Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Juan Goytisolo's Queer (Be)hindsight: Homosexuality, Epistemology, and the 'Extimacy' of the Subject in Coto Vedado and En Los Reinos De Taifa

Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Juan Goytisolo's Queer (Be)hindsight: Homosexuality, Epistemology, and the 'Extimacy' of the Subject in Coto Vedado and En Los Reinos De Taifa

Article excerpt

Everything is played out in retro and a tergo.

(Jacques Derrida) (1)

'In classic paintings, I look for the subconscious--in

a Surrealist painting, for the

conscious.' (Sigmund Freud) (2)

One of the most productive yet relatively overlooked contributions in Lee Edelman's Homographesis (1994) is its rereading of Freud's famous case From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The 'Wolf Man') (1918) in terms of a crisis not only of the dominant narratives that inform and orient the knowledge of sexual difference, but also of Western epistemology in general. (3) From his distinctively deconstructive perspective, Edelman points out that such an epistemological crisis follows from the metaleptic, 'Moebius-strip' type of logic that informs Freud's hypothesis of the 'primal scene' as described in the case, as well as from the scene's implication in the spectacle of what the critic provocatively calls a 'proto-homosexuality' (Homographesis, p. 180). This article looks in some detail at the relationship between such epistemological disruptions and the constitution and uses of homosexuality in Juan Goytisolo's two autobiographical volumes to date: Coto vedado (1985) and En los reinos de taifa (1986). Building on an implicit comparison between Edelman's ideas on the metaleptic nature of the primal scene as a (proto-)homosexual structure, and Jacques Lacan's theory of the subject's 'extimate' relationship to the Other, I shall attempt to show that the subject of Goytisolo's autobiography constructs his own ontological coherence always in retrospect and a tergo (from behind), hence in a series of antiessentialist movements in which it is the metaleptic '(be)hindsight' (4) of homosexuality that determines both the subject's constitution and his exorbitant chronology.

As is well known, in The 'Wolf Man' Freud undertook the analysis of a young Russian man who had suffered in the earlier years of his childhood from a 'severe neurotic disturbance', one that began as an anxiety-hysteria (in the shape of an animal phobia) and then changed into an obsessional neurosis. (5) In his attempt to interpret an early dream from which his patient, as a child, had emerged in a great state of anxiety, Freud famously arrived in this case at his hypothesis of the 'primal scene': at the age of one and a half, as he was sleeping in his cot in his parents' bedroom, the Wolf Man must have woken up to witness his parents engaged in a sexual intercourse a tergo (from behind), (6) a sight he had not understood at the time, and only retrospectively (coinciding with the time when the Wolf Man had his anxiety dream) had convinced him of 'the reality of the existence of castration' (p. 267).

Emerging from the interpretation of a childhood dream, based in its turn on a previous memory, and featuring an erotic vision that within its discursive context can only be described as quite 'sensational', (7) Freud's hypothesis of the 'primal scene' raises a number of interesting questions. (8) First, there is a parallel Edelman calls 'directional' to be considered: a parallel between the type of sexual intercourse that the Wolf Man was supposed to have witnessed and the practice of psychoanalysis itself, in so far as it too, as Edelman points out, approaches the subject's experience 'from behind' through the analyst's efforts to disentangle the distinctive logic of the unconscious (p. 175). Secondly, however, and more important for my purposes, the coitus a tergo allegedly witnessed by the Wolf Man allegorizes (mirrors in mise en abime) the retroactive (behindactive) character of the primal scene itself as described by Freud. As suggested in The 'Wolf Man', the impact of the primal scene upon the subject appears also to come chronologically 'from behind' (or 'back to front'), for it is not at the time it is allegedly witnessed but only in retrospect (as the scene comes to be remembered and interpreted in the very process of analytical (re)construction) that it acquires its foundational, 'primal' status. …

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