Thursday, April 21, 2011

Feminist Misrepresentation

Toril Moi's essay on Freud's Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria is an instructive case in point of feminist misreading. My first problem is with the premise of the essay itself, its rallying of all other vituperative feminist misreadings of Freud's case-history of Ida Bauer. The current of analysis is overwhelmed by the desperation and the almost breathless race to denounce Freud, the man, and not Freud, the analyst, as being complicit in the patriarchy of Dora's social milieu. It is disturbing to read the vacillating and sometimes melodramatic strain of anti-psychoanalytic retribution, as the thoughts of the critic plunge into the realm of the prurient and vindictive - Freud is suddenly the victim of castration anxiety, foolhardy and determined at all costs to bolster his phallogocentric assault on Dora to undermine her imminent threat of castration in the form of abandonment and incomplete knowledge. A cacophony of voices concentrate on the passage where Freud in passing describes what he, albeit unwittingly, considers the "normal" response of a "healthy" girl of fourteen to sexual stimulation. He is consistently undermined by being conflated with the figure of Dora's father and Herr K., whose positions, apparently, are analogous to his therapeutic oppression of Dora.

The purveyors of the several feminist misreadings of Dora forget a very simple fact: Freud spoke about the sexual repression of this particular girl at a time and in a milieu where any such discussion would have been completely impossible, completely anathema to any considerations of the girl's psychic health. Instead of respecting the vagaries of time and place, these anachronistic critics pull out their guns and shoot all over Freud's grave, plunging bullets into all the many inadequacies of this man. Of course, the very same people would expect Hippocrates of 5th century BC Greece to perform multiple by-pass surgeries in his day and age.

Dora's repression needs to be understood as a result of the conditions of her time. The fact of Freud analysis and descriptions of the same conditions do not qualify him for bearing the brunt of the anger against the repressive nature of the conditions. It's like beating your oncologist for telling you you have cancer - it does not serve any constructive purpose.


Babbitty Rabbitty said...

Oooh you have a blog! :) Yay! But it's so pseudo yaar! Who cares about Toril Moi when you should be exposing the sappiness of couples on campus (pleads guilty), or about small-sized chole in your mess!


Arjun Rajkhowa said...

How is it pseudo? It's the one thing I feel I truly own. Yes, egg me on and we shall soon have a piece on sappy couples on campus.

What about the postponement? I bet it's related to the semester protests. The VC threatens to use his "emergency powers" soon.