Journal of Modern Literature 25.3-4 (2002) v-vii
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Introduction to the Special Issue
Global Freud: Psychoanalytic Cultures and Classic Modernism
The essays collected in this Special Issue of the Journal of Modern Literature, as their titles and approaches suggest, represent a variety of psychoanalytic cultures in their readings of the literature, art, film, and criticism constituting classic Modernism.
By "psychoanalytic culture," I mean the distinctive ethos associated with one or another tradition of re-reading Freud, whatever the critic's institutional basis or ideological affiliation may be. Ego-psychology, object-relations theory, self-object theory, feminist, Lacanian, Kristevan, "queer theory" and post-colonial versions of Freud—all these practices of re-interpreting the principal tenets of psychoanalysis, along with their accompanying worldviews and identity-politics, compose the uniquely psychoanalytic approaches to the Modernist works, figures, movements, and developments on display and under investigation in this issue.
Among the figures explored in the issue are such international twentieth-century literary, critical, cinematic, and analytic masters as Jack London, André Breton, Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, W.B. Yeats, Paul Claudel, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Renoir, Franòois Truffaut, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Octave Mannoni. Also included are such rediscovered minority figures as Zora Neale Hurston, so-called "godmother" of the most prominent contemporary African-American women writers, and Henry Blake Fuller, a once celebrated realistic novelist whose unique gay perspective and neglected experimental works are only now being critically appreciated.
The movements and developments in modern culture discussed in the issue are various and fundamental to any understanding of modern culture. They include: critical humanism, aesthetic decadence, naturalism, surrealism, the women's movement, gay liberation, the literary and cultural politics of intellectual elites, the Harlem Renaissance, avant garde French cinema, and influential anti-colonialist revisions of psychoanalytic discourses on modern culture. While there are undoubtedly somewhat more theoretical contributions in this special issue than usual for JML, all of the contributions treat their object of analysis—literary work, film, modern culture at large—after the model of Freud himself: as a symptomatic text like the dream-work which betrays, under the close reader's eye, the significance of its symptoms.
My main title, "Global Freud," refers, first, to what I take to be the unassailable fact of contemporary life, viz., that along with the world-wide ascendancy of American power (military, economic, cultural), the many versions of Freud and his invention, psychoanalysis, have been transmitted via the telecommunication media, as well as the more traditional media of print and publishing. Freud's vocabulary alone—of Freudian slips, repression, regression, character types, adjustment to reality, what he termed the entire psychopathology of everyday life—has become embedded, ironically enough, in the English language, now the international lingua franca. It is, of course, this historical development that makes possible the formation of psychoanalytic cultures in the first place.
Second, beyond this curious mediation of linguistic and cultural transmission, the examples of psychoanalytic institutes and associations, of psychoanalytic identity-politics, have provided efficacious models and programs for intellectual groups, with international, not to say global aspirations, that would not (or could not) follow a fully explicit revolutionary political model. This exemplary function of psychoanalytic politics informs both the substance of the critical discussions in this issue and their underlying assumptions. [End Page v]
Whatever else Freud may have taught us, therefore, he also taught us both how effective an intellectual elite, internationally positioned and well-traveled, can be in producing a pervasive cultural influence and, as the essays begin particularly to detail, how to think about the relation between such modern group psychology and the analysis of the individual ego. The adjective "global" in my main title means also, then, to underscore the all-encompassing nature of Freudian influence in this sense.
Finally, of course, "Global Freud" alludes to the evident "world-historical" procession of psychoanalysis, in tandem with Modernist culture, pursuing a particularly identifiable course, which goes from the Continent to England and North America, and then moves on to South America, and from there, virtually, everywhere...