- Effects of Identity
Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen
Brown Walker Press
264 Pages; Print, $36.95
Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen’s recent book is a well-balanced inquiry into the re-mediation that literary theory needs to carry out in the current world, marked by persistent, systemic violence, and negative social emotions, as well as by the reemergence of frozen, centralized formulas of power. Such reemergence is reflected in the winning slogan of the 2016 US presidential elections, for example. The call to restore a (national) American identity, one that has been functioning subtextually after September 11, 2001, is analyzed in a much wider space than merely Donald Trump’s campaign. From this viewpoint, “Make America Great Again!” should concern literary theorists because it produces, on the deeper strata of cultural memory, a phenomenon of resonance and vibration that needs to be counterbalanced. On the backdrop of diffusing the threats of violence, the phrase “great again” signals the society’s need to anchor itself in a stable center of power. As such, the violence of this slogan not only becomes imprinted on the electorate through its recent preference for a character emerging directly from the hyperreality of televised shows, but also in the way in which there is a generalized embracing of the idea that, beyond the orgiastic proliferation of simulacra, everything can be undone, unreeled, reversed toward a point of origin. The “point of origin” is defined by Vrajitoru Andreasen as the moment before “the fall,” the moment prior to being expelled from a certain territory, whether we define this territory — in mythical, psychoanalytical or structuralist terms — as “lost paradise,” as “authentic self,” or as “meaning.”
Discovering a “fallen” mode of being-within-the-world that founds the concept of identity (as it relates to “innocence,” “authenticity,” and “meaning”), the author believes that literary theory is called upon to problematize the very definition of “corrupt” identity, to critique the territorialized ways in which it is employed and, last but not least, to heal: “I examine the lacks in the concept of identity, rather than its fullness, and I explain why it is impossible to isolate it as an untouched, incorruptible and fully meaningful entity.” It is precisely this study of the “lacks” or “missing links” in the concept of identity that gives the critical style a dynamic, urgent rhythm, with oracular shades. I am referring to a dynamism that, in spite of the subtitle and the deconstructionist bibliographic repertoire, is neither “frenetic writing” nor “fatal analysis,” and it isn’t “radical thinking” either; it [End Page 23] rather pertains to critical imagination, a faculty that is set in motion by the utter difficulty of the object under investigation: “when something is perceived as having been lost, the mere fact of it having existed validates going to any lengths in attempting to retrieve it. The cost of the search is irrelevant.”
Drawing from Christian tradition, though not exclusively, fallenness can be assimilated to the condition of mankind’s fall from Paradise. However, what Vrajitoru Andreasen calls “fallenness” (in the sense of a loss and a degradation), proves to be, upon deeper scrutiny, the most important and the most dangerous aspect of identity. From this derives, it appears, the binary, visibly non-democratic thinking about the recent crises and the subsequent positioning of public actors. The debates around NATO wars, terrorism, financial meltdowns, or the emergence of authoritarianism can be interpreted as a resonance of the ways in which Western thought has harnessed its resources, along its history, to serve this problematic issue of identity.
Inextricably linked to a bad habit — that is, judging ourselves and others as fallen, unworthy and essentially guilty beings — the theme of the fall, but also, strictly connected to it, the theme of degradation and generalized corruption have always been converted, notes the author, into political purposes and energies: “The issue is this: the self and the Other must find ways to end the judgment of each other’s (and their own) identities for allegedly being...