Although this is officially an ‘unthemed’ issue of New Formations - collecting simply the best unsolicited submissions received by the journal over the past two years - the resonances and convergence between its various contributions are remarkable. Every article here is concerned in one way or another with issues around the theorisation of experience, affect, and temporality: with the technologically, temporally and socially distributed nature of experience. Several essays concern themselves in novel ways with the unstable relationship between the interior self and the surfaces on which it is reflected or expressed, and whose interrelationships are its condition of im/possibility. The irreducibly social and technological character of existence is a key theme which runs across several contributions. The historical specificity and/or the conceptual insufficiency of orthodox psychoanalytic doctrines is a recurring theme, explored here in an array of polemical and analytic contexts. The importance of the early twentieth century as a key point of historical and intellectual reference comes up in several different ways, even while other key moments - from the moment of Kant’s formulation of the modern subject to the events of 1968 to the present day - are crucial as well.
Lisa Baraitser’s essay considers the return of the ‘peace camp’ form of protest which has characterised recent pro-democracy uprisings, and re-reads Luisa Passerini’s classic 1988 study, Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968, as a way of understanding the intergenerational dynamics of protest. Baraitser argues that through an engagement with the psychoanalytic tropes of rememoration and delayed action, we can see how this text both engages and reverses the classic feminist slogan, ‘the personal is political’, showing that it is through a capacity to attach to one’s own generation and to establish retroactively the lateral relations of ‘my time’, that the work of psychoanalysis can take place. Drawing on Bracha Ettinger’s notion of the matrixial, the paper further proposes that this capacity for attachment to ‘my time’, is linked to what it is not possible to separate from, lose, or abject, which Ettinger traces as an alternative substrata to psychic life, marked in the feminine as a form of positive difference. Baraitser reads the matrixial in political rather than personal terms, linking it to a return to the aesthetics of communal living proposed by the ‘peace camp’. The paper concludes by tying together the double meaning of generation: generation as the collective time-frame of the political with generation as the matrixial substratum of psychic life.
Victoria Coulson makes a comparably radical engagement with psychoanalytic theory, contending that contemporary practices of literary criticism continue to reproduce and reiterate idealist propositions about the nature of subjectivity and the mind/body split. To explore this claim, her essay examines the reception by late twentieth- and early twenty-first century Anglophone scholarship of Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault’s work on shoplifting in fin-de-siècle Parisian department stores. The essay demonstrates that recent scholarship on de Clérambault reproduces the idealist assumptions that informed critical accounts of his work in the early 1990s, and locates these philosophical postulates within two interrelated poststructuralist interventions that enjoyed significant intellectual prestige in the 1980s and [End Page 5] 1990s: the critique of the ‘culture of consumption,’ and the feminist deployment of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. The article proposes that a new interpretation of de Clérambault’s work may challenge the sexual politics of the philosophical idealism that structured some of the most influential feminist scholarship of the poststructuralist era, and that continues to shape critical thinking today.
Rex Ferguson’s essay covers adjacent ground, examining the emergence of new conceptions of selfhood, memoration, depth and surface around the turn of the twentieth century. In 1901, fingerprinting was first implemented by Scotland Yard for the purposes of criminal identification. Recording identity in the imprint left by a body’s digits allowed for the identification of individuals on a mass scale, ‘fixing’ their identity with apparently incontrovertible certainty. But Ferguson argues that the fingerprint also served as an example of a much more enigmatic and ‘impressionistic’ identity that appears also in the discourses of two contemporary figures - Sigmund Freud and Joseph Conrad. In the...