Compromise Formations: Current Directions in Psychoanalytic Criticism

By Vera J. Camden | Go to book overview

"A Child Is Being Eaten":
Political Repressions, Alien Invasions

Terrence Holt

In The Political Unconscious, Fredric Jameson, arguing "the priority of the political interpretation of literary texts," writes that he "conceives of the political perspective not as some supplementary method, not as an optional auxiliary to other interpretive methods current today—the psychoanalytic or the myth-critical, the stylistic, the ethical, the structural—but rather as the absolute horizon of all reading and interpretation" (17; emphasis added). 1 Such a claim invites a response from psychoanalytic critics, and not least by its figure for an absolute perspective. A "horizon" is a curious trope for a totalizing vision of the world, for it necessarily implies a hemisphere beyond its bounds; invoking this figure, Jameson calls into doubt the absolute scope of his historicist political perspective. Although Jameson claims that his concept of a political unconscious retains the theoretical power of the psychoanalytic while purging it of its ahistoricism, 2 others have pointed out a crucial flaw in his construction of the unconscious, especially its denial of the countertransference (see Culler 370-71). As Jameson constructs it, the political unconscious ignores the full implications of the Freudian unconscious, along with the mechanism of repression that sustains it. But Jameson's attempt to repress psychoanalysis suffers the fate of all such repressions: the repressed returns. In his metaphor of the horizon, Jameson chooses a figure that gestures beyond the scope of his absolute perspective, toward the unconscious.

I would like to consider the role of repression in politics: the ways in which repression of unconscious material can subvert conscious politi

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