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张在新

John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Merck on Sexual Subject  

2009-05-11 16:47:10|  分类: 女性主义 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Merck, Mandy. “General Introduction.” Ed. Mandy Merck. The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality. London: Routledge, 1992. 1-11.

1-2

       “Lacanian theories of he subject have emphasized the importance of subjectivity and sexual identity as a state of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ – of risk and instability. Constituted during the mirror phase, the period when image takes precedence over language, the ‘subject’ is forever after haunted by images – ideal image, ego ideal, self-image, copy, imago, double, alter ego. Later, the ‘outline’ of the subject is filled in through the agency of words – through language, words whose meanings pre-exist the individual subject. Subjectivity is a construct, Lacan argues, which can cease to function, even disappear altogether. The subject is assigned a place in language, a gender identity which, in western and all other patriarchal societies of the late twentieth century, is organized around dichotomies of active/masculine and passive/feminine. How important are Lacanian theories of subjectivity to the cinema? How is the subject ‘sexed’ or made ‘sexual’? What is the relationship of gender to subjectivity? Can we even separate the two? How important is sexual preference? For instance, prior to the advent of psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth century, sexual preference was seen only as a part of one’s identity. The terms ‘homosexual’ and later ‘heterosexual’ were coined to describe the relatively new idea that sexual preference profoundly altered the nature of subjectivity. Until then the homosexual was called an ‘invert’. Can gender identity, like subjectivity, [2] also change direction, fragment, cease to function, disappear? What is the relation of the sexual subject to representation, the gaze, power, sociality, class, race? What are femininity and masculinity? How is the sexual subject represented in the cinema? These are some of the issues that the chapters in this volume explore.”

3

       “The most original and controversial analysis of the sexual subject comes from Laura Mulvey’s highly influential article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’…. Mulvey’s aim was to use psychoanalytic theory to demonstrate ‘the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form’. She used Lacan’s rereading of Freud’s theory of the unconscious to explore the representation of subjectivity in the cinema. She presents her analysis form a feminist perspective in which subjectivity is active, male, phallic. Prior to the publication of Mulvey’s article, feminist analyses of the cinema tended to speak of the representation of subjectivity – male and female – as a reflection of gender relations in the real world.”

3-4

       “Unlike this early feminist approach to film and subjectivity, Mulvey [4] presents subjectivity as a construction, a representation produced through semiotic activity in response to the workings of the unconscious of patriarchal society. This became the dominant aim of cinematic theories about the sexual subject – to see subjectivity as a construction rather than as a reflection of a biological given existing in the real world.”

The Phallic Subject

4

       “Mulvey commences her article with a discussion of the Lacanian concept of the ‘subject’ and its constitution in the mirror phase. It is in this notion of the subject, as constituted in a moment of recognition and misrecognition, which was central to film debates of the period…. In Mulvey’s view, the sexual subject, that is, the one whom the film is addressing and constructing in an active position, both in the diegetic world of the film and in the auditorium, is the ideal male spectator. Male subjectivity is seen as active, controlling, desiring. Woman is not accorded a place as a desiring sexual subject – only as an object of desire, caught up in a dominant male discourse…. The female subject, in so far as she is ‘subject’ at all, represents lack and difference. The male accepts her difference either by re-establishing her ‘castration’ and punishing her accordingly or by disavowing her castration by setting up a fetish in place of her ‘lack’. In this scenario male subjectivity represents aggressivity and sadism: female subjectivity represents passivity and masochism. The assumption is that the male derives pleasure from his dominance over woman.”

5

       “The filmic text might appear to construct the male as sexual subject, signifier of the law, but frequently this was only brought about through a series of repressions – particularly the repression of homosexual desire. Richard Dyer and Steve Neale, whose articles are included in part IV, questioned the assumption that the male is never sexually objectified within the signifying practices of the text. They sought to problematize the notion that the male protagonist in the text is always represented as in control of the gaze, the looker rather than the object of the look. Neale argues for the existence of the voyeuristic and fetishistic gaze directed at male characters by other males within the diegetic world of the western and the epic film. Dyer finds evidence of sexual objectification of the male in which the male body is posed in such a way as to suggest the power of the phallus. This is not simply to applaud male power but rather to disguise the fact that the penis can never live up to the promise of the phallus.”

5-6

       “Similarly an examination of pornography revealed that the male is not always represented in a position of power. Some pornographic texts play to the masochistic desires of the male spectator by representing the male as victim of the dominant sadistic woman who subjects his body and penis to a series of sadistic attacks. Interestingly, Deleuze’s work on male masochism argues that the masochist is, in fact, the subject of the interaction [6] because it is in accordance with his desires that he is humiliated and punished. In this context, the male masochist assumes the seemingly contradictory positions of object and subject. The question of whether woman might also take up a similar position as object and subjective of the male gaze has also been raised, not in relation to pornography but in relation to the gaze. To what extent does woman as object of the look also control the look? Only recently have theories turned their full attention to the notion of male sexuality as problematic and begun to discuss masculinity in relation to areas usually associated with femininity – areas such as male masochism and male hysteria.”

The Castrated Subject

6

       “In an important contribution to debates about the sexual subject, ‘Masochism and Subjectivity’, Kaja Silverman further unsettles the notion of a coherent, phallic masculinity. She is interested in the ‘insufficiency of the male subject’ and the way in which the mechanism of the sadistic, ‘male’ gaze is employed by classic narrative to project male inadequacy on to the female subject…. It is worth recapitulating her argument here as it further undermines the assumption that the male is always the controlling subject, the woman the passive object. First, Silverman draws on Lacan’s theory that the subject, whether male or female, is constituted through a series of splittings, separations and misrecognitions. Second, she draws on Lacan’s argument, based on his reading of Freud’s famous fort/da game, that the human experience of pleasure is based on the repletion of those painful instances when the subject experienced those moments of separation and loss through which her/his subjectivity was constituted in the first place. However, she does not agree with Freud that this pleasure is derived from an experience of mastery; on the contrary she proposes that what is at stake is ‘the pleasure of passivity, of subjection’.”

