MA English (Semester II)
IA Response Paper
The Idea of Narrative in The Political Unconscious
The importance of the narrative in Fredric Jameson’s The Political Unconscious (PU) is made apparent by its subtitle: Narrative as a socially symbolic act. But one still can’t guess how crucial it really is for Jameson. The conceptualization of the narrative as a mediational form is central to his argument in PU. Jameson elevates the artistic narrative to one of the most crucial kinds of mediation1 through which, he says, historical reality becomes accessible to us. As Satya P Mohanty writes, “One of the main contributions of The Political Unconscious to Marxist literary and cultural studies is its substantive theory of narrative as a mediational category.” 2 The central footing of Jameson’s argument is his formulation of narrative as an epistemological category and not a literary form. According to Jameson, narrative is the essential lens through which any experience of the world is possible. While Bakhtin saw narrative as an organization of space and time, for Jameson, nothing could be said within space and time which is not a narrative. “…around the all-informing process of narrative, which I take to be (here using the shorthand of philosophical idealism) the central function or instance of the human mind. This perspective may be reformulated in terms of the traditional dialectical code as the study of Darstellung: that untranslatable designation in which the current problems of representation productively intersect with the quite different ones of presentation, or of the essentially narrative and rhetorical movement of language and writing through time (italics added).” (PU) Therefore, if all that exists is narrative, then ruling out narrative would mean ruling out reality itself. What Jameson suggests is that one must look for historical reality within the narrative. He grounds a Hegelian totality in historical socio-economic realities and...
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