Freud and Lacan Seminar
Date: Sunday, November 9, 1997 11:28:49 PM
From: Jason Jacobs
To: Earl Jackson, Jr.
Hi Earl. This is kind of weird. There’s no time limit for the
test, is there?
1. As I mentioned the other day, my research
interests are kind of split and strange right now. I actually had a just-got-into-bed-but-not-asleep-yet-thinking
crisis the other night, wondering if I should keep doing Pre- and Early
Modern stuff, which is more or less familiar, or just jump into modern
lit, about which I know far less. Anyway, the truly continuous aspect of
my work is my interest in gender studies. Maybe it’s just because it’s
a way to get paid for my fascination with all things sexual and my compulsive
relationship to self-disclosure. One of the nice things about coming out
and taking a theory class in the same semester of college was that my life
materialized as an interesting text to work on; sifting through how gender
and sexuality had worked–or hadn’t–in my own experience became something
legitimate to do, and of course very liberating in certain ways. So . .
. turning that same scrutiny toward „cultural artifacts,“ and then back
again, is what I think my research is most about. Makes it hard to settle
on a period, maybe, but whatever.
2. I decided to take Freud and Lacan because I
thought it would be a good chance to chug a whole bunch of psychoanalysis,
preparing me for future deciphering of psychoanalytic criticism and giving
me retroactive clarity on that Irigaray I read two years ago. It hadn’t
occurred to me that I might want to use it myself, but I think I might.
These are people that do psychoanalysis that I think are cool: Judith „Who’re
you calling a woman?“ Butler, Lee Edelman, Leo Bersani (sometimes), um
. . . I’ll read your book and let you know.
3. One of my professors in college told me that
people use psychoanalysis because it’s the only rigorous theory we have
for dealing with interiority. She said it in response to what she was experiencing
as a difficult generational gap–the people doing cool work in lit with
her, most of whom were friends of mine, had this reluctance to using psychoanalysis
that she just couldn’t understand. A mean ex-boyfriend of mine felt confident
in his ability to „get“ Deleuze and Guattari, so he’d never have to do
Freud. He’s a temp now. Anyway, I now see what Miriam meant–there’s no
way to talk about „what’s going on in there“ without a comprehensive theory,
and my „not believing“ Freud is kind of strange, considering the fact that
I use other theoretical models that are just as tenuous–just as literally
THEORETICAL–as psychoanalysis, they just seem like they make more sense
to me. So, maybe it seems to me like Foucault is just right about power
and the world, but it’s important to recognize that any time I invoke Foucault
to talk about something I’m making strategic use of a theoretical model,
period. Same thing with Freud–something like desire, for example, is importantly
unexplainable, but it’s also important to have a way to describe a process
like desire, even if that description is provisional, especially if that
description serves a political purpose.
–something else one of my friends said about why people
use psychoanalyis: because Freud is like God at this point–an absent presence–even
if he never existed, and even if he doesn’t exist in the way some people
imagine him to, we just can’t „be“ in the twentieth century without him.
—-stuff I just said will be qualified in number 4, I
4. Well, I seem to have been wrong about this seminar’s
serving the purpose of cramming a bunch of Freud and Lacan into our heads.
We’re not covering as much as I thought. Instead, I think maybe we’re being
indoctrinated. Maybe not all of us. I feel like I’m getting two related
things out of the course: an inverted suspicion, in that I’m no longer
preoccupied with my suspicion of Freud, but am starting to suspect that
he might be right, and (this is the second thing) some basic skills in
reading Freud for whatever reason . . . and that suspicion thing is important
here. So I thought we’d be reading about hysteria and melancholia, and
it seems like we’re not going to; but what we have been doing has given
me the desire to, and hopefully the skills to, use stuff on hysteria and
melancholia anyway. Hence the two papers we’ve talked about. I said before
that this answer would qualify my answer to number 3. I said that because
number 3 seems to be my reply to a question, „why do humanities scholars
use Freud when everyone knows he’s bunk?“ So I thought that this answer
would respond to that tendency in my thinking up to this quarter–that
Foucault’s right, Derrida might be right but I’m not really sure what he’d
be right about if he WERE to be right, and Freud is quaint but off-base
and only useful despite himself. Actually, that last thing, about his being
useful despite himself, might still be a large part of my interest in him–Leo
Bersani says something great in „Is the Rectum a Grave?“, something to
the tune of: maybe penis envy tells us nothing about female sexuality .
. . duh . . . it doesn’t, but it tells us lots of about male sexuality,
patriarchal society, blah, etc. That’s a good example of where Freud would
be the genius of finding the culture’s prejudices, if only by participating
in them himself. Part of my indocrtination is that I’m now hesitant to
just assume that we know more about what what’s going on in Freud than
he does, so that’s producing interesting kinds of tension between my taking
his word for it and my needing to always critique what he says . . . but
I guess that’s the way to do it, huh?
5. My biologist housemate explains
his sexuality in simple terms–there’s a gene that makes him like dick
(his word choice) and it’s that easy. He says that he can also give a biological
explanation of how desire itself operates, and probably say some things
about gender, too. He warns that we shouldn’t think that just because the
truth might have unpleasant political consequences we can just avoid it
or reject it.
This is a super-intelligent guy, with decent politics.
So this is one of the things that really fascinates me–how
incredibly complex constructions like gender and sexuality can produce
themselves as simple, stable, and real. One of the things that I like best
about Judith Butler is that after having identified gender as a fiction,
she went on to point on that there are certain
fictions without which we can’t live, without which we can’t think
, or even be. So the really interesting work that’s left to be done, I
think , is to find out how and why I’m a man when I’m sleeping and gay
in the shower (that’s alone in the shower, importantly). How do people
„live“ these constructs, these fictions? What’s going on behind what those
odious social „scientists“ call socialization? How does something produced
on the outside get inside, and why does it feel like it’s always been there?
My housemate says there’s a gene for homosexuality, and
of course my question is „Okay, well, what’s homosexuality?“ There’s no
simple answer for why men who
like dick are more likely than others to
identify the color of a sweater as forest. Seems to me that if you’re trying
to talk about interiority, like I mentioned before, and you’re looking
for the opposite of a simple answer, psychoanalysis is the thing for you.
inserts a comment here: I think your housemate
meant there are jeans for homosexuals, named after a famous
closet case, since they stay put in the same overdetermined spatial metaphor
after one frolics home with them from the Gap.]
6. I already told you my paper
is the killer in Friday the 13th .
butts in one more time: Of
course, given the phallocratic rigamarole, most men who worship
dick (like the
Promise Keepers) do so as an expression of heterosexuality.
On the other hand (continued the scarecrow from the corn field to the left),
many gay male sexualities have little or even nothing to do with „liking
dick„, so to speak, or at least the men in question, if confronted
with that summation would be hardpressed (if they thought about it) to
accept it or recognize it as theirs. One of my crackpot educated guesses
is that this way of describing gay male sexuality [I’m not criticizing
by the way, I’m only speculating aloud – or at least the cybernetic
equivalent of „aloud“ [perhaps “ extemporaneously“ murmured the Dodo
over the OED.]
is generated from a phallocentric notion of male sexuality and male primacy
(the totem of the clan, after all) and has more or less been adopted by
gay subcultures because its the handiest and most esperanto
esperanto) school song around. Why am I going on like this, you ask
(or not)? Probably in preparation for the discussion eventually about the
object of desire
and conceiving of it etc. etc. usw.
Are conceived, designed, and
Who welcomes conversation