       “She argues that texts ‘provide pleasure to the degree that they reposition us culturally; to the extent that they oblige us to re-enact those      moments of loss and false recovery by which we are constituted as subjects; in so far as they master us’. Silverman points out, however, that it is the female character who usually enacts the narrative of loss and recovery. In other words, it is woman who is required to re-experience this drama on behalf of both female and male subjects – presumably because it is more acceptable within the dictates of patriarchal ideology for a woman to play the role of the masochistic victim.”

7

       “Silverman’s view of the role of masochism in the workings of pleasure opens up Mulvey’s theory of spectatorship to permit a more fluid positioning of male and female characters within the diegesis and of spectators within the auditorium. In this context male and female characters can take up the masochistic position as well as the position of the spectating subject, although the workings of a sexist ideology dictate that the active position is more likely to be aligned with the male subject and the passive position with the female. Silverman argues that because ‘the inadequacy of the male subject must never be acknowledged’ the female subject is made to bear his burden which is ‘endlessly perpetuated through displacement’ on to scenarios which depict the female subject as castrated. In other words, woman is made to bear, for both sexes, the castrations or separations on which subjectivity is constituted.”

       “The notion of the female subject as castrated can be understood in two contexts. First, like male subjectivity, female subjectivity is also constituted in lack and separation – as discussed above. Second, the male subject imagines woman is castrated in a moment of fright and misrecognition and continues to perpetuate this notion within phallocentric discourse both consciously and unconsciously. It is this latter account that was central to Mulvey’s theory and to debates of the period. However, although Mulvey was primarily concerned with male subjectivity, her analysis raises, if indirectly, a series of questions about female subjectivity. Represented only as object in a male discourse, in what sense is woman a subject? Does woman experience the separations of infancy (birth, weaning, etc.) in the same way as man? What is her relationship to the mother? Can woman speak in her own voice in texts presented from the perspective of the male subject?”

8-9

       “One of the first attempts to question the notion of woman as castrated was presented by Susan Lurie in her important article, ‘The Construction of the “Castrated Woman” in Psychoanalysis and Cinema’. Lurie challenges the Freudian notion that men fear woman because she appears to be castrated. On the contrary, Lurie claims, men are comforted by the idea that women are castrated. The real reason woman inspires terror is ‘that she is not castrated despite the fact that she has no penis…’. Woman further inspires terror because the male imagines she might castrate him during intercourse – not only does her vagina look like a devouring mouth but [9] his experience of detumescence feels like a form of castration. It is because woman is not castrated, Lurie argues, that the male unconscious constructs woman as castrated within the signifying practices of the cinema. This is carried out by a variety of means: on the one hand woman is symbolically castrated by being positioned as a helpless child, undermined in her role as mother, or punished for speaking her desire; while on the other hand she is literally castrated in those films where she is wounded, mutilated and murdered…. Only recently have feminists turned their attention to woman as castrating ‘other’, particularly in horror and science fiction cinema.”

Subjects in Fantasy

9-10

       “Drawing on Freud’s theories of the three primal fantasies, fantasy theory offers a way of opening up multiple positions of identification for the female and male viewer. This means that the viewing subject is also free to take up a variety of subject positions regardless of gender. The three primal fantasies elaborated by Freud are: the fantasy of the primal scene; the seduction fantasy; and the fantasy of castration. Each of these [10] fantasies deals with the question of the subject’s origins: its origin in its parents’ lovemaking; the origin of desire; and the origin of sexual difference. It is interesting, and perhaps predicatable given the interest in gender, that the fantasy of castration has dominated theories of the subject. Yet the other two fantasies are also central to the representation of sexual difference in film. One of the first and most significant analyses was Elizabeth Cowie’s ‘Fantasia’, in which she explored the multiplicity of subject positions opened up in relation to fantasy.”

10

       “In the act of fantasizing, or viewing the representation of a primal fantasy in film, the individual is free to take up any position she or he wishes. According to Victor Burgin: ‘the subject may be represented as an observer, as actor, even in the very form of an utterance.’ From this we can see that fantasy theory represents subjectivity as fluid, mobile and not necessarily constrained by gender, although not all would agree with this. It has also been argued that in viewing film a subject is not as ‘free’ as fantasy theory might otherwise hold; the filmic strategies of identification, such as the point-of-view shot, may well influence the spectator and must also be considered….. Homi K. Bhabha looks at the way in which racial stereotypes draw on primal fantasies of origin.”

Subjectivity and Difference Theory

10-11

       “Psychoanalytic interpretations of the classic realist text hold that the classic narrative constructs an impression of plenitude and coherence to cover over the underlying reality of lack, separation and difference. Similarly, the ideal subject of classic narrative is given a unified, coherent but illusory identity. The notion of the lack at the centre of being is denied in the signifying practices of the classic narrative. The patriarchal subject is represented as an imaginary unity – lack is displaced on to the ‘Other’. In narratives of sexual difference the male subject represents unity and coherence, the female lack and difference. Subjects who represent other forms of difference – based on race, class, colour, sexual preference – are almost always constructed as the ‘Other’ whose presence threatens to disturb the [11] boundaries of civilization and rationality. ‘Difference’ is thus transformed into ‘otherness’ and repressed within the signifying practices of the text.”

 

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