Speaking the Unspeakable

Diane Jonte-Pace

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780520226005
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927698 | DOI:
Speaking the Unspeakable

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In a bold rereading of Freud's cultural texts, this book uncovers an undeveloped “counter thesis,”, one that repeatedly interrupts or subverts his well-known Oedipal master plot. The counter thesis is evident in three clusters of themes within Freud's work: maternity, mortality, and immortality; Judaism and anti-Semitism; and mourning and melancholia. Each of these clusters is associated with “the uncanny” and with death and loss. Appearing most frequently in Freud's images, metaphors, and illustrations, the counter thesis is no less present for being unspoken—it is, indeed, “unspeakable.” The “uncanny mother” is a primary theme found in Freud's texts involving fantasies of immortality and mothers as instructors in death. In other texts, the book finds a story of Jews for whom the dangers of assimilation to a dominant Gentile culture are associated unconsciously with death and the uncanny mother. The counter thesis appears in the story of anti-Semites for whom the “uncanny impression of circumcision” gives rise not only to castration anxiety but also to matrophobia. It also surfaces in Freud's ability to mourn the social and religious losses accompanying modernity, and his inability to mourn the loss of his own mother. The unfolding of Freud's counter thesis points toward a theory of the cultural and unconscious sources of misogyny and anti-Semitism in “the unspeakable.” This book opens exciting new vistas for the feminist analysis of Freud's intellectual legacy.

Keywords: Freud; counter thesis; maternity; mortality; immortality; Judaism; anti-Semitism; mourning; melancholia; the uncanny; death; loss; matrophobia; misogyny

Book.  200 pages. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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