From Bion to Delany

Samuel R. Delany’s “Modular Calculus” as an Example of Bionian Transformation

  • Riccardo Gramantieri


Literature furnishes a particular vertex to see reality through narrative fiction. In particular, science fiction literature, which creates a fantastic situation starting from realistic data (history, science, cultures), may be considered a kind of creative process. It uses heterogeneous things and “integrates” them into a homogeneous, new and comprehensible product. Science fiction writing allows the objects of the real to be reprocessed in terms which are thinkable at the current moment. Using the terminology established in psychoanalysis by Wilfred Bion this reprocessing work is a transformation. According to Bion we can hypothesise that the writer of the science fiction literary work serves as a “container” and the science fiction novel, considered a different way to represent reality and not just a simple editorial product, serves as a alpha-function to make concepts that were not previously thinkable or understandable. Between the 70s and the 80s the writer Samuel Delany theorized and put into practice the use of a literary model called “modular calculus”. This model allows the literary work of making something unthinkable into thinkable. The purpose of this paper is to highlight how modular calculus is a particular type of Bionian transformation, and how the science fiction novel can play the role of alpha-function, transforming unthinkable concepts into thinkable ones.


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How to Cite
Gramantieri, R. (2020). From Bion to Delany. Language and Psychoanalysis, 9(2), 1-15.