Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism

Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism

Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism

Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism


Frost argues that the first generation of writers raised within psycho-analytic discourse found in fascism the libidinal unconscious through which to fantasise acts not permitted in a democratic conception of sexuality without power relations.


Jung hardly went far enough when he said, “Hitler is the unconscious of every German”; he comes uncomfortably near to being the unconscious of most of us.

—W. H. Auden

Sexualized images of fascism are commonly assumed to be the creation of postwar and postmodern culture: How could anyone who had lived through fascism have such a mistaken understanding of it? In Political Inversions, Andrew Hewitt suggests that images of eroticized fascism are drawn from “a store of representational fragments that are constantly recycled in popular culture, where they acquire an erotic charge they never really exerted the first time around” (1—2). On the contrary: many fictions written at the height of fascism crackle with just such an erotic charge, which can be traced to cultural preoccupations that were well in place even before the historical rise of fascism. While the idea of a prefascist construction of fascism may seem anachronistic, what I am suggesting is that British, French, and U.S. fictions of fascism are part of a cultural strategy, established in World War I and extending into World War II, to align the political enemy with sexual deviance. There are two important components of this strategy—propaganda and libido theories—which I will outline in this chapter.

During World War I, British, French and U.S. critiques of authoritarianism depicted Germany under the Kaiser as a violently atavistic nation that had abandoned the civilized practices of democracy. This discourse made use of popularized psychoanalytic theories of the unconscious and repression. Specifically, it viewed authoritarianism as unleashing unruly libidinal impulses and credited democracy with enacting the libidinal repression necessary for social management. This notion of authoritarianism flinging open the floodgates of erotic energy and violence persisted with the rise of fas-

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