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Published by Zuresh Path

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Published by: Zuresh Path on Mar 10, 2014
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From Freud to Jacques Lacanand the Textual Unconscious
[T]he unconscious is the condition for language [...] language is thecondition for the unconscious.—Jacques Lacan, “Preface byJacques Lacan,” xiiiEverything can now be a text.—Fredric Jameson,
, 77
rom Freud, that which takes us toward Jacques Lacan is anembedded concept of ‘textuality.’ Necessary for analysis, textual-ity, as an instance of a “vanishing mediator,” may simply beassumed or safely disappear in analytic praxis. Concurrent withLacanian psychoanalytic theory, textuality emerged as a pervasive ideo-logical concept by the 1970s. Fredric Jameson defined it then as “amethodological hypothesis whereby the objects of study of the humansciences [...] are considered to constitute so many texts that we
deci- pher
, as distinguished from the older views of thoseobjects as realities or existents or substances that we in one way oranother attempt to
” (“Ideology of the Text” 18). As we trace apath from Freud through such adjectival notions of the unconscious as Jung’s “collective,” Walter Benjamin’s “optical,” and Jameson’s own“political,” we realize that from the start any
unconscious is atextual one. Lacan does not use the term
textual unconscious
. Theterm, if not the concept itself, seems to have originated in the work of aFrench critic—Jean Bellemin-Noel—indebted to Lacan. Bellemin-Noelsays he used a term—
l’inconscient du texte
“the unconscious of thetext”—as early as 1970, in a book to be titled
Vers l’inconscient dutexte
(“Towards the Unconscious of the Text”). He claims that otherssuch as André Green, Jeanne Bem, and Bernard Pingaud later used theterm in essays published between 1973 and 1976 (see 191n2). By 1979,the year
Vers l’inconscient du texte
was published, American scholars13
© 2006 State University of New York Press, Albany
began to use the concept more or less emphatically. Since in his bookBellemin-Noel does not use the precise phrase
l’inconscient textuelle
“the textual unconscious” as such, it seems to have been Jerry AlineFlieger who first used it. In 1981 (“Trial and Error”), reviewingBellemin-Noel’s book, she converted
l’inconscient du texte
into thenoun phrase
the textual unconscious
. In 1983, Robert Con Davisemployed the concept of a ‘textual unconscious’ in “Lacan, Poe, andNarrative Repression” (989). In 1984, although more interested in the
unconscious, Jonathan Culler not only used the noun phrase ina significant way but also theorized it more fully than any before him.After Flieger, Davis, and Culler, as well as Michael Riffaterre,Shoshana Felman, Jameson, and others, the concept of the textualunconscious essentially becomes an unacknowledged legislator, a van-ishing mediator, a term taken from Fredric Jameson (“The VanishingMediator”) that Slavoj Z ˇ izˇekdisseminates to Lacanians in
Tarrying with the Negative
. Textual unconscious is a concept intrinsic to the
activity of interpretation of the unconscious and of literarytexts, but once assumed (as in Freud) it may simply disappear and stilldo its work. By the late 1980s, explicit invocations of textual uncon-scious, while not rare, generally do in fact disappear, but the term stillshows up often enough to suggest its mediatory primacy. Indeed, frompsychoanalysis, it even invades psychology (see Steele); moreover, anumber of literary studies—besides my own
Using Lacan, Reading Fiction
, including ones by Friedman, Downing, Rickard, and Tate—useit and draw directly upon its genealogy in Flieger, Jameson, Culler,Riffaterre, and others. Providing a thumbnail sketch of how the con-cept grounded different theorists and ideologies, Friedman also suggestshow necessary but invisible is the concept: Adapting Kristeva’s formulations of the text-as-psyche, criticssuch as Culler, Jameson, Shoshana Felman, and MichaelRiffaterre [...] suggest that a text has an unconscious accessibleto interpretation through a decoding of its linguistic traces andeffects. For Culler and Felman, this textual unconscious is locatedin the interaction between reader and text, which they see as ascene of transference in which the reader “repeats” the complexesof the text. For Jameson and Riffaterre, the textual unconsciousresides in the text, subject to the decoding of the reader, whooccupies the authoritative position of the analyst. (164)The very portability of the concept from one critical approach toanother, in short, suggests its essential role as a mediator that effec-tively vanishes once analytic praxis begins.
© 2006 State University of New York Press, Albany
What is revealed here is [...] a textual unconscious in which the criticgets caught up.—Jonathan Culler, “Textual Self-Consciousnessand the Textual Unconscious,” 376
Since my interest necessarily foregrounds literary criticism, not clin-ical issues, Culler’s essay provides a useful relay between the “literary”and the “textual.” In his discussion of how the literary unconsciousworks, Culler invokes principles on which Julia Kristeva based herhighly influential concept of ‘intertextuality.’ Since semiotics posits asubject of interpretation vis à vis an object of interpretation, it requiressome form of relay or interface, either codes or structures, operatingbetween the two. Kristeva started at the most fundamental ground of structure in using Roman Jakobson’s premise that language operatesalong two axes, one of selection, one of combination (a premise under-lying virtually all semiotic theory). Kristeva then argued that since anytext is language based, every text in some critical sense must exhibit anintertextual relation to every other at least through the structural axesthey share. That is, they relate through the fundamental semiotic struc-ture of language. The concept of intertextuality provides Culler thatinterface between the literary and the textual unconscious because bothconceptualizations depend upon Jakobson’s grid—the axes of selectionand combination—underlying language itself. In a complex argument in which he takes a seemingly unpromisingtack, Culler slides from one “unconscious” to the other. Focusing noton the textuality of the literary text as such, he addresses the transfer-ence between the analyst and the analysand. Describing transference,on the one hand, as a “drama of the analyst’s involvement” with thepatient and, on the other, as “the enactment of the reality of the uncon-scious” (371), he ends by reducing transference to a textual relation hein fact calls a “textual unconscious.” But he finds this unconscious inthe self-referentiality of the literary work, in how the text offers a wayin which to read it. Culler says, I am arguing that what critics identify as moments of self-ref-erence or self-consciousness in literary works may be themarks of a situation of transference. The critic who claims tostand outside the text and analyze it seems to fall into the textand to play out a role in its dramas. What is revealed in this
From Freud to Jacques Lacan
© 2006 State University of New York Press, Albany

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