Fornari, Franco (1921-1985)

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FORNARI, FRANCO (1921-1985)

Franco Fornari, an Italian surgeon, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, was born in Rivergaro, Piacenza, on April 18, 1921, and died in Milan on May 20, 1985. A student and analysand of Cesare Musatti, Fornari went on to become president of the Società psicoanalitica Italiana (Italian Psychoanalytic Society) and director of the Psychology Institute of the Department of Literature and Philosophy at the State University of Milan.

Fornari introduced the ideas of Melanie Klein to Italy. In his early writings, to treat schizophrenia and depression he advocated deepening our understanding of the primal psychotic dimension by examining the mental development of the child's affective life. He also studied group dynamics and social conflict, his research on these subjects appearing in an essay titled Nuovi orientamenti nella psicoanalisi (New directions in psychoanalysis; 1966).

Fornari's Kleinian convictions are most apparent in his wartime research, which gave rise to several interesting psychological studies, including The Psychoanalysis of War (1974). In this work Fornari located the anxieties and psychotic fantasies that govern the behavior of individuals in groups, and he revealed the ensuing loss of responsibility in various social and political situations. War, he said, arises from the external projection of an internal danger and the negation of death in the face of an alleged external persecutory entity, and these forces make the individual destroy to survive.

Fornari then investigated the theme of sensuality in relation to affective symbolization. In Genitalità e cultura (Genitality and culture; 1975), he examined the notion of perversion, determining that culture is the antithesis not of sensuality but of pregenitality, which arises from a lack of infantile symbolization and from destructive impulses dominating in one's behavior. He subsequently proposed an evolutionary reading of libidinal development.

Though elements of symbolization are already present in Genitalità e cultura, Fornari directly studied this topic in Simbolo e codice (Symbol and code; 1976), I fondamenti di una teoria psicoanalitica del linguaggio (Foundations of a psychoanalytic theory of language; 1979) and Codice vivente (Living codes; 1981). In these essays Fornari reexamined psychoanalytic theory in cognitive terms, establishing the foundation for a psychoanalytic anthropology that could also be of use to nonpsychoanalysts. He resolved the relation between body and mind by positing a code that preserves and transmits information in both directions between body and mind. Such a code, which he called the "living code," is assumed in the programming of affects, which in fact is driven by one's erotic materiality and parental bonds. Fornari developed a "coinemic" theory, in which the minimum unit of affective meaning is the "coineme." Fornari saw this living code as an instrument and methodology that could be used to apply psychoanalysis to a broad range of cultural phenomena: speech, images, behavior.

In La riscoperta dell'anima (The rediscovery of the soul; 1984), Fornari attempted to understand the human effort to rediscover the primal symbiotic unity with one's mother. And in Affetti e cancro (Affects and cancer; 1985) he investigated the role that psychoanalysis could play in treating incurable diseases.

Giancarlo Gramaglia

See also: Italy.


Fornari, Franco. (1966). Nuovi orientamenti della psicoanalisi. Milan: Feltrinelli.

. (1974). The psychoanalysis of war (Alenka Pfeifer, Trans.). Garden City, NY: Anchor Press. (Original work published 1970)

. (1975). Genitalità e cultura. Milan: Feltrinelli.

. (1976). Simbolo e codice: dal processo psicoanalitico all'analisi istituzionale. Milan: Feltrinelli.

. (1979). I fondamenti di una teoria psicoanalitica del linguaggio. Torino: Boringhieri, 1979.

. (1981). Il codice vivente: femminilità e maternità nei sogni delle madri in gravidanza. Torino: Boringhieri, 1981.

. (1984). La riscoperta dell'anima. Bari: Laterza.

. (1985). Affetti e cancro. Milan: Cortina.