We usually take a subject’s speech, with all its inconsistencies, as an expression of his/her inner turmoils, ambiguous emotions, etc. This holds even for a literary work of art: the task of psychoanalytic
reading is supposed to be to unearth the inner psychic turmoils that found their coded expression in the work of art. Something is missing in such a classic account: speech does not only register or express a traumatic psychic life; the entry into speech is in itself a traumatic fact. What this means is that we should include into the list of traumas speech tries to cope with the traumatic impact of speech itself. The relationship between psychic turmoil and its expression in speech should thus also be turned around: speech does not simply express/articulate psychic turmoils; at a certain key point, psychic turmoils themselves are a reaction to the trauma of dwelling in the “torture-house of language.”
This is also why, in order to get the truth to speak, it is not enough to suspend the subject’s active intervention and let language itself speak — as Elfriede Jelinek put it with extraordinary clarity: “Language should be tortured to tell the truth.” It should be twisted,
denaturalized, extended, condensed, cut, and reunited, made to work against itself. Language as the “big Other” is not an agent of wisdom to whose message we should attune ourselves, but a place of cruel indifference and stupidity. The most elementary form of
torturing one’s language is called poetry.