‘Mobility and Mental health’ – ASMCF/SSFH PG Study Day

At the ASMCF-SSFH PG Study Day, the panel entitled ‘Mobility and Mental health’ approached the topic of the study day through three rich papers that considered movement in relation to various aspects and concepts of mental illness. The first paper was given by Catherine Annabel (Sheffield) who examined the less discussed figure of the driven and obsessive fugueur whose apparently purposeless movement driven by some unconscious need is contrasted with the detached and playful wanderings of the more often discussed flâneur. Referring in particular to the movement of the main character in Michel Butor’s LEmploi du temps, Annabel highlighted the origins of the notion of the fugueur in 19th century medicine and its renewed, and continuing, significance in post-war literature. Drawing upon the work of Catherine Malabou, Benjamin Dalton (UCL) considered how Michael Haneke’s film Amour (2012) stages the protagonist Anne’s mental and physical decline following a stroke, arguing that the architecture of the apartment in which she dwells manifests the destructive plasticity of her brain injury. Communicating both a sense of inescapable immobility and confinement and the radical transformation of Anne and her relationship to dwelling in architecture through this stasis, Dalton suggests Haneke’s use of the apartment’s architecture presents the destructive plasticity of brain injuries described by Malabou. Matthew Chan (Oxford) concluded the panel by exploring in parallel two concepts of motion: Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the ligne de fuite and Fernand Deligny’s concept of the ligne derre. Highlighting the emergence of these concepts from Guattari’s work as psychotherapist at the La Borde clinic and Deligny’s cartographic methods in the treatment of autistic children, Chan indicated how these concepts present attempts to (re)imagine space and movement suggestive of a broader post-1968 intellectual shift that, inspired by the socially marginalised, moved away from theories of macropolitical revolution and structural change to towards reflections on micropolitical tactics and improvisation.

Sam Matuszewski, University of Nottingham

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