The Phantom of the Ego
Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious
Publication Year: 2013
The Phantom of the Ego is the first comparative study that shows how the modernist account of the unconscious anticipates contemporary discoveries about the importance of mimesis in the formation of subjectivity. Rather than beginning with Sigmund Freud as the father of modernism, Nidesh Lawtoo starts with Friedrich Nietzsche’s antimetaphysical diagnostic of the ego, his realization that mimetic reflexes—from sympathy to hypnosis, to contagion, to crowd behavior—move the soul, and his insistence that psychology informs philosophical reflection. Through a transdisciplinary, comparative reading of landmark modernist authors like Nietzsche, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, and Georges Bataille, Lawtoo shows that, before being a timely empirical discovery, the “mimetic unconscious” emerged from an untimely current in literary and philosophical modernism. This book traces the psychological, ethical, political, and cultural implications of the realization that the modern ego is born out of the spirit of imitation; it is thus, strictly speaking, not an ego, but what Nietzsche calls, “a phantom of the ego.” The Phantom of the Ego opens up a Nietzschean back door to the unconscious that has mimesis rather than dreams as its via regia, and argues that the modernist account of the “mimetic unconscious” makes our understanding of the psyche new.
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I am grateful to the Comparative Literature program at the University of Washington for providing the intellectual freedom necessary to conceive this ghost-hunt, to the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris for a transdisciplinary spirit that allowed me to pursue it, and to the commit-tee of the Pembroke College Fellowship for a research grant that made time to fi nally corner the ghost at the University of Cambridge. In particular, I would like to thank Leroy Searle, Carolyn Allen, Rod Mengham, Michael ...
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Th e greatest part of our being is unknown to us. . . . We have a phantom of the “ego” in our heads, which determines us many times over.A phantom is haunting the modern world—the phantom of the ego. Th is ghostly presence is not confined to the darkness of the night; nor is it simply the product of the oneiric imagination of the sleep-ing subject, something that can be willed away, at daybreak, when the light of reason returns. Rather, the modern ego seems to be tracked, haunted, ...
Chapter 1. Nietzsche’s Mimetic Patho(-)logy: From Antiquity to Modernity
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I am still waiting for a philosophical physician in the exceptional sense of When Nietzsche claims that a phantom is haunting the modern ego, he is not only expressing a personal, mimetic anxiety; he is also diagnosing a wider cultural sickness that aff ects and infects modernity as a whole. Th is mimetic pathology condemns the modern ego to live in a world of phantoms where ...
Chapter 2. Conrad and the Horror of Modernity
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It is thus that the maddest and most interesting ages of history always emerge, when the “actors,” all kinds of actors, become the real masters.Daybreak. Captain Kilgore’s squadron of helicopters ominously appears, soaring above the water, against the background of a fiery sky. “We are com-ing in low out of the rising sun and about a mile up we’ll put on the music,” ...
Chapter 3. D. H. Lawrence and the Dissolution of the Ego
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We all seem to be haunted by some specters of ourselves that we daren’t It is not a question of Lawrence imitating Nietzsche. Rather, he picks up an arrow, the one of Nietzsche, and shoots it elsewhere, with a diff erent Aft er Joseph Conrad, perhaps no modernist writer more than D. H. Law-rence invests the notion of “darkness” with mimetic aff ects that have the ...
Chapter 4. Bataille’s Mimetic Communication
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...[Y]ou ought to learn how to laugh, my young friends. . . . Th en, perhaps, as laughers, you may some day dispatch all metaphysical comforts to the Th e opening chapter of D. H. Lawrence’s Th e Plumed Serpent (1926), entitled “Beginnings of a Bull-fight,” stages a repellent, yet disturbingly fascinating spectacle. Newly arrived in Mexico City, the novel’s protagonist, Kate Leslie, ...
Coda. Mimetic Theory Revisited
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The spiraling movement of our mimetic inquiry has been turning around contagious patho(-)logies that traverse the modernist period and are responsible for generating what Nietzsche calls “the phan-tom of the ego.” What this ghost hunt through central figures in literary and philosophical modernism has taught us is that, in fin de siècle Europe, protean forms of psychic dispossession take place in a widening number, with increasing speed and power of infection. It also has revealed that the ...
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Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth