Andre Gide: Pederasty and Pedagogy

By Naomi Segal | Go to book overview

I
Pedagogy, pederasty, difference, and desire

CAN there be a hydraulic theory of pedagogy? I ask this question in order to start off the examination of a body of texts in which I shall be searching not simply for facts and readings or structures and shapes but for movements and flows and the issues they produce. The problem of the hydraulic theory is in a way very simple and well known: it models the functions of psychic desire on the supposedly mechanical processes of a man's body.

It does this by imagining a man's body to operate very much like a machine. He is full of tubes and channels. Drives drive fluid down channels towards a point of outlet. Desire pumps out fluid; then he is at rest. The ideal post-orgasmic state, the state towards which in Freud all desire tends, is a blissful stasis of undesire in which all the fluid levels are steady,1 nothing presses, and release has provided the answer (the scratch) to which tension was the question (the itch). In hydraulic heaven, no vessel holds more than another.2

The hydraulic fantasy did not originate with Freud.3 One of its

____________________
Throughout this book, all translations into English, unless otherwise attributed, are my own, and reference is given to the original text. Further references to a cited text will appear after quotations; passages without page reference are from the last-cited page. Unless otherwise stated, all italics are the authors'.
1
This is Freud's 'principle of constancy', which is achieved by either discharge, avoidance of excitation, or defence against excitation, see J. Laplanche and J-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith ( London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1980), 341 ff. The enigma of Freud's hydraulics of pleasure is discussed by Leo Bersani in The Freudian Body ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 32-4.
2
I am simplifying, of course, since pleasure (both in Freud's theory and in general experience) can also be associated with an increase in excitation rather than with release. The relation of pleasure to undesire will be discussed in Ch. 8.
3
In Freud indeed it is often not known by this term at all, but as the 'economic model'-- see Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of psychoanalysis, 127 ff. The analogy with sexual hydraulics is thereby disguised but the sexiness of money asserted. This is another link with Balzac. The crucial difference between them is Freud's preference for quiescence and Balzac's exploitation of the rhythms of a sort of snakes-and-ladders soft porn. For a fascinating discussion of Freud's fundamental rejection of pleasure and its connection to his Jewishness, see Estelle Roith, The Riddle of Freud ( London: Tavistock, 1987).

-1-

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Andre Gide: Pederasty and Pedagogy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • I - Pedagogy, Pederasty, Difference, and Desire 1
  • 2 - Gide's Body 41
  • 3 - Her Voice 118
  • 4 - Male Chains 169
  • 5 - The Dangerous Individual 210
  • 6 - Uncles and Aunts 253
  • 7 - Catherine and 'Victor' 299
  • 8 - Androgyde 342
  • Index 377
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