherent diagnostic schema of the forms and kinds of melancholia. Second, we need to use this information to distinguish
between healthy and pathological forms of melancholia. The third task is the question of therapeutic intervention. The
melancholic patient needs to expand their present interpretation of their current psychological situation beyond the self-
destructive dimension of the bleeding self to a new paradigm by which they can re-interpret their melancholic narrative.

We will carefully examine different archetypal forms of melancholia such as the stories of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Ahab in
Moby Dick, Abraham and Isaac, Oedipus, Antigony, Scrooge, Hamlet, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Achilles and
Patroclus, Batman, Norman Bates, Don Quixote, Dante, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful
Life, Antonius Bloch in The Seventh Seal, the collapse of the Soviet Union, radical Jihadists and suicide bombers, to name a
few. We will look for alternative cultural templates by which we can re-interpret both our personal and collective experiences
of object loss. This process can help liberate the patient from the grip of a pathological narrative. The result is a
transformation from melancholic paralysis, and a redirection of libidinal cathexis from the wounded self back to the external
world and to new object relations.

In preparation for this workshop, attendees may want to look at some of the following: Panofsky on Durer’s Melancholia I,
Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part 4,” Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia,” and Melanie Klein’s essay “Mourning
and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States.”

ROBINSON LILIENTHAL, Ph.D. has been teaching philosophy, religious studies, and applied ethics for over 30 years, and
for the past 20 of them - at Rutgers University. He received his Masters in Religious Studies from the Hartford Seminary
Foundation, and a Masters & Ph.D. in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research. His Ph.D. dissertation was:
Nietzsche’s Anatomy of Nihilism: The Philosopher as Physician of Culture. As a philosopher, Dr. Lilienthal has a long
standing interest in the social sciences, especially in psychoanalysis, in both its classical and postclassical traditions. He is
currently a public lecturer for a wide variety of multidisciplinary audiences. He had recently become a scientific faculty
member at the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

Location: 41-51 East 11street, 4th floor, (corner of the University Place), NY, NY 10003
Please RSVP/ pre-register:
by email to RobinsonLilienthal2009@gmail.com or by fax at 718-785-3270.
Workshop Fees:
Regular: $40 – pre-registered/ RSVP-ed; $50 – not pre-registered;
Students: $25 – pre-registered, $35 – not pre-registered.
Fees paid: by check (paid to Dr. Lilienthal) or cash - on the day of the workshop.

Please, feel free to share this flyer-invitation with any of your friends and colleagues who might be interested in this topic.