Myth and Theatre Festival

 

Psyche's Task

The 2022 Festival, which was to take place from June 20 to July 5, 2022
has been cancelled (postponed to 2023) SEE NEWSLETTER

 

ARCHIVE page updated : 20/06/22

 

See Image & Editoral below

You can also consult

The Ethnological Club : articles, bibliography

 

Direction Enrique Pardo avec Linda Wise

Organisation Debora Ballardini
avec Eloïse DeNayer, Sarmen Almond, Grace Zandarski

en collaboration avec

Le Centre International Artistique Roy Hart

Univ. of Central Lancashire UK.
School of Film, Media & Performance. Dr. Amy Rome

University of Lethbridge, Canada
Coordination : Douglas McCarthur

Pantheatre Membres Actifs
Membres du Laboratoire Paris

Mairie of Lasalle   &    Mairie of Thoiras

Psyche's Task

 

Image & Editorial

SEE LARGE IMAGE

Psyche' Take
Image with graphics by Enrique Pardo

The scene in the image is taken from the famous book of Apuleius, The Golden Ass, or The Metamorphoses, in which, among many other stories and fantastic incidents, a young girl is in the grip of intense sentimental problems. She is "lucky" enough to come across an old woman (witch - magician - madam - shaman - the book is full of such "learned" women) who responds to her woes

by telling her the story of Psyche and Eros. In the picture, as I see it, the young woman has clearly understood, and both of them are smiling. The young girl looks down with a delicious complicity, the old woman points a spindle with the necessary sagacious severity. (One can guess the spinning wheel in the back store.) The pointed ears of the donkey catch all the details.


Psyche's Task

Image of the Golden Ass

(Neither donkey nor dog are sleeping, they are listening, and how !)

 

Editorial & Exchanges

Enrique Pardo

Note : the topics if this archive presentation will be discussed and developped in

The Summer of Counterpoint Program, July & August 2022


The title comes from a book that Xavier Papaïs bade me to read after his riveting and ‘pan-oramic’ talk on the history of SUPERSTITION at the 2021 summer’s festival: J. G. Frazer’s Psyche’s Task (1913). I ‘took it to task’ and made it our title for 2022. It will require serious MULTITASKING : what did Frazer imply? His subtitle seems to make Psyche’s Task a preamble to civilization: “A Discourse Concerning the Influence of Superstition on the Growth of Institutions”.

For us, today, who is Psyche? And, what is her task? Is it - as I tend to think - the very core of art, and especially in ‘magical’, performance acting out?

In the story of Psyche and Eros, James Hillman saw The Myth of Analysis (1972), i.e. the basis of psychology’s analytical thinking and of its practice. For Pantheatre’s work, Hillman was the most relevant and inspirational successor of C. G. Jung. Xavier Papaïs, on the other hand, I consider the most broad-minded thinker ‘after’ Jacques Lacan - as well as the most knowledgeable and acute anthropological philosopher in France. We have there a sizable task; to walk to and fro (on a slack rope!) between these two exceptional thinkers, and friends of Pantheatre.

The story of Psyche and Eros is narrated in Apuleius’ book The Golden Ass (between 160 and 180 AD: another golden must-read!) The image isthought to be by a 16th C. Italian engraver, Master of the Die (the Dice…): a ‘knowing’ old lady, spindle in hand, chides a young girl who, just like Psyche, got into deep (and adolescent) love trouble. Psyche actually got into Eros’ bed! But, wanting to check on him, she lit a candle, and he vanished. In my version of this superb engraving I see smiles of complicity - less so in the original. The donkey is ‘all ears’ while the sleeping dog lies (eyes wide-open?)

Only Aphrodite can rekindle such a divorce. The trouble is that in this story she happens to be the very (jealous?) mother of Eros. She sets Psyche a series of impossible tasks. But, in fine, the fairy tale spirits of marriage prevail. In our performance laboratories the most rewarding tasks are often the impossible ones: they constellate ‘impossible’ psychological creativity, and luck. Incidentally, one of Psyche’s tasks drives her to despair, and it takes Great Pan to pre-empt her suicide. In our performance laboratories, the most rewarding tasks are often the impossible ones: they constellate ‘impossible’ psychological creativity and luck.

Incidentally, one of Psyche’s tasks drives her to desperation and only Great Pan can pre-empt her suicide.

Working Notes

Reminder : this is material written after the

2021 Festival       ON SUPERSTITION

see 2021 Superstition Festival Archive Page

A few words on Frazer’s book "Psyche's Task". It is not a big book, less than 200 pages including the Index - at least in the second-hand 1968 hardback I found, based on the “Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged - to which is added - The Scope of Social Anthropology / An Inaugural Lecture”. Edition © Trinity College, Cambridge, 1913.

This version has very helpful headline titles in the margins, one or two per page, mostly short one-phrase summaries corresponding to each paragraph. Wonderfully methodical and thorough in terms of ethnographic research.

Here is an example, P.54: “Breaches of sexual morality thought to blight the fruits of the earth and otherwise disturb the course of nature in Africa”.

The title of the book absolutely fascinated me because of the potential turn-about inherent in its very attitude, and in Frazer’s, to me, amazing daring to put out such a title! My first impressions, and to a great extent the conclusions I stay with, are that Frazer turns the tables on Psyche, and makes her into the allegorical iron maid of colonialist civilization. A sort of transitional Iron Maiden maneuvering with tolerance,

It feels like Frazer puts Psyche to task, while men, mostly, watch the changes, the advancement of the primitive. not humans, not men, in any case._. account for her activities - and drawing up a chart of her duties. Or, putting her ‘love labors’ in terms of achievements: the great job she did with… precisely, superstition! maneuvering with a margin of tolerance in the civilizing dressage of primitives The end of superstition is the end of Psyche and psychology.

The four chapters of the book are:
Government
Private Property
Marriage
Respect for Human Life

To me a task implies duty, even responsibility, certainly labor and hard work, with expectations of serious accomplishment, achievement. And especially of a figure that has come to us as divinely graced.

Not the task of humanity, but the task of this semi-divine, daimonic feminine figure... what does Psyche want? What did Frazer imply? His subtitle seems to make Psyche’s Task a preamble to civilization: “A Discourse Concerning the Influence of Superstition on the Growth of Institutions”. For us, today, who is Psyche? And, what is her task? Is it - as I tend to think - the very core of art, and especially in ‘magical’, performance acting out?

NOTE The subtitle of Frazer's book happens to be: A Discourse Concerning the Influence of Superstition on the Development of Institutions. And the icing on this ethno-mythological cake is that most, if not all, of the ethnographic material Frazer uses comes from the islands surrounding... the Bismarck Sea! (To understand this double exclamation mark, revisit the blog THE ETHNOLOGICAL CLUB ...)

 

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