Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis | Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E10/S3 (Transcript)
Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis
Episode 10| Season 3| Revisionist History
Length: 53 mins | Released: July 19, 2018
Malcolm Gladwell: Hello fellow Revisionist Historians. I‚Äôm delighted to tell you that I‚Äôll be following up this season of the show with an all new project from Panoply. Broken Record will be out this November. Think of it as liner notes for the digital era. I‚Äôll be discussing, debating and learning about music from people who know a thing or two, legendary producer Rick Rubin and former New York Times editor Bruce Hedlund. Again, that‚Äôs Broken Record coming in November, but you can subscribe on Apple podcasts right now.
Malcolm Gladwell: The New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute is in a very formal European-style building on a quiet side street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Oak tables, high ceilings, in the library long ribbons of leather-bound volumes, and five different busts of Sigmund Freud all in a row. I went there to meet with the Society‚Äôs president, Michelle Press, a psychoanalyst herself with that lovely quality of patience and openness the best therapists always have. I wanted to talk with her about a subject that I‚Äôve always found deeply interesting, what Freud called Parapraxis. But not just anyone‚Äôs parapraxis; the king‚Äôs parapraxis.
Malcolm Gladwell: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You‚Äôre listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. After the first two episodes on memory earlier this season, I decided to do a third. It involves an odyssey. This odyssey took me from the pages of the Handbook of Psychobiography to a shrine in Tennessee, to the legendary Battery studios in Times Square, and to the hushed offices of The New York Psychoanalytic Society where I sat with Michelle Press in search of an answer to a simple question.
Malcolm Gladwell: What if a singer couldn‚Äôt remember the words to a song? A song he‚Äôd sung a thousand times. Particular parts of the song, the same part of the song over and over. What would that tell us about the singer?
Michelle Press: It was a term in German, faulty acts or faulty functions. It would be slips of the tongue. It could be misreadings, mishearings, but it‚Äôs Freud‚Äôs invention.
Malcolm Gladwell: Michelle Press is talking about parapraxis. From the Greek, para meaning abnormal, beyond, praxis meaning act. Abnormal speech acts or, as they are more colloquially known, Freudian slips.
Malcolm Gladwell: Does Freud mean that there are no accidental slips or that if you look at the range of accidental slips, you can find meaning in some?
Michelle Press: So when you read him, he doesn‚Äôt want to sound that kind of definitive. He‚Äôll say, ‚ÄúYes, maybe one might prove that there are some that are truly accidental or truly a result of fatigue or of maybe some medical illness,‚Äù but he said, ‚ÄúIf you do the work, one will find the reasons for this slip, that they‚Äôre not accidental, that they have,‚Äù he called it a sense and that that sense has to do with unconscious forces or unconscious ideas that are trying to find expression but are, because they‚Äôre unacceptable, they emerge in these ways when one might be unguarded.
Malcolm Gladwell: Now is that concept of unacceptability central to the notion of parapraxis?
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