Freud’s Drive: Psychoanalysis, Literature and Film
Rereading Freud’s theory of the death drive with fictional narratives, Delauretis, suggests that Freud’s metapsychology creates a figurative language that translates the subject’s unconscious.
In “Desire in Narrative,” De lauretis historicizes the concept of desire and criticizes structuralist model of reading for their inability to disclose the ways in which narrative operates, through the desire it excites and fulfills, to construct the social world as a system of sexual differences.
“What fiction is to literature, fantasy is to psychic reality” (Freud’s Drive, 146).
This sentence occurs in a section entitled “Figures of Translation”, which is in chapter five, “The Order of Memory.” The sentence is striking because of its figure of speech. It is a simile that juxtaposes and even equates two completely different things, literature and psychic reality, fiction and fantasy. We cannot start our reading without pointing out that De Lauretis repetively uses this figure of speech throughout her analysis. As such, our reading seeks to analyze the rhetorical role of this simile in a section about “figures of translation.” How does the simile in this sentence confirm or resist the very idea of translation, transportability, or intertextuality of meaning? What will the sentence reveal about literature and psychoanalysis translation if we rewrite the simile as literature to psychic reality is like fiction to fantasy?
In this sentence, De Lauretis weaves fiction and fantasy together for them to act in defiance to the divide between literature and psychic reality. The comma in the middle of the sentence accompanies the weaving and insists on the process. As such, it carries on working and facilitating the equation of literature to psychic reality. At the same time, the comma also creates a spatial divide as it marks the grouping of two different categories, we want to name episodes. The spatial divide created by the comma, established a place of resistance, which marks the flight of two episodes of the sentence from the equating demands of the simile into the story of difference. The simile can then be read as depicting the desire for, and yet the impossibility of, the perfect weaving of the two parts of the sentence. But the simile itself has pointed out how the comma has an influence on the sentence, so that although the divide is implicitly present, it is absent in the movement of the sentence toward meaning. At this point, I wonder to what extent can we complicate this reading if we replace meaning by its French equivalent, sens(e)? We may perceive the simile in two ways as sen(se) (bodily feeling and/or perception) and as meaning. For example, though we may sense two different episodes in the sentence (literature to fiction and fantasy to psychic reality), De Lauretis -the subject of the sentence, or as Lacan may call her, the subject of enunciation- is concerned with making us perceive the blurring of boundaries between literature and psychic reality, between fiction and fantasy. The inter- and intratext play of the simile incorporates an eclectic mix of elements from literature and psychoanalysis. The effect of the simile is also its cause, in the sense that it generates the enunciation of the sentence. This circularity makes it difficult, if not impossible to separate the resistance of the simile to a straightforward linear model of cause and effect that can be recognized as an unsettling dynamic throughout the Metamorphoses from literature psychic reality, fiction to fantasy. Therefore what the simile does not tell us is: it is particularly troublesome when it comes to forging connections between the world depicted by literature and the world outside of it, whether the latter is the world of Psychoanalysis or the reader’s.
Throughout the text, De Lauretis mafinests a compulsion to repeat similes in order to discuss two possible ways of interpreting the sentence that link the process of forging such connections with the judgment made about the final outcome of each metamorphosis. He argues that if the reader chooses to focus on the form of the new shape, the process of metamorphosis is normalized because the fantastical event is subordinated to the familiarity of the end product in the present. De Lauretis concludes her reading of Barnes’ Nightwood with this observation “I tried to show, in my reading, how certain words or phrases revive the sense of another scene, half away between a memory and a sensation, the feeling of something unremembered and yet having occurred, (..) something made active but not made visible” (148). Perceived from De Lauretis’ perception, “What fiction is to literature, fantasy is to psychic reality” perpetuates as well as resists order and stability. If the reader concentrates on its resistance of the metamorphosis, its entire process becomes much more disturbing; each transformation appears less a stage in the structure of the sentence than the shutting down of an individual subject of enunciation, locked in opposition.