Chineseness as a liminal form of being: Psychoanalysis and Eileen Chang’s “Red Rose and White Rose”

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In his important study of psychoanalysis, The Freudian Body, Leo Bersani observes incisively how the textual body of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents is divided into two parts: an upper part and a lower part (Freud 1961: 14-15). The upper part, the main text, “gives us the sort of large anthropological speculation which we also find in Moses and Monotheism, The Future of an Illusion, and Totem and Taboo, " whereas the footnotes move “toward nearly inconceivable enunciations” (ibid.: 15). As Bersani points out, the footnotes, much like the lower part of the human body, contain numerous references to urine and feces, the instinctual functions that Freud argues will be subject to “organic repression” once human beings-both in the evolutionary process and in the course of subjectification-come to assume an erect posture. By relegating his discussion of these instinctual functions to the margins of his text, Freud therefore inadvertently repeats and perpetuates his famous claim by wavering between description and prescription, that civilization by default is founded upon its supersession of primal drives. Despite his strong sympathy for those drives and instincts, which he views as no less integral to one’s sexual and emotional life, the whole hypothesis about human civilization that he puts forward here becomes a lose-lose situation, in that humanity or civilization is conceived as something intrinsically antithetical to animality or instinctuality, both therefore permanently and hopelessly locked in a dialectic struggle.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Reception and Rendition of Freud in China
Subtitle of host publicationChina’s Freudian Slip
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781136208386
ISBN (Print)9780415535700
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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