- Take Her, She’s Yours by Eva-Lynn Jagoe
Psychoanalysis, both in theory and practice, becomes particularly enlivened when a foundational concept comes to life in the most wildly unexpected and strangely serendipitous manner. In my practice, I often find myself returning to the well-trod-den Freudian idea of the uncanny, that “species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar” (124). This review, as will become apparent shortly, emerged from just such an uncanny experience that both inflected my reading of Eva-Lynn Jagoe’s book and its possible perception within public discourse.
While working my way through Jagoe’s text, I posted an image of the book’s cover on my Instagram account on a whim, mentioning that I was thinking of reviewing it. Within minutes, I received a private message from a well-meaning colleague alerting me to a minor controversy involving Jagoe in 2017. The issue in question involved an essay that Jagoe had published in the Spring 2018 issue of the journal Discourse, “Jumping the Break: Wildfires and the Logic of Separation.” The essay outlines Jagoe’s perception of the events and discussions during the 2017 iteration of the Banff Research in Culture residency program, of which she was one of the co-organizers. Other participants in the program and some of the guest faculty took issue with Jagoe’s account and characterization of events, issuing a collectively authored critique. This response, “Staying with the Breaks, Disappropriating the Universal: A Response to Eva-Lynn Jagoe,” was also published in the subsequent Winter 2019 issue of Discourse. In the same issue of the journal, Jagoe was invited to provide a response to “Staying with the Breaks,” “Broken? Notes toward 2067.”
The matter was thus seemingly resolved in true academic fashion: a contentious essay, a necessary critique, and a response to the criticism, all published by the same journal that offered its pages as the site for this spirited exchange, until, of course, my well-meaning colleague reached out to alert me of what had happened. Not only did she message me and give me a brief summary of the events as they seemed to have played out, but she also offered to email me PDF versions of the “two racist ‘essays’” [sic]. Within minutes, the first two essays had arrived in my inbox. In the meantime, I removed my post, found the third text—Jagoe’s response to the criticism—through my university’s library system, and prepared myself to read all three texts in earnest and think about what had just occurred in this bewildering encounter.
It was startling, to say the least. What I was startled by, however, in thinking more about this instance of concern, after I had read the essays in question, was not the debate per se. I was not at the residency and cannot claim to speak to what may have happened. As far as I was concerned, from my outsider’s perspective, the matter had [End Page 375] already been rigorously addressed. What startled me was how, unknowingly, my colleague had literalized the very title of Jagoe’s book. The need to reach out to me was baffling, especially when the concerns at hand had been addressed. My colleague had not indicated why she was sharing this information with me, and I was left with an uncertain feeling as to what she was expecting me to do, if anything. On reflecting upon it further, I began to observe that what my colleague had done was fascinatingly psychoanalytic in its gestural implications. She inadvertently manifested the psychic splitting that is the thematic core of Jagoe’s memoir, that so tormented the author and that she, as is outlined in the book, had spent her entire life struggling against. By alerting me to the debates, my colleague had passed Jagoe on to me, and, more precisely, had passed her subjectivity on to me as the reviewer of her book to be the bearer of some...