Lyric Poetry: The Pain and the Pleasure of Words

By Mutlu Konuk Blasing | Go to book overview

Coda
THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF “ANNA”

Was Saussure mistaken? Did he allow himself to be fasci-
nated by a mirage? Do his anagrams resemble the faces one
can read in ink-blots?

Is this the vertigo of error? It is also the discovery of the
simple truth that language is an infinite resource, and that
behind each phrase lies hidden the multiple clamor from
which it has detached itself to appear before us in its isolated
individuality.

Jean Starobinski

[M]any languages in use today can only render the German
expression “an unheimliches house” by “a haunted house.”

Sigmund Freud

“ANNA” SNARES FREUD HIMSELF in a return of the repressed surfaces of the body of language. Early in his essay on the uncanny, Freud considers E. Jentsch's idea that the uncanny may involve a sense of “automatic, mechanical processes” at work (1963b, 31). The uncanny is an event experienced as more than a chance accident and less than willed; it entails a sense of “fate,” and “weird,” a synonym of “uncanny,” retains this association with fate. But Freud does not pursue Jentsch's idea and goes on to define the uncanny as a return of the repressed, more primitive animistic and narcissistic thought systems that have been surmounted in cultural and personal history. And in his discussion of the Hoffman story “The Sand Man,” he overlooks the mechanisms of the linguistic code that are clearly at work and beg to be engaged. Freud resists reading that which returns as “something fateful and inescapable” (43)—as “something long known to us, once very familiar” (20)—in terms of the mechanisms of the code, a revenant that not only refuses to stay buried in the symbolic but refuses to be reinterred by the symbolic. For this revenant code attests to “automatic, mechanical processes at work” and jeopardizes theories of psychic depths and buried histories that would shore up the symbolic.

Jean Baudrillard argues that Freud had to abandon hysteria to formulate psychiatry as a science; he had to “repress” the hysteric, as it were, because there is no depth or unconscious to the hysteric (1990, 56). Hysteria has to do with the seduction of surfaces:

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