Bersani explores the relationship between literature and Psychoanalysis through detailed readings of literary and Art works that uncover the way in which sexuality ceaselessly works to undo the conventionally narrative strategies of Freudian texts such as Three Essays on Sexuality, Civilization and Its Discontents, The Ego and the Id, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
Desire and Death
Through a reading of sadomachism in Baudelaire’s poetry and Freud’s texts, Bersani explores the relationship between desire and destruction.
Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Extrapolating from his conclusions on perversion, Freud formulates a theory of mind in which sexuality is viewed as central and active from infancy on.
Passage for close reading:
“The moves in Freud which we have been trying to replicate are, I believe, an exceptionally visible model of the moves by which consciousness abolishes this process without being implicated in it – that is, without the description itself being a kind of enfolded, or ‘internalized-within-it’ moving away”(65).
This sentence appears in the third chapter of the book in the middle of a discussion on the deformation of Freud’s thesis in Beyond the Pleasure Principle by what Bersani calls: “a hidden corruptive force” (65). While reading this sentence, I was strike by the connotation of a tension between mobility and immobility. As such, my reading seeks to explore how this trope of mobility and immobility allows Bersani to stay with Freud but at the same time slip out of Freud’s texts and undertake a theoretical expansiveness which effect is a rapprochement of Bersani to his contemporaries.
The sentence bears echoes of deceitful movement. The latter is initiated by the repetition of the word “moves” and the commas enclosing “I believe.” The Commas and the repetition of “moves” in the main clause produce a circumferential expansiveness of the first segment of the sentence while also indicating a shift in the argument being made in the sentence. This shift is indicative of Bersani as well as the consciousness failure to move away from deconstructing what Freud’s moves are creating. Though Bersani’s project is to how the Freud’s methodology interferes with his own approach of literary criticism and theorization, he fails to do that in this sentence. In the same way as the last section of the sentence “moving away” is distanced from its modifier by the dashes, Bersani moves away from Freud by his failure to “replicate” his methodology.
Unlike Freud moves, Bersani’s moves are not therapeutical, for they do not seek to analyze the ways in which the unconscious of consciousness challenges his enterprise. As such, Bersani’s therapeutic failure reflects a post-Lacanian devaluation of consciousness. Like Julia Kristeva in The Revolution in Poetic Language (1974), he persists in celebrating the semiotic processes. The moves Bersani sets himself is similar to Kristeva’s concern with putting forward a "theory of signification" that will take into account the formation of the subject (Kristeva,78) at the intersection of “corporeal, linguistic and social” forces (Kristeva,15).
The other issue that concerns Bersani in this sentence and that is similar to Kristeva semiotic theorization is the concern with moving from the notion of beginning. If beginning is concerned with a passage from the biological organism to the social, speaking subject. What is at stake here is how we conceive of this passage that renders possible the order within which we live.