Psychoanalytic historicism: Shadow discourse and the gender politics of masochism in Ellis, Schreiner, and Haggard

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Abstract

Recent psychoanalytic theories have the historicizing potential to rearticulate discourses relegated to the shadows of institutional and popular psychosocial knowledge. In particular, they can illuminate a shadow discourse secreted in the history of gender politics: a form of masochism that produces political solidarity by mobilizing narcissistic gratifications. Such solidarity derives from masochism's ability to idealize perceptions about collective power - a process legible in first-wave feminism and in the jingoistic imperialist ideals of masculinity that opposed it. This essay argues that feminism has lost sight of a nonsexual form of masochism vital to its own history that could energize its ongoing political projects. Recent relational psychoanalysis emerges as a fertile source for techniques of reading that produce revisionary historicist interpretation. Moreover, reactivating psychosocial dynamics obscured by the historical conflation of masochism with sexuality can reconnect feminism and other political movements with important strategies they may have prematurely disavowed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-106
Number of pages19
JournalPMLA
Volume126
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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