Apostolic Actuality: David Jones and Sublimation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores how the work of David Jones (1895–1974) inscribes, in both visual art and poetry, a struggle to sustain itself as a “location of cultural experience” (in Winnicott’s phrase) in the aftermath of trauma. It focuses on the sexual dimension of Jonesian trauma, looking especially at how psychoanalytic debates on sublimation, one of Freud’s least developed ideas, open different ways to read Jones. It is argued that to explore his artwork and writing it is necessary to clarify the status of the shifting psychoanalytic engagement with aesthetic experience, from Freud to Winnicott and then Laplanche. Sublimation is shown to be unsustainable as a single concept, as the various modalities of artistic practice in relation to sexuality in Jones are explored. Jonesian art is seen as a complex defence mechanism illuminated by Winnicott’s theory of play and infantile experience, and also by Laplanche’s re-reading of sublimation as a pathway for the ego to defend itself against the unconscious in its properly sexual, traumatic dimension. Yet another possible understanding of sublimation in Jones’s work is also examined, in which sublimation appears as an aesthetic encounter with the sexual other as such.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThresholds and Pathways Between Jung and Lacan
Subtitle of host publicationOn the Blazing Sublime
EditorsAnn Casement, Phil Goss, Dany Nobus
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003089667
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020


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