“children often fail to recognise their mothers on returning home.”*

*extract: D.W. Winnicott, John Bowlby, and Emanuel Miller published an open letter in the British Medical Journal of 16.12.1939, following the first evacuation of children from London.

Lisa Farley wrote in American Imago (2012):

“…in 1938, Freud broadcast from his home in Hampstead, London a short talk on the BBC. He spoke about the origins of psychoanalysis and also about old and on-going resistances to it. Above the static of radio technology of the time, Freud’s advanced cancer of the jaw is painfully audible: words are strained and slow to come. Tender and homesick, Freud’s message is poignant, for inscribed within the very timbre of his voice is the difficult labor of narrating what hurts—and what matters—that is the invitation to psychoanalysis. But there is also a defiant quality to Freud’s radio talk: it is a bold justification of the need for a theory of the unconscious as the grounds of thought.

Freud died just one year later under the ominous skies of London at war, in anticipation of German air raids, and just weeks after the first wave of Pied Piper evacuations that re-located city children to the safer pastures of the countryside. While Freud was a new voice of the radio (he spoke on the wireless only once), the technology was not new to Freud; his theories of mind grew up with the parallel invention of wireless communication. Uncannily, both the wireless and psychoanalysis proceeded on the assumption that air holds and conducts invisible meanings that can be gleaned with the right tools, whether radio transmitter or sensitive listener (Sconce, 2000).

Just one year after Freud’s radio talk, D.W. Winnicott took to the airwaves. In a context of war, Winnicott addressed the psychical effects of the evacuation of children and he urged the public to be frank about the range of affective responses: sadness, guilt, jealousy, anger, and abandonment to name but a few…”

ROBERT ADÈS posted on the OUPblog on 1ST December 2016:

“…Winnicott’s speaking style, lacking the demotic rhythm of his contemporary, the ‘radio doctor’ Charles Hill, was straightforwardly relatable and reassuring, as he told mothers “You will be able to see that really I am saying quite ordinary obvious things”, or, to take a topical example: “by devoted, I simply mean devoted”. Winnicott’s broadcast voice has a relaxed, almost murmuring, quality and his relatively high pitch was frequently mistaken for the voice of a woman. His thoughtful manner, his extensive use of pre-recorded documentary conversation between mothers, and his vocal hermaphroditism, allowed him to completely relinquish the role of an educated male expert talking to the uneducated female public. He was instead beside the listener, speaking on behalf of the infant, putting into words what the mother already knew…”


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