Archive for the ‘Sublimation’ Category
by Chase Dimock
A writer, publisher, and a connoisseur of the Parisian nightlife, Robert McAlmon was a fixture of the Lost Generation’s expatriate community in Paris in the 20s and 30s. McAlmon took Hemingway out to the bullfights in Spain that he would immortalize in The Sun Also Rises and he typed proofs of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses. Through his publishing company Contact Editions, he was the first to publish works by such luminaries of the modernist movement as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, H.D., and Nathanael West. Yet, his own reputation as a writer never reached the heights of those that he helped.
As a bisexual man in what most presumed to be a marriage of convenience to lesbian poet Bryher (H.D.’s longtime partner), McAlmon was one of the first American writers to depict the queer subculture of American expatriates. In Distinguished Air: Grim Fairy Tales, he detailed the exploits of Berlin’s cabarets and in the recently rediscovered The Nightinghouls of Paris, he dished on the queer affairs of the writers that inhabited the bistros and bars of Montparnasse during the famed expatriate period. I have written on McAlmon’s biography and poetry in greater detail in this previous article.
The story below comes from McAlmon’s first book of fiction, A Hasty Bunch. James Joyce himself suggested the title to McAlmon, commenting on the speed with which he wrote the stories and their roughness. By reading just a few sentences of the story, it is apparent that Joyce’s judgment is well justified. “The Psychoanalyzed Girl” should be considered part of McAlmon’s juvenilia as its awkward phrasings search for the more polished voice of ironic detachment and sardonic wit that would come with his later, more mature work.
Nonetheless what I find fascinating about this piece is its place as a cultural artifact of the influence of psychoanalysis on the Lost Generation of American writers. McAlmon’s opinion in this story is none too favorable. He satirizes the hyperawareness and self-centeredness that psychoanalytic therapy causes in his friend Dania, depicting her as perpetually self-analyzing and becoming progressively more alienated from her own reality as she obsesses over self-knowledge at the expense of self-experience.
Written in 1922, McAlmon’s short story testifies to the sudden rise in popularity of psychoanalysis in America in the 20’s. Freud made his first visit to America along with Carl Jung and others in 1909 and gave a series of five lectures at Clark University to both academic and lay audiences. The fact that psychoanalysis would become widely adopted in America in just over a decade after his visit exceeded what he and his contemporaries thought was possible. As Sanford Gifford writes:
by Chase Dimock
To an American audience, I would not have to strain too desperately to prove that there is something gay about a movie featuring two British men touring gourmet restaurants in the English countryside while singing Abba and Kate Bush in the car. Yet, what’s queer about The Trip has nothing to do with any present or latent homosexuality (of which there is none in the film), but rather it is about how heterosexuality appropriates the discourse of homosexuality in order to repress or sublimate its own desires and sentiments. The increased visibility of male homosexuality in the public sphere over the past four decades via the modern gay rights movement changed the way in which heterosexual males view and speak of their relationships with one another. Centuries of male patriarchy that segregated the sexes, created legions of boys clubs among rich and poor alike, and reinforced the sexist idea that truly intellectually satisfying companionship could only come from another rational male mind suddenly became infused with a “homosexual panic”. Publicly visible homosexual emotional intimacy created the fear that others might read heterosexual emotional intimacy as sexual intimacy and thus the privileged bastions of masculinity such as the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, the Friars, and every cigar club this side of Vienna eventually seemed, well…gay. In The Trip, we see a turn in the way in which heterosexual friendship navigates the looming specter of gay discourse. Departing from decades of paranoid disavowal and overwrought displays of cliché gestures of straightness that seem only to parody heterosexuality, The Trip appropriates queer discourse as the two protagonists create a running joke about homosexual desire for one another throughout the film. But, neither of them is laughing. Rather, the unabashed and unashamed references to homosexuality cover up the real intimacy that they share with one another as friends which neither one wants to declare aloud.
In The Trip, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of themselves. Coogan is hired by a newspaper to write an article about some posh country restaurants and he takes the assignment with the hope of bringing his much younger girlfriend along to show her the North of England where he grew up and to rekindle their strained relationship. When the girlfriend chooses a journalist assignment in America instead, Coogan asks his friend Brydon to come along, who becomes, as Coogan jokes, “his substitute girlfriend.” As the two journey between upscale eateries, the film stages a sharp dichotomy between the personal lives of the two friends. While Brydon is the cliché image of heterosexual domestic happiness, established through a series of calls with his wife in which he impersonates Hugh Grant, Coogan on the other hand is confronted with his failing relationship with his girlfriend, his strained, decidedly unfatherly relationship with his son, and his stalled career ambitions to become a serious, Hollywood actor. The bulk of the film consists of a series of conversations between Coogan and Brydon while eating, driving, or touring the countryside. Rather than directly addressing any of the tension building up in his personal life, Brydon engages Coogan in a perpetual game of celebrity impersonation one-ups-manship as the two of them argue over the finer points of impersonating Michael Caine, Al Pacino, or any of the other actors whose career Coogan envies. Read the rest of this entry »
by Diego Costa
It may be easy, for the psychoanalytically uninitiated (those quick to roll their eyes without engaging with the actual literature), to take Foucault’s figures of 19th Century power-knowledge – “the hysterical woman, the masturbating child, the Malthusian couple and the perverse adult” – as a series of jabs at a psychoanalytical project, which, at least partially created these figures. However, that would be to confound psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis into one big homogeneous monster, and mostly, to ignore psychoanalysis’ dynamic, and multipronged, unfolding throughout the 20th Century.[i]
Foucault’s envisioning of that potentiality of desire(s) somehow unbound by a pre-made tautological relationship to objects, free to roam around like flanêurs, against what he called the “deployment of sexuality,” is perhaps the unseen link that can suture both queer and psychoanalytic projects. To insist on not seeing that conduit line may mean to keep on tripping over it, and allowing it to knot up and around the researcher’s own desire for truth of her object of study. For, as we know, any analytical project that demands its truth without accepting its risks is one fated to be a victim of its own perversions. The desire of the theorist, or the “instinct for research” (Forschertrieb) or knowledge (Wisstrieb), whose first signs are known to coincide with the sexual life of children’s “first peak,” is too often missing from queer work’s considerations, although it is never absent. And we would do well in recognizing the desire of the (queer) theorist, always already a (sexual) sublimation vying for some kind of mastery, precisely when it takes the shape of such symbolic reluctance: where is, for instance, the theorist’s dealings with her own “counter-transferences”?[ii]
This is not to say that queer theorists haven’t included their own selves, consciously and not, whilst producing their work. I am suggesting, however, that we would benefit from a more calculated, and strategic, awareness of self-implication in conducting research that is akin to the extensive work that psychoanalysis has created concerning the analyst herself as a desiring subject. The branches of Queer Theory that resist a psychoanalytical approach often reveal a blinding U.S.-centrism in their claims of Austria-centrism against psychoanalysis itself, along with the history of a certain sublimation that comes with “I,” including strategies to control the personal risk inherent to the research, keeping it from contaminating the researcher herself, or exposing an always already contaminated researcher.[iii] The irony, or the kinship, being the way in which Queer Theory and psychoanalysis aim to detect the undetectable…What is most interesting about psychoanalysis if not its inherent queering mechanism? With its constant flow of remembering and forgetting theory, using and misusing theory, setting up and putting on theory into a scene (that is alive), there is no mode of thought/contemplation, inquiry/deconstruction, perception/narrativization, engagement/awakening, intellectualization/being queerer than psychoanalysis’.