Diana Manister wrote:
> Sexual identity seems to be an important theme in TWL. I look forward
> to reading more about the subject in Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in
> T. S. Eliot, a book by Cassandra Laity and Nancy K. Gish.
> On the biographical level, Eliot seems to have suffered some identity
> confusion. I have read ccounts of Eliot wearing green facepowder, one
> of them I believe from Virginia Woolf. This theatrical
> affectation would indicate a desire for masking, the taking on of a
Try the following as a perspective on the ambivalences/contradictions
you are touching on here. From
The Parallax View by Slavoj Zizek · MIT, 434 pp, £16.95
Full at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n17/jame02_.html
As for what has persisted through this now considerable oeuvre, I will
start with the dialectic, of which Zizek is one of the great
contemporary practitioners. The old stereotype is that Hegel works
according to a cut-and-dried progression from thesis, through
antithesis, to synthesis. This, Zizek explains, is completely erroneous:
there are no real syntheses in Hegel and the dialectical operation is to
be seen in an utterly different way; a variety of examples are adduced.
Still, that stupid stereotype was not altogether wrong. There is a
tripartite movement in the Hegelian dialectic, and in fact, Zizek goes
on, he has just illustrated it: stupid stereotype, or the ‘appearance’;
ingenious correction, the underlying reality or ‘essence’; finally,
after all, the return to the reality of the appearance, so that it was
the appearance that was ‘true’ after all.
What can this possibly have to do with popular culture? Let’s take a
Hollywood product, say, Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Window (1944). (Maybe
now Fritz Lang belongs to high culture rather than mass culture, but
anyway . . .) Edward G. Robinson is a mild-mannered professor who,
leaving his peaceful club one night, gets caught up in a web of love and
murder. We think we are watching a thriller. At length, he takes refuge
in his club again, falls asleep from exhaustion, and wakes up: it was
all a dream. The movie has done the interpretation for us, by way of
Lang’s capitulation to the cheap Hollywood insistence on happy endings.
But in reality – which is to say in the true appearance – Edward G.
Robinson ‘is not a quiet, kind, decent, bourgeois professor dreaming
that he is a murderer, but a murderer dreaming, in his everyday life,
that he is a quiet, kind, decent, bourgeois professor’. Hollywood’s
censorship is therefore not some puritanical, uptight middle-class
mechanism for repressing the obscene, nasty, antisocial, violent
underside of life: it is, rather, the technique for revealing it.
Zizek’s interpretative work, from page to page, seems to revel in these
paradoxes: but that is itself only some ‘stupid first impression’ (one
of his favourite phrases). In reality, the paradox-effect is designed to
undo that second moment of ingenuity, which is that of interpretation
(it looks like this to you, but in reality what is going on is this . .
.): the paradox is of the second order, so that what looks like a
paradox is in reality simply a return to the first impression