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Det politiska omedvetna : berättelsen som social symbolhandling

av Fredric Jameson

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525235,741 (3.97)3
Fredric Jameson, in The Political Unconscious, opposes the view that literary creation can take place in isolation from its political context. He asserts the priority of the political interpretation of literary texts, claiming it to be at the center of all reading and understanding, not just a supplement or auxiliary to other methods current today. Jameson supports his thesis by looking closely at the nature of interpretation. Our understanding, he says, is colored by the concepts and categories that we inherit from our culture's interpretive tradition and that we use to comprehend what we read. How then can the literature of other ages be understood by readers from a present that is culturally so different from the past? Marxism lies at the foundation of Jameson's answer, because it conceives of history as a single collective narrative that links past and present; Marxist literary criticism reveals the unity of that uninterrupted narrative. Jameson applies his interpretive theory to nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts, including the works of Balzac, Gissing, and Conrad. Throughout, he considers other interpretive approaches to the works he discusses, assessing the importance and limitations of methods as different as Lacanian psychoanalysis, semiotics, dialectical analysis, and allegorical readings. The book as a whole raises directly issues that have been only implicit in Jameson's earlier work, namely the relationship between dialectics and structuralism, and the tension between the German and the French aesthetic traditions. The Political Unconscious is a masterly introduction to both the method and the practice of Marxist criticism. Defining a mode of criticism and applying it successfully to individual works, it bridges the gap between theoretical speculation and textual analysis.… (mer)
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Jameson at his most lucid. I especially like the first chapter, which spells out the ideological stakes of different literary critical methodologies. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
On one level, I like Jameson a lot. I agree with him about a lot of important stuff: yes, most art contains hefty doses of ideology (lies we tell ourselves so we feel better about living in a crappy world) and utopian hope (desire to live in a better world than ours). Yes, to understand this you need to pay attention to history and not just the book/movie/painting/building/symphony. Yes, it's a nice idea to read stories as attempts to solve real world problems.
But there's plenty not to like about this book. Primarily, Jameson treats the authors he writes about as naughty schoolboys who *never* tell the truth. Young Conrad, you keep telling me you're writing about the late-Victorian culture of honor, but I know better. Present thy buttocks for a class-war** caning! Whack! 'Lord Jim' is a proto-existentialist philosophy of the act, and you know it! Whack! This philosophy of the act demoralizes the capitalists and reveals to us, your reader, the omnipresence of class war! Whack!
Why not say that Conrad had some frigging clue about what he was doing? Why not see that Lord Jim just is about the late-Victorian culture of honor, that it criticizes that culture, and then ask how that critique might fit in to an historical understanding of the time? Well, doing that wouldn't let Jameson spend endless pages constructing Greimasian structural-quadrilaterals that eliminate any sense that a plot moves. That wouldn't let him make pointless, ignorant arguments about the Bourgeois Subject. That wouldn't enable him to take random pot-shots at Henry James for believing that people think stuff sometimes. In short, he might have to admit that he's no cleverer than the authors he's reading.
Let's do a Jamesonian reading of Jameson. The ideology is his insistence that structuralism and anti-humanism are somehow emancipatory, when experience (not to mention his reading of Adorno) should have taught him that they are deeply oppressive.*** Jameson's utopia, on the other hand, is his belief that literature matters to us, that it isn't just an autonomous formal jewel floating somewhere in the empyrean. Nice.


** His insistence on 'class war' as *the* structure of all history just seems silly in contrast to the ideology stuff, but it's important to note why: the only definition of class that can hold this kind of weight is Marx's. His definition is: the bourgeoisie owns the means of production, everyone else is a proletariat. The problem should be clear. Lawyers, for instance, don't own the means of production; nor do plastic surgeons. By contrast, the owners of small bookstores do. Now class obviously hasn't been eliminated. But in a post-industrial society, the bourgeois/proletariat model no longer makes any sense in political terms. So, the only model of class conflict that can be a prime-mover of history no longer makes sense in political terms. We need to re-think any reliance on 'class' as said prime-mover.

*** By which I mean, capital itself is structuralist and anti-humanist; the unreflective use of structuralism and anti-humanism as 'radical' theories is just bowing down before the thing you're trying to undermine. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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Fredric Jameson, in The Political Unconscious, opposes the view that literary creation can take place in isolation from its political context. He asserts the priority of the political interpretation of literary texts, claiming it to be at the center of all reading and understanding, not just a supplement or auxiliary to other methods current today. Jameson supports his thesis by looking closely at the nature of interpretation. Our understanding, he says, is colored by the concepts and categories that we inherit from our culture's interpretive tradition and that we use to comprehend what we read. How then can the literature of other ages be understood by readers from a present that is culturally so different from the past? Marxism lies at the foundation of Jameson's answer, because it conceives of history as a single collective narrative that links past and present; Marxist literary criticism reveals the unity of that uninterrupted narrative. Jameson applies his interpretive theory to nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts, including the works of Balzac, Gissing, and Conrad. Throughout, he considers other interpretive approaches to the works he discusses, assessing the importance and limitations of methods as different as Lacanian psychoanalysis, semiotics, dialectical analysis, and allegorical readings. The book as a whole raises directly issues that have been only implicit in Jameson's earlier work, namely the relationship between dialectics and structuralism, and the tension between the German and the French aesthetic traditions. The Political Unconscious is a masterly introduction to both the method and the practice of Marxist criticism. Defining a mode of criticism and applying it successfully to individual works, it bridges the gap between theoretical speculation and textual analysis.

